Michael Starkey takes our Lucky 7 interview this week. Involved in some of the biggest fishing brands in Australia, including Fuji, Gamakatsu and Atomic, he has a unique and some might say privileged (did he say away fishing for 25 weekends a year?) perspective of the fishing industry.
1. What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Michael Starkey, I am currently living in a great part of Australia, Far North Coast NSW in Ballina. I grew up in Lismore 30 minutes from Ballina but had a stint in the big city with going to Uni in Wollongong NSW and working in Sydney for a total of 9 years before moving back to the area. I couldn’t stay away too long!
2. What part do you play in the fishing community today?
I was in a very lucky position to have an opportunity to purchase into a business about 8 years ago, called Frogleys Offshore. It was purchased with only Fuji rod building products about 15 years ago by Dad and a business partner.
When I started we purchased out his partner and now it is a family business with myself and Dad running Frogleys as well as other family members, including my mother and brother making up part of the staff.
Frogleys expanded rapidly to all the ranges you see today. At Frogleys I am responsible for all new products, including designing new products for our own brands, Samurai and Atomic, as well as looking what will work for our market with all our other brands. Our main brands are Gamakatsu and Fuji and yes if stock runs out and you can’t purchase a product at the end of the day there is one person responsible, that is me so be nice if your favourite lure is out of stock!
On the side of running this small family business I manage to also run the largest tournament series in Australia with another company called Australian Fishing Tournaments (AFT). AFT runs the Gamakatsu Teams Series, the Gamakatsu Hobie Fishing Series, and new events like the North Coast Fishing Bonanza which is an all species event with a lot of family and kid involvement.
3. What was it that really got you into fishing and how old were you?
Well I have been fishing ever since I can remember, my dad, his dad etc etc have all been fishing, and when I was old enough you could not get me out of a boat.
Dad has always been into offshore fishing so most of my fishing was from boats. I remember when I was around 10 years old and we entered a big annual fishing comp (well I thought at the time it was big). Anyway we fished in this annual comp and I won the junior division and was extremely happy and won my first camera. It was a great event and a lot of fishing memories are with my Dad at this event and other social fishing.
In our area most offshore fishing was done via an ocean bar crossing. Dad, as a safety thing, did not allow me to cross them until I was 13. At around 10 he purchased a permeate caravan setup at Woody Head, with direct beach launch facilities. This was great! We would go there and I was able to go out fishing and catch Mackeral and Snapper before age 13.
Then once I turned 13 wow, you couldn’t stop me. At 15 he let me run the boat by myself in estuaries as soon as I got my junior license. So I used to take the Seafarer across the other side of the river and go fishing (we were lucky that grandma lived on the water so the boat could be at the jetty for me to take). So basically all my fishing was done with my Dad who still today is probably the most common person that I go fishing with. We still mostly go offshore but occasionally I let him loose with me on the Skeeter.
4. What is your greatest fishing memory?
I think I covered this above for when I was younger but I have to say competing in tournaments with some of the best and then winning an event like the QLD Open was my favourite memory.
I was fairly new to the sport and not known for what I do in the company. So it was good to get to show that I can actually fish to get some credibility to be able to design and bring in the amount of product Frogleys has expanded into over the last few years.
Other than that I have numerous experiences in remote locations that is permanently in the memory banks like Salmon Fishing in Alaska, Fly Fishing for Trout in Canada, Bass in Japan and US, GT Fishing at Cape York, the very tip, Tuna Fishing in Portland. Luckily for me to be able to do my job I have to experience fishing in many forms to be able to look at new product that would suit our market.
5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would hope to be in the same situation, I have much time and money invested in the company and would not like to see it go away. I have hopes to continue expansion and bring in more and more of our own products that I have helped design to the Australian Market Place.
Again the best thing about my job is the ability to do just about anything I want to give it a go in Australia. I think this is part of Frogleys success and lures like the Hardz. Not many companies allow someone a free go with products like I am allowed mainly due to the trust of Dad. Without his trust I don’t think the company or you guys, the fishermen, would be able to see the range of products we have out now.
I would also like to add still married! My wife and kids are the best and allow me to be away for over 25 weekends a year plus multiple trips overseas and within Australia during the week seeing customers. Without their support I would not be able to keep doing what I do, so that is why I put married in 5 years would be great!
6. What’s top of the “bucket list”?
There is one fish that has eluded me for a few years, that is the 30+kg GT. I have been on a few remote trips where for some reason or another they just have not been there.
Another thing that I really want to do is take the fishing comps to a level that it is a more common sport in Australia. Fishing to most is regarded as a social thing with men, dead fish with blood photos and beer. While this stereotype is changing I want to be involved in helping the public change the image of the sport to something fun so that kids get involved more and go back to the good old days, go out fishing for the day not sitting at home playing video games.
While I like the beer and getting the boys to go fishing, I would love to see the sport regarded as something cool to have a go at. I personally think the bream comps are the top of the fishing tree and it is cool to see the fast boats and good gear.
7. Who do you look up to in the fishing community?
This is a hard one, with the fishing community, there are many people that have helped over the last few years since I have been involved in the trade.
I would say Tim Morgan in regards to his attitude at comps and how he conducts himself, taking the comps serious yet still being able to have fun. It seems to be something that people are missing more these days.
Another thing that I admire most is people. It doesn’t matter if we sponsor them or not but I look up to and listen to people who find the different techniques and different lures and use them to their benefit to do better. I know the sport is mostly filled up with sheep (like most sports), but there are a few in the sport that are the herders that the sheep follow and these people are great.
A good example of this was with my team anglers a few years ago, I had brand new lure samples for Atomic Hardz, the first samples which contained the Shad 40 and the Crank 38. At that stage the most common lure was the SX-40 so most people grabbed the Shad 40 to use and give it a go at the comp. Tim Morgan was the only one who took the Crank 38 to give it a go. He came second at the next comp with that lure and it was ordered soon after. Other anglers then followed and gave it a go and now it is the most common and highest selling bream lure in Australia, there always has to be someone to give it a go, these are the people that I look up to.