The world I grew up in was different in many ways from the world today. In the 1970’s, there was no Internet or email. There were four — maybe five, if the weather was just right — channels on TV. The environmentalists hadn’t yet stumbled upon the concept of “global warming,” so the best they could do to scare folks into submission was a Native American crying about litter along the roadside and Woodsy Owl exclaiming, “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute.”
My parents’ house was located in a relatively rural area, and there were some definite advantages to that; I spent a lot of my spare time walking in the woods and fields, and fishing along the rocky shores of the Sandusky Bay. But, there was often a real sense of isolation and, well… boredom, especially in the summer when the long, hot days seemed to drag on endlessly. So, it was with great anticipation that I convinced my Mother to let me join the Young Model Builders Club, as advertised in Boy’s Life Magazine. This would have been around 1974, when I was 12 years old. The Young Model Builders Club was a mail-order affair in which you paid a flat monthly fee of $1.98 (yeah, seems ridiculously low to me, too, but that’s what the ad says) and received a plastic model kit in the mail each month.
Now, in fairness, I wasn’t much of a model builder, so half (or more) of the fun was the anticipation of receiving the model in the mail; speculating on what that month’s kit would be, walking to the post office to see if it had arrived, and prepping the paints and brushes and glue on my work bench in the basement.
I recalled that boyhood sense of excitement and mystery a few weeks ago when I signed up to receive a Mystery Tackle Box. I had seen the company’s teaser ad on Facebook with the promise that they would be launching soon, and been intrigued enough to “Like” their page back in the Spring. Then, in June, I received an email from them saying that the first boxes would be shipping in August and offering me a $5.00 discount off the $15 first-month price. I had a second look at their website and liked their business model, but was discouraged to see that their focus was bass fisherman. While bass fishing is not exactly foreign to me, it’s not my favorite thing to do with a rod and reel either, and I decided to take a pass. Somehow discerning my reluctance, the good folks at MTB followed up with an even better offer; $10 off. I figured that for $5, it would be difficult to be disappointed, and placed my order.
A few weeks later, the package arrived in a plain brown 7″ X 5″ shipping box, the size that VCR tapes (speaking of days gone by) used to ship in. Once opened, the shipping box revealed a nice brown kraft box with the Mystery Tackle Box logo on top — the first of many nice little touches. (As a marketing pro, I notice things like that.) Inside, as promised, were four pieces of tackle generally associated with bass fishing, a Mystery Tackle Box sticker and a pack of Mystery Tackle Box “about this bait” cards.
The four tackle items in my box were an XCB-S Crankbait by Reaction Strike, a sample three-pack of Moaner Hooks, a six-pack of Rage Tail Space Monkey soft plastics and a Condition Buzz buzzbait by Reaction Strike. Each of these came with a full color info card which described the item, listed a retail price and offered a QR code linking to a web video showing how to use the item. I thought the cards and related videos were a very nice touch, even if the suggested retail prices were a little (okay, a lot) on the high side. But, to be clear, MTB promised that each box would contain at least $20 worth of product, and this box certainly did, even at more reasonable Walmart-level pricing.
In terms of the “usability” of the items; it never hurts to have another buzzbait or crankbait in your tackle box. I don’t see anything particularly special or unique about either of the included items, but they appear to be of decent quality and are the sort of tackle that even a casual bass hunter like me would certainly buy and use on a regular basis; so I will call those wins. The Space Monkeys and Moaner Hooks, which are intended to be used together as a “Rage Rig,” according to the how-to video, are a little more of a challenge for me. I am not much of a soft plastic guy; never have been. I bought a package of purple and yellow nightcrawlers (admittedly because I thought the colors were cool) when I was about 15, and they were still in my tackle box up until a couple of years ago. I’ve had modest success using Gulp Alive Minnows on in-line spinners (and, surprisingly, on spoons) but that’s about the extent of my experience. That’s not to say that I won’t give the Space Monkeys a try… I will. And that, I suppose, is the real fun and the value proposition of the Mystery Tackle Box; getting anglers to try new products, brands and techniques.
All-in-all, I am very pleased with my initial experience with MTB. I feel like I got extraordinary value for my $5 investment. I do wish they had a less bass-centric option, since my primary fishing mode is ultra-light kayak angling, but I mess around enough with bass on a medium-weight spinning outfit to make the product selection worthwhile in the short-term. I may feel differently after a few months of receiving bass tackle, but I will certainly be anticipating the September Mystery Tackle Box.
John B. Marek
Huntersville, North Carolina