Three years ago while commercial fishing off Key West with some friends, Neil Mellies hooked up to a 70-pound kingfish and was ecstatic. That was, until he lost it. He fought it for some time, brought it almost close enough to the boat to gaff, and then the eyelet came out of the tackle he was using and the fish swam away.
“It’s just the tackle,” Mellies’ buddies told him, reassuring him he did everything right. “It happens.”
Mellies, who has been around the fishing industry since he was in diapers (his grandpa was a Key West commercial fisherman), said he thought there had to be a better way.
For the past couple years, he’s been working in his in home workshop in the evenings after delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service making functional artwork geared toward fisherman. After partnering with longtime friend Brandon Jones three months ago — and chatting with commercial fishermen, charter captains and day trippers — his Keys Customs Tackle rally has taken off. “We have orders coming in up and down the Keys, Tampa and Louisiana,” he said. “We have big things coming.”
Mellies’ own style is evident in the jigs’ design has a personal style. The mono-tails are built into every one.
Local captains like the lures, Mellies said, because nothing extra needs to be added to catch fish. “Tie it on and drop it down,” he said. “Guys are bringing up big snowy grouper with no bait. That’s why they are really getting so popular.”
Keys Custom Tackle features double strength hooks with custom ties and marine grade paint, and cost about the same as national brands. “Our motto is basically ‘Use it ’til you lose it,’” he said, adding that the lures are essentially indestructible. “They last that long.”
The most expensive Keys Custom Tackle lure is a 10-ouncer made for deep dropping at $14. His most popular lures run about 60-cents for catching yellowtail. “Even the yellowtail jigs, you can catch a mutton snapper and not worry about bending a hook,” he said. “And if I don’t already have what you want, I can make it.”
To order, or find a location that sells Keys Custom Tackle, call 305-304-5033 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.