NATCHITOCHES, La.- Adding an invigorating new chapter to its deeply rooted story, Louisiana-based V&M Baits announces its recent sale to LES, LLC, the ownership group that recently acquired Luck-E-Strike Baits.
A family founded brand, V&M launched in Alabama, but moved to Louisiana, where multiple owners guided the company. Kevin Jeane, who served as President of the most recent ownership group since 2016, said the V&M mission has balanced respect for the past with a zeal for new development.
“When we took over in 2016, the company had recently invested in new packaging and new branding, but it’s been the same logo for 30 years,” said Jeane, who will remain with V&M as National Sales Manager. “That was important, because we wanted to keep that history alive, while continuing with the modern innovations that have allowed us to develop a loyal customer base.
“We knew the company’s potential to be a top-notch bait manufacturer with the right products and people in place. We wanted to give the company a modern look, but remain respectful to its founding principle of producing the baits that anglers can depend on to catch big fish.”
In its most recent chapter, V&M delivered on the objective by complementing original lineup favorites, such as the venerable 6 1/2-inch lizard, with new designs to fit the sport’s modern needs. For example, a slender body creature bait known as the J-Bug serves a variety of flipping, pitching, Texas rigging and Carolina rigging applications.
As Jeane explained, the brand has found consistent success by creating different bait series, with multiple items bound by common design themes. Among them, anglers know well the V&M Series and the Wild Thang Series. The latter comprises multiple bait shapes, all defined by the hard-thumping, water-displacing action created by the prominent tail design.
Also hugely successful has been the V&M Pacemaker Jig Series, designed by Major League Fishing star and longtime V&M pro-staffer Cliff Pace. In fact, February 2013 brought a PR windfall when Pace won the Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees with his signature Pacemaker football jig. Since then, the Pacemaker line has grown to include models for swimming, skipping, flipping and shaky head presentations.
“When Cliff Pace won the Classic, it rejuvenated V&M and made it a household name,” Jeane said. “After that, we released the full line of Pacemaker Jigs. That has been the core of our company — that premium jig line.”
Jeane said V&M has also leveraged the 2019 Bassmaster Central Open win that sent Louisiana pro Darold Gleason to his first Bassmaster Classic and positioned him to launch his Bassmaster Elite Series career in 2021. One of the V&M plastic baits Gleason used during his victory was made in the color that would become known as Gleason’s Candy.
Jeane said this fish-tempting combination has become the company’s No. 1 color across its entire line of plastics. Gleason has also contributed to bait innovation by designing the Lil’ Hammer line-through tailspin.
Zac Bandy, majority partner in LES, LLC, said the V&M acquisition provided the ideal complement to Luck E Strike, which his company acquired in fall 2022. Bandy said his longstanding friendship with Pace — a member of the most recent V&M ownership group — brought to his attention, the opportunity to quickly integrate an established brand of soft plastics and jigs.
“When Cliff suggested (the acquisition of V&M), he pointed out that we had the manufacturing and distribution capabilities at our Greenwood, Ark. facility,” Bandy said. “We knew we had the ability to take a solid company with great potential to the next level, so acquiring V&M just made sense.”
Bandy said V&M’s move to Arkansas will bring it under the same roof as not only the Luck E Strike brand, but also Pro Built Jigs, Renosky, Nemire and Jimmy Houston Inspired Spinnerbaits. Gathering such a collection of time-honored brands, he said, implies a commitment to upholding the quality and creativity anglers have come to expect.
“Luck E Strike and its brands have a long history in the fishing industry,” Bandy said. “We’re trying to make sure we’re being good stewards of, not only our brands, but our industry as a whole.”
Describing V&M’s upward progression, Jeane stressed a feet-on-the-ground approach based on his realization of and appreciation for the company’s roots.
“We’re thankful for all the help that has allowed us to grow this company from where we came form, to where we are today,” Jeane said. “From all the pro staff, to the mom and pop stores, to the national retailers, I want to stress that we’re the same V&M, and we look forward to seeing how the new ownership will allow us to reach new heights.”
For information on V&M Baits contact LES LLC at (479) 996-0110 or [email protected].