When Ray Burnette decided to semi-retire, he experienced a void that’s common among those who leave the work force.
“I’ve always wanted a job where I could work to help other people, but my past employment didn’t translate into that type of opportunity,” said Burnette. “In retirement I still had that desire to do something akin to missionary work.”
One evening after a restless sleep, Burnette awoke with the widget he needed to fulfill his dream.
“I wanted to do something in the fishing industry, though I’m not a fishermen and I don’t know a thing about the fishing industry,” said Burnette.
Burnette researched the industry and thought his niche would be making molds for plastic baits.
He learned all he could about making molds and visited Southern Plastics of Eufaula, Ala., the largest private brand supplier of plastic baits worldwide that makes thousands of plastic lures from molds for major companies including Bass Pro Shops, Zoom, Kalin and others.
“Terry Spence of Southern Plastics helped me by putting me in touch with the right people who could teach me about this phase of the industry and by giving me advice that made things fall into place,” said Burnette.
In Dec. 2015, Burnette’s fishing widget came to life as Bait Mavericks at 364 Dixon St. in Lexington. Its mission statement reads: “To reinvent bait manufacturing to delight every client we serve.”
Burnette said his company provides the same services as Southern Plastics with one significant difference.
“Southern Plastics has dozens of injection machines that spit out gargantuan runs of plastic baits, so it requires a minimum run of 55 gallons from bait companies to take their orders,” said Burnette. “We cater more to the mom-and-pop shop manufacturer who wants to grow his business but can’t afford a large investment. We do 5 gallon runs to help our clients manage their cash flow.”
Bait Mavericks’ services include cad drawings with dimensions to create a 3D plastic designs of the bait, a prototype mold for field testing and for determining if the client wants to invest further, and the tooling mold which makes the bait machine-ready. Thereafter, the bait-mold goes to the injection machines forming the plastics, which then are inspected for blemishes, bubbles, glitter impairments and other imperfections. Finally, the baits are bagged and shipped.
Even with smaller runs of plastics, clients must be willing to make a substantial investment. A basic mold costs $6,000 with the more elaborate ones costing as much as a new car.
“We want to help the small businessman grow his business and get to the next step,” said Burnette. “But there is an initial investment. Some can do it, and some can’t. Some are satisfied with the small business they have.”
Bait Mavericks also takes orders from large companies but is not at liberty to disclose their names or their plastic formulas.
“Confidentiality agreements are an important part of this business, and we take them seriously,” said Burnette.
The missionary aspect of Bait Mavericks comes from the production of its own line of plastic baits, the Whynot? and the Salt Willie, which will be available online by June through the Bait Miracles Division of Bait Mavericks. The baits will also be sold at marinas and tackle outlets.
Part of the manufacturing process for the baits will occur in third-world countries with the first likely being Honduras.
“We’ll design, test and distribute the baits in the US, but we’re looking for faith-based people and organizations in third-world countries with little or no industry around them with impoverished conditions,” said Burnette. “We’ll help them set up satellite plants and train them to produce the baits while working for decent wages. Hopefully, the work effort will become a self-sustaining business. They’ll be able to produce by hand injection molding almost as much as one of our injection machines can produce in one day.”
Burnette described this endeavor as the “feel-good” aspect of his business.
“Helping people who want to help themselves is just the best,” said Burnette. “We’re providing them the opportunity to work for decent wages and for working themselves out of poverty.”