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COLUMBIA, Missouri — Despite headquarters thousands of miles from an ocean, landlocked fishing gear brand BUBBA is actually perfectly poised to think about customers from coast to coast, said brand manager Isaac Brizendine.
“We’re in the middle of everything, so we want to try to include everyone in the products that we make and the marketing campaigns that we go after,” he said. “Being in the Midwest allows us to really take a step back and get a good perspective of the entire industry.”
Originally known for its fillet knives and fishing pliers with proprietary non-slip grips, BUBBA just debuted its own line of fishing rods, designed and engineered in-house. It’s the Missouri company’s first foray into the massive fishing rod category — part of the brand’s strategic plan to anchor itself as an all-encompassing, lifestyle fishing business.
Click here to shop BUBBA, which also is available at retailers like Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and Amazon.
The company initially began as Bubba Blades in 2011 on the shores of San Diego when founder John Grass sought to solve the age-old fisherman issue of slippery, nasty fillet knives and tools. While BUBBA doesn’t disclose the exact materials used, the grip is supposed to remain tacky and texturized even when wet and covered in fish guts.
American Outdoor Brands acquired Bubba Blades in 2017, renaming it BUBBA, moving it to Columbia, and docking it to its portfolio of camping, hunting, shooting, meat processing, and fishing brands. BUBBA currently sits under the “adventurers” category along with a sibling camping brand called ust. Other categories include the brands Schrade, Bog, Hooyman, Thompson/Center, Wheeler, Frankford Arsenal, and Smith & Wesson. (Smith & Wesson was officially spun out as its own company in 2020 after being a unit of American Outdoor Brands since 2016.)
“There’s so many different things going on just under our roof so you can kind of take a little inspiration from each and apply it to your own brand,” Brizendine says.
Similar to BUBBA, ust underwent a massive brand refresh a few years after it was acquired by American Outdoor Brands in 2018. Previously known as Ultimate Survival Technologies, making bushcraft and survival accessories, they pivoted to camping comfort products in 2020.
Ust recently started selling patented Monarch sleeping bags and other camping goods direct to consumer rather than through retailers, though accessories can still be found in partner stores. Brand manager Ethan O’Keefe said the shift allowed the company to lower prices up to 60 percent.
“Our brand values go into every single decision that we make, and accessibility is one of our core values,” O’Keefe said.
While ust wants to be thought of first for comfortable and accessible camping, Brizendine said BUBBA is on the verge of being known as the top water-to-plate brand for anglers.
“We look to continue to build on who we are,” he said. “There’s not really a product that we don’t think we can tackle.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.