The Ugly Stick and the story behind the naming of the best selling rod of all time
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik
Monroe Lindler - January 4, 2005
The story of the development and naming of this popular fishing rod by one who was there.
The 70’s were exciting times for the entire fishing tackle industry. Shakespeare had been working with graphite from the late 60’s primarily for golf shafts because Union Carbide was subsidizing the project. The race was on among all manufacturers to use graphite in fishing rods. The first rod I remember seeing at tackle show utilizing graphite was a boat rod made by Garcia /Conolon. This was a laminated rod made like an archery bow that may have had wood, fiberglass, and graphite in layers. Shakespeare’s efforts were composite rod blanks with graphite co- mingled with fiberglass and epoxy resin. We were having problems making them straight enough to use in fishing rods. After numerous proto types using the composite approach, we developed several samples of all graphite spinning rods and fly rods. Marketing decided to put an all graphite fly rod in the product line. At a tackle show in Chicago, Shakespeare and Fenwick both introduced a graphite rod with a name spelled the same- GRAFLITE. You can imagine the concern on both sides. After much deliberation it was determined that Shakespeare had secured the name first and Fenwick had to destroy all the catalogs in print and come up with another name.
During this time Steve Trewhella was the president of Shakespeare and Clyde Rickard was vice-president and general manager of the fishing tackle division. One of the persons reporting to Clyde was Joe Kuti who was a product manager in the marketing group. I was in charge of fishing rod development and the engineering group in the FTD. Graphite was very expensive; in the beginning it was about $400 per pound and glass was about $.50 per pound. Shakespeare was noted for white rods with spiral markings and our marketing group perceived that Fenwick, Garcia, Wright McGill, and others had an advantage as to styling and cosmetics on fishing rods. These competitors all used a preimpregnated material and made rods by a cut and roll process. Shakespeare’s quality rods were made with an internal spiral fiberglass core and parallel glass fibers impregnated with pigmented polyester resin .The method to make them was referred to as the Howald process. Both processes used a clear film like tape on top of the impregnated material, wound in several layers to apply pressure to the laminate while curing in an oven. Shakespeare removed the tape with high pressure water jets. Other rod makers removed tape by un-winding and surface sanding or simply by sanding away the tape. Shakespeare’s rods were left with spiral markings on the surface while our competitor’s rods had sanded smooth coated surfaces.
The most important project request from marketing to engineering was to make our rods look better which included sanded smooth surfaces and colors other than white. An engineer reporting to me was Mike Romanyszyn. While we were trying to use graphite in rods we had to also work on this cosmetic improvement project. Regular scheduled meetings were occurring between engineering and marketing to update everyone on engineering developments. While we had developed and brought to market the first all graphite rods, they were very expensive to make and high priced to the consumer. During one of our engineering experiments, I asked Mike to make some sample blanks using graphite instead of fiberglass for the spiral core. Because of the crook problem we had when we blended fiberglass and graphite we decided to use clear resin with the parallel glass fibers so we could detect any stresses that might be occurring while the blanks were curing. This was yet another way of combining fiberglass and graphite as compared to blending parallel fibers. The next day Mike and I were examining these latest casting rod blanks and to our amazement they were stronger than anything we had ever seen, almost un-breakable. Needless to say we were excited and on top of the strength asset the blanks were straight. The following afternoon we had one of those scheduled progress update meetings with Joe Kuti, Clyde Rickard, Mike, and me. The meeting immediately worked itself to our progress on sanded, coated blanks. I said there was no additional progress, but we had something new and innovative to show. While bending the rod to show its strength I talked about capitalizing on our manufacturing strengths and abilities and that sanding and coating was not easy for us. Joe Kuti immediately criticized our lack of cosmetic progress and said that those blanks were the ugliest that he had seen. I was very upset at his response and expressed my feelings at their inability to recognize a real innovation... While loudly slamming the blank down on the conference table, I left the meeting in disgust and anger indicating that they did not need my help. The plant was dark as it was after the 3:30 pm shift closing. I was walking through the plant and Clyde came after me to try to calm me down before we all left the plant for home that afternoon.
I don’t remember if it was the next day or two or three days later but by now these blanks had been looked at by most of Shakespeare’s executives. We were informed that there was going to be a new product line with a limited model offering and we were to pursue patent applications and trade marks for the UGLY STIK. The UGLY STIK patent was filed 4-12 -1976 by James Monroe Lindler and Michael Taras Romanyszyn. Joe Kuti is the one that I credit for naming the rod series. The first years production was beefed up to be extra strong, and these rods were truly ugly. Blanks were not pigmented, the graphite color showed through clear parallel fiberglass, wraps were black with white pin stripes and a stronger metal rod handle was designed for bait-casting and push-button rods. Shakespeare was the center of attention at the next trade show in Chicago with rods being used to lift heavy weights, buckets of water, engaging in tugs of war with competitor’s rods and the famous tip test. Many competitors’ rods were broken. Before the year was up we were working on improved cosmetics. Styling was changed to the familiar red and yellow basket weave at the grip, black wraps with red and yellow pin stripes and lightly buffed smoother blanks with black pigmented fiberglass, clear glossy coatings and a clear tip area. The product offering was expanded; blanks were made lighter in weight, including all fresh water rods, push button rods, bait casting rods, fly rods, and many specialty and salt water rods. This rod product line was supported by a fantastic advertising program, rods being bent by models, rods bent while being caught by auto windows and boat docks and lots of tee shirts and accessories.
Well, there you have it, the story leading to the development of the UGLY STIK and how the UGLY STIK got its name. The individuals mentioned above were the ones involved in how the UGLK STIK got its name. The real success of the UGLY STIK could not have occurred with out major input from factory workers, plant foremen, and their assistants, all of the engineering staff, marketing, advertising and corporate management and the most important sales group. No company is anything without SALES. All people involved are too many to name and I probably would forget someone very important; one thing was certain, WE WERE AN AWESOME TEAM 30 years ago.
This account was written by Monroe Lindler of the Shakespeare Corporation. It was sent to me for publishing by the late Harvey Garrison, who received it from Roxanne Coleman of the Shakepeare Corporation.
Phil White, Editor Old Fishing Stuff.