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Jan 23rd, 2013
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ACC CRAPPIE STIX #13695329 09/09/20 02:53 PM
Joined: Jan 2012
Posts: 1,577
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HOGON Online Content OP
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Andy wants to start adding content and this is the newest article he put on his blog.

He gave some shout outs to Hook City TV and Asleep at the Reel couple of TFF North Texas Anglers on his ACC Pro Staff.

Way to go fellas!! woot clap banana fish

ACC HOW WE STARTED AND WHERE WE ARE GOING.

By Greg McCain

Andy Lehman was going bass fishing when he first determined the world needed a better crappie rod.

A competitive bass fisherman at the time, Andy was headed to Mississippi to fish a tournament, and he wanted to sample some of that state’s vaunted crappie fisheries while there. He borrowed crappie-fishing tackle from a couple of friends, products which in Andy’s mind were a bit underwhelming.

“I just had bass rods, so I went to a couple of buddies to borrow some crappie tackle,” Andy said. “I just remember saying, ‘Why are these so flimsy?’

“I forgot about it for a while until I started guiding, and I got to thinking again, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’ It wasn’t like the market was flooded with crappie rods. Off the top of your head, you could think of three or four (companies). Of course, there’s more than that, but there’s not 50, not 100 of them (like in the bass industry).”

The idea didn’t come to fruition immediately but was indelibly etched in Andy’s mind. Some 25 years after the initial thought, he has helped solve the problem. His company, ACC Crappie Stix, is an emerging player in the burgeoning crappie-fishing industry.

Located in Andy’s hometown of Mount Vernon, IL, the six-year-old enterprise survived some difficult early years but has steadily evolved, using a combination of innovative product design, cutting-edge marketing, and quick-response customer service to grow the brand. Andy credits all three facets as integral to establishing the “green rods” in what is now an ultra-competitive market.

The company’s expansion didn’t come easily. Andy maintained a day job until about a year ago, worked the rod business at night, and guided regularly over a seven-year period. While guiding, the idea of developing better crappie tackle came back into his mind.

“I dove in,” Andy said.

He didn’t rush to the bank or solicit investors. Instead he began some serious on-the-water R&D, using a small stash of funds to ignite his venture.

“I ordered some rods and told them I wanted them stouter and lighter,” Andy said. “They told me it couldn’t be done, and we went back and forth. I moved on to another manufacturer. I finally found some of the things that I wanted.

“I boot-strapped it. I started with $16,000 that I had saved from guiding. I made my first sale off the tailgate of my pick-up truck. The invoice blew away, and I had to run into the neighbor’s yard to chase it down.”

From that initial investment of about 150 rods, the company now offers at least 22 different models, and the refinement continues with input from ACC’s pro staff and from Andy’s own analysis of the product.

Andy has the tax records to prove how much money he lost in the early years. He quips with his accountant that he looks forward to the day “when I can start paying taxes and not get money back.”

Actually 2019 proved to be a pivotal year in that regard. Andy had earlier quit guiding to commit more time to the rod business, and he finally left his day job last fall. Sales began compounding exponentially as crappie fishermen responded to ACC’s unique product.

“We’re doing things other companies are not doing like the grips,” he said, “super grips we call them. They are on bass rods but not on any crappie rods. We wanted to develop dock shooters that are not flimsy that get far underneath a dock. We wanted to create products that were not out there that people had a need for. That’s the way that you should start a business.”

Andy also brought aboard Mitch Fese, a social media advertising guru who is now a partner in the business with the title of president of marketing. Mitch lives in Chicago but has a family lake home in southern Illinois.

“He saw these green rods on the lake,” Andy said. “He wanted to put his expertise, digital marketing, to work with his passion, fishing. Now we work together promoting the company. It’s proved to be a good formula.”

Andy also realized that even prior to Mitch’s involvement that various crappie experts were touting his products.

“Most the guys came organically,” Andy said. “They were already using the rods. Somebody mentioned Ken (Pierce) from Hook City TV on YouTube. I said, ‘Who’s that?’ They said he’s always talking about using your rods. Now we work together.”

Ken is just one of several YouTubers now on ACC’s pro staff. They include Go Fish with Charlie Burrow, Flopping Crappie with Davis Lenzen, and Asleep at the Reel with Chris “Sarge” Gill. In addition, some of the best crappie fishermen, guides, and tournament anglers in the country are part of the marketing mix as well.

“They are on the pro staff because they like the rods, not because they are looking for a discount or for something free,” Andy said. “I really like YouTube guys, and I like guides, nice guides who will stop at the boat ramp and talk. We don’t want any arrogant guys. We want approachable, friendly guys.”

As much as the product and the marketing, ACC’s customer service is an equally important dimension that sets the company apart. Andy doesn’t guarantee an immediate response to an e-mail, but it usually happens. He said the company attempts to reply to e-mails within a couple of hours.

“We’ll mail out a rod tip that day,” Andy said. “I’ve heard horror stories. I’m not going to lose a customer over a rod tip.”

“I’ve never experienced better customer service, and I’ve fished for a long, long time,” said pro staff member Jeff Barnes, of Tuscumbia, AL. “If I break a rod, Andy will have one headed to Alabama that day or the next.”

With a productive formula for success, the future looks bright for ACC. Andy said he maintains a frugal lifestyle, choosing to pour money back into the company. The cumulative effect is paying off. From the initial order of 150 rods, he is now selling them by the thousands with sales growing “200 to 300 percent” over the last couple of years, according to Andy.

The increased sales have created one main problem, a good one compared to the early years of the company. The rods are selling so fast that Andy has trouble keeping them in stock. Otherwise, ACC Crappie Stix can be found in local tackle shops around the South and the Midwest. They are also available online at acccrappiestix.com.

“We haven’t made the move (into the bigger retailers) yet,” Andy said. “There are so many small mom-and-pop stores out there, and I love dealing with them. I just got back from Tennessee. The guy there owns a small store. We had a YouTube Live event, and a meet-and-greet. We’re in about 55 stores like that.

“We also love the online potential and enjoy the marketing for it.”

Andy has been part of the change in the crappie market over the last few years, and he said ACC will continue to meet the demands of the crappie community.

“We’re going to keep doing things that we don’t think other people are doing,” he said. “We’re focused on innovation and quality. That’s something that hasn’t been in the crappie industry. It is now.

“Think about what crappie fishing was like not that long ago. It used to be a cane pole. That’s what they had 20 years ago. Now they want quality with the rods, the new grips, the higher quality graphite, the LiveScope, and other electronics.

“We can’t stand still any more. We have to keep moving and evolving.”

Andy loves to talk about his rods, but more importantly, has a genuine love for crappie fishing. For more on ACC Crappie Stix or about crappie fishing in general, follow ACC Crappie Stix on Facebook or on Instagram.

Greg McCain is a freelance writer from prime crappie country in northwest Alabama. He has hundreds of credits in state and regional print and digital outlets. Check out his recent articles in Alabama Outdoor News, Great Days Outdoors, CrappieNOW, or the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation website.

Thought some of you might be interested in how this great company and Crappie rod came to be.


ACC CRAPPIE STIX
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LEWS REELS
PEPOPS JIGS
FEARLESS JIGS
BUBBAS BAITS
MAD CRAPPIE JIGS
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CRAZY ANGLER TACKLE
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MR CRAPPIE
POWER PRO SUPER SLICK BRAID
BERKLEY VANISH GOLD/TRANSITION
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Re: ACC CRAPPIE STIX [Re: HOGON] #13695349 09/09/20 03:08 PM
Joined: Jul 2012
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Davedave Online Content
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He makes really nice rods. I’m not sure how many I have now. I’m pretty sure I have more of these than any other brand now.

Nice article.

Re: ACC CRAPPIE STIX [Re: HOGON] #13695757 09/09/20 08:44 PM
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Drycreek3189 Offline
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Yes, good article, and great rod. I only have one but I see another in my future and I’m just an amateur.

Re: ACC CRAPPIE STIX [Re: HOGON] #13695831 09/09/20 09:37 PM
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 3,713
David Welcher Online Content
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I just bought one a few weeks ago, went with the 11'-0" and it's just about all I am using now. I've always just used medium/heavy bass rods because I won't fish with one of those limber wimpy sticks as most of what I do is fishing the timber.

Re: ACC CRAPPIE STIX [Re: HOGON] #13696797 09/10/20 08:23 PM
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crope1 Offline
Ronnie Hurt'em Roberts
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A GREAT READ!!!! Great rods for sure,unknown how many . What I really like are the Super Grips!!!! Keep at it Andy!!! May you continue to be Blessed with much success!!! Thx for the info HOGON!!!!

Re: ACC CRAPPIE STIX [Re: HOGON] #13701232 09/15/20 12:19 PM
Joined: Jun 2010
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David Welcher Online Content
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Well here's my take so far on the rod, I've fished with it about 8 trips so far. First 6 trips I fell in love with it. I tried to be careful with it, I take it apart, put it in my rod box, and then last Saturday while taking it out of the rod box I screwed up and broke 7" off of the tip, glued another eye on it so now it's a 10'5" rod. Then Sunday I set the hook and it breaks 4'-0" down from the end. My bad, I guess, I should have done the right thing and replaced the tip. So I email the folks at ACC and they tell me "Unfortunately, we only warranty factory defects and are unable to replace accidental breaks. However, you can still get a new tip by following the link below to our 11' tip section on the website. Hope this helps." so for $20 you can order the top half of the rod, which I think is reasonable, so I ordered a new 5'-6" long tip. I'm hoping that this is not something that is going to happen a lot.

Luckily I had a buddy who had an extra one and I got to keep on fishing with one, cause I really like not having to pull up and tie off to the tree and spook the fish.

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