Saturday, April 17, 2004

An environmentally friendly 'ghost'
by Sarah Bissonette

Laurie MacKinnon displays one of
the glass lures he has designed.
He came up with the idea of glass fishing tackle as an alternative to lead based tackle.

MUSKOKA LAKES TWP. - MacKinnon Tackle Incorporated has slowly expanded from a basement hobby to a company providing anglers with a viable alternative to lead based tackle. That alternative is glass tackle called Muskoka Glass Ghost.

The business grew from an idea Laurie MacKinnon had about six years ago. It began when he experimented with different coloured lead jigs while ice fishing. He thought about a jig with no colour and, after having the idea on his mind for a few months, glass surfaced as the material to use.

He built the glass lures in his basement for approximately four years before moving to the fronporch of his home. Now, he is looking forward to moving into his portion of the shop built on his property along Highway 141 in Raymond.

MacKinnon Tackle Inc. was incorporated in January 2003 after Randy Bennet and nephew Sean Roosen decided that Mr. MacKinnon's hobby of building the glass jigs, spinners and sinkers was more than just a hobby. They became his partners in the business and the task of patenting the designs, setting up a web site and creating informational videos began.

Over the last six years, while working as a caretaker for a family on Lake Rosseau, Mr. MacKinnon, who has been modifying lures since he was 16, has built 9,000 lures. Of those, more than 5,000 were made in the first five years. He takes the basic glass jig heads and spinner bodies made by Ashby Glass, and hand makes the different jigs, spinners, and sinkers.

It is only during the past winter that he hired two part-time workers. One to paint the jig heads and spinner bodies, another to attach the buck tails to the lures. Before hiring help, Mr. MacKinnon relied on people volunteering their time.
After incorporating, Mr. MacKinnon and Mr. Bennet began going to sportsman shows in southern Ontario to market the product.

"We did the Toronto Sportsman Show last year, that was our first show," said Mr. MacKinnon. "We did about $4,500 in sales, or a better statement would be, we sold in excess of 500 lures. That was testing the market to see what it was like. The reception was great."

This year, at the Toronto Sportsman Show in March, about 900 lures were sold. Also, for the first time Mr. MacKinnon and Mr. Bennet went to the Brampton Outdoor Sportsman Show and Orillia Perch Festival in April.
From these shows the products are now being offered, or soon will be, in both local area and southern Ontario businesses. Through the shows contact has also been made with environmental groups that have expressed interest in the lures as an alternative to lead products.

"I knew it was an incredible idea," said Mr. MacKinnon. "But I thought I would be banging my head against a very tough business and, I thought, the angling public. I'm amazed how well received the idea has been and how much help people in the industry have been, how open and accepting of me they've been."
Many different sizes of lures are in production for different types of fish, from the very small perch jigs to the much larger ones for pike. They also range in use from fresh water to salt water, and are being used as far away as the Amazon River.
Even though the glass lures have terrific success and have come a long way from the first one, Mr. MacKinnon feels that they still need more work until the "ultimate design" is achieved.

"The very first piece of glass that we put on a hook, the second or third cast I caught a fish on, but it was very crude it needed a lot of refining."
Before incorporating, going to shows, making informational video's on the products and building a web site that will eventually be used to sell the product, word of the product simply spread by word of mouth and Mr. MacKinnon handing them to people in the field to use.

"When I go out fishing, if I have someone going with me I tell the guys to 'use your favourite lure, whatever you want' that I'm running glass. There's been several times now that the guys I have out with me say 'okay, that's enough, I want a piece of glass on my own line, because I'm tired of not catching fish.'"
One of the avid anglers he sent the lures to for trial about five years ago was Lorne Fraser. Mr. Fraser has since started his own guiding company, taking customers out on Georgian Bay and lakes Joseph, Muskoka and Rosseau, and has Mr. MacKinnon's lures as part of his tackle. Mr. Fraser was featured on the videos about Muskoka Glass Ghost lures and helped out at the Sportsman Show in Toronto this year.

"I knew he was an avid fisherman and I wanted people in the field trying the idea out," said Mr. MacKinnon. "He and his cousin went out and had amazing results right off the bat, which is what I had, too. So, I knew there was something to it, not just another hair brained scheme I had hatched."

The cost of the glass lures is a bit more than lead lures, but does not turn a profit for the company at this point. One lure, for example, that is used for salt water fishing sells at $50, the piece of glass on it costs the company $40 alone. The lures vary in price from $2 to $50.

"I don't see this as a get rich scheme," said Mr. MacKinnon. "It will make a good retirement project, something I can do until I'm feeble."
The glass lures can be used clear for the weight or coloured to attract the fish. They also work to attract fish by the unique noise they make and light refraction. The glass is very strong and is similar to the glass used for marbles.


- by Sarah Bissonette