Tradie profile: Wes Braddock – Taking on the tackle trade
He may not be your conventional tradie, but Wes Braddock has spent a fair amount of time on the tools designing and making top of the line fishing tackle. Editor Ethan Neville sat down with his former science teacher to catch up about his journey into the tackle trade.
It all started for Wes Braddock when he saw one of his daughter’s toys start flashing. As he watched her play, he wondered whether a similar embedded LED light might make lures more attractive to fish. Then Acting Principal of a small school in Kaitaia, he had spent plenty of time fishing in the fertile waters of the Far North, and had a hunch that this might be the trick to upping his catch rate even further. After accepting the Head of Senior School position at Kingsway School in 2013, he returned to Auckland and started work on his side project. Moulds were made, prototypes were tested, videos were analysed, and eventually he got some conclusive results: flashing lights do increase catch-rates.
Flash forward eight years and now you’ll find Glowbite lures in most NZ tackle stores and online retailers. Following the success of his initial Glowbite K-Slider, he has added four other products to his range and has a new slow jig ready to hit stores soon.
Another recent key development for Wes has been the launching of Fishing Innovators, which invites NZ anglers to, in his own words, “join the experience.” Subscribers to this group are sent new lures before they’re made available to the public and have the opportunity to discuss and submit their own ideas for new fishing products.
Before I met up with Wes for a fish recently, I knew most of the above already. Funnily enough, he was my science teacher at Kingsway School and after he started a tackle company, I definitely made a point of staying in touch. However, I was still interested in learning about what day to day life looks like for a ‘tackle tradie’, as well as what other innovations he has in the works, so a date was set for a catch-up – and, of course, these conversations are best had on the boat.
We met at my place in Orewa at the crack of dawn and drove the 1.5 hours to Marsden Point, where NZ Fishing News Managing Editor Grant Dixon was waiting with the Buccaneer. I was, quite understandably, excited – you’d think with that sort of crew we’d have a fair chance of landing a few solid fish – but let’s just say we had plenty of time for conversation. We found the birds, we found the bait, we found the tell-tale snapper lines on the sounder, but they weren’t in the mood for biting. Thankfully, I had no shortage of questions for Wes.
The first point of interest for me was how he manages to design and produce prototypes from the comfort of his own home. In response, he took me through the process for making the “Jack Flash,” a brand new slow jig with the trademark embedded LED light.
“The first step was to make a protype out of a balsawood blank. To get symmetry, I use sandpaper and a Dremel rotary tool to do any cut out sections,” Wes tells me.
“Years ago I was thinking of importing surfboard products and actually got a few in. At that stage, I swapped some products for spending a couple of days in a shaping bay at a local store and I made myself a board. That’s how I learned some of the techniques I use today.”
Once Wes was happy with the shape of the balsawood lure, he used it to make a rubber mould in his own backyard. With this done, his next job was heating lead to a tidy 600-degrees – after the appropriate health and safety measures had been taken, of course. This boiling hot lead is poured into the mould, which once cooled, leaves him with his first prototype. All he needed to do next was glue in his signature piece – the water-activated flashing LED – rig up the Owner assist hooks, give it a paint job and send it around the country for testing.
It was then just a matter of trial and error. With the feedback he got from his testers, he adapted the lure to best suit NZ conditions. The final changes were made to the balsawood lure and then he sent it off to a local company for a 3D scan, which showed him exactly how symmetrical his sanding job was. With the necessary adjustments made to the virtual model, the product was finally sent away for the aluminium moulds to be made ready for commercial production.
“This is a similar process that I’ve used with all my lures, although some of the lures work better with modelling clay as opposed to wood. The process is still making a blank, making a mould and then creating a prototype that we can test,” Wes explains. “Whether my techniques are the same as others I’m not sure – I worked these out myself. But that’s what I love about it, working out the best way to do things and the secrets of the trade.”
With some understanding of the manufacturing process, my second thought was about where he gets his new ideas from.
“I guess it starts with the banter that goes on in Fishing Innovators. People discuss things and we get feedback on what people want… what I found along the way was that a lot of people had great ideas about lures, and fishing attracts people who want to tinker and create.
“To me that’s gold – having people in an exclusive group so they can give us feedback and join the process of creating lures. Let’s face it – the market is awash with different options for lures. So what do we have to offer? A premium NZ product that’s designed in NZ for NZ conditions.”
I will note here that he had an opportunity here to critique some of his competitors, but, as always, he refused to say one negative word. I can confirm, with nearly 100% confidence, that Wes is one of the nicest guys in NZ.
Our conversation was then interrupted by a double hook-up just after lunch, both on Glowbite Grumpy Fish sliders, which encouraged us to keep fishing for another hour or two. The hope was false, however, and we were soon packed up and heading south.
“So what’s next?” I finally asked him. “A lot,” was the answer. There are plenty of opportunities offshore for Wes, but with COVID keeping things local for now, his immediate goal is to continue building a community of like-minded tackle tradesmen and, with their support, produce innovative, NZ-designed products – so I’d say it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out at your local tackle shop for what Wes has in store for us next.
Article by: Ethan Neville