Salmo are known for their quality lures. But what’s just as intriguing is their history as a company. What started out as a passion-fuelled side project now stands as one of the world’s fastest growing lure companies. This blog will take a look at a real industry success story, as well as some of the products that made it happen.
A Trying Start
Salmo’s owners, Peter Piskorsi and Rado Zaworski, started making lures whilst Poland struggled for independence from the Soviet Union. These were economically turbulent times. Peter and Rado were both supporting young families with a salary of $25 per month. To supplement their income, the two started hand carving lures to sell to friends. They may not have intended to grow Salmo, but soon it became necessary to do so. The pair both lost their jobs once the Iron Curtain fell.
As the two found their feet, they found their values weren’t exactly shared in the industry. Competitors in the United States relied on mass production. The industry standard material for lures was a ‘high density space-age foam material.’ This made painting lures time-consuming and labour intensive. 'Lure companies in the United States could not justify the time it took to paint these foam body baits.’ Peter and Rado were passionate about consistent quality. They saw an opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market.
This strategy paid off. Intricate detail and a consistent finish became the marker of a Salmo lure. Initially, Peter and Rado worked out of Rado’s apartment. Rado described this process when making their first lures, ‘I would build a test lure then Peter would fish each batch of foam I created. Hundreds of variations were developed and tested. It was almost six months later before we finally felt we had a blend that would offer the best of everything.’
This attitude manifests in Salmo’s products to this day. Take the Salmo Slider for example. Looking at the variety of lures, the attention to detail is stellar. Take the hooks away, and to the untrained eye, they look like actual fish.
The stunningly lifelike Salmo Slider (top) and the game-changing Salmo Hornet (bottom)
Salmo balanced the initial demand for products with their design values. Their in-house design process and rigorous testing defined their presence in Poland. This was well-received in the European market. However, complications ensued with their 2002 entry into the United States. It was bound to be a testing process. Rado and Peter had always set out to eschew ‘the fads and gimmicks of the American sport fishing industry.’
At this time, Salmo had launched the Hornet, to huge acclaim. Since its release, it has been one of the most popular crankbaits in the world. Several follow-up products, such as the Hornet Floating lure, succeeded in upholding the Hornet’s reputation. With reputation comes demand however. The booming popularity of the Hornet in the United States proved problematic. This came to a head in 2006. Marcy Zenako, director of operations for Salmo USA, elaborates: ‘We asked for an additional 30,000 Hornets to cover a sudden burst in orders and they simply said that will be three or four months before delivery. Salmo simply will not change anything they do just to get orders.’
With a firm commitment to quality design came a lifetime performance guarantee. This proved to be the making of Salmo’s success in the United States. ‘In the United States alone, sales increases of 130% per year for the last two years have out-paced orders.’ Salmo’s commitment to quality doesn’t end with the purchase. They make it clear to customers that if the lure breaks (excluding the hooks), they’ll send a replacement free of charge.
It’s All About the Fish
Aside from their exacting standards, and commitment to service, does Salmo have any other secrets? It turns out they do. Salmo Poland’s website describe fish as ‘the final and the most demanding critics of our best ideas.’ This is how they find uses for lures they had no originally intended. ‘Take the Sting for example, designed with trolling for salmonids in mind it has turned out to be a perfect lure for casting in large rivers.’ Because of this, Salmo are strong advocates of responsible fishing. Want to pay homage to the values of such a great company? Always practice catch and release. Ensure longevity for a sport that has changed the lives of so many.