Yellow Bird’s New Local Leadership Outstanding

By: Steve Sarley/Northwest Herald/Outdoors Columnist – July 2011

I’ve previously written that I try to buy products made in America if I can.  If the products are made in Illinois, then that is all the better.  The only thing better than that is when I actually can meet the manufacturer and find him to be a quality human being that I believe is deserving of success in his business. I met someone this year that perfectly fits that description.  He is Rick Battalini from Spring Grove.

Yellow Bird Products is a company that has a number of product names under its umbrella.  Yellow Bird makes their signature planer boards, and they are the Cadillac of that market segment.  Their Prescott Spinner rigs are revered by walleye and perch fishermen.  Their KB Spoons are deadly salmon baits.  Anyone who fishes for giant Canadian northern pike has to have at least a couple of Yellow Bird’s Doctor Spoons in his or her tackle box.  This is just to name the four most popular items in the Yellow Bird lineup.

Yellow Bird Products was owned by Bob Shirley from the far south Chicago suburbs.  Shirley also owns a tackle store in Markham.  He sold Yellow Bird to Battalini.  I asked him why he sold Yellow Bird, and he told me, “It was getting to be too much.  I had to get out of one of the companies, and it turned out that Yellow Bird was the most salable.”

It went on the market, and Battalini jumped on it.

The 50-year-old Battalini lives with his wife of 21 years, Darlene, and their three children in Spring Grove, where he also has his business.  Before his debut in the fishing tackle world, he was a home builder, had a flooring company and was the national sales manager for a company that manufactured calculators.

I asked Battalini why he made the decision to get into the fishing industry.  He replied, “I knew I would be dealing with people who were passionate about this sport.  Plus, it’s one of the greatest recreational activities for people of any age.  It’s never boring.”

He also told me why he bought Yellow Bird.  “It has a rich history and established product lines.  There is a good growth potential, good market placement in stores, and the products are well-respected.”

I figured it would be easy to buy a company that has a great name and just put it on cruise control, but that isn’t Battalini’s style.  “We are in the process of creating a new website, new packaging for a branded name recognition, marketing plans for more product placement, trade shows, tournament sponsorships, pro staff members.  We’ll look at new product categories, appealing to more species and their fishermen.  We are bringing back original products that were discontinued or forgotten about, and have made many other plans.  It seems like they arise daily.”

As to being domestically made rather than trying to save money by moving the manufacturing overseas, Battalini told me, “Everything is made in the good ol’ U.S.A.  Even though we have many contacts in China from our calculator days, we feel it’s very important to stay here.”

The reviews of Yellow Bird have been coming in, and they are almost always favorable.  Battalini said, “Everyone has been great.  I’m a big fan of honesty regarding our products and our customers tell me how they feel, so I can then provide a better product.  I get ‘my grandfather or father used to use these and did great,’ so there is a whole generation that I need to market to.  We aren’t going to live on our history.  We are going to have to bring life back into the entire line of products. We will be introducing new colors, styles, sizes, and features.”

Battalini loves doing the outdoor shows and the chance to engage customers and sportsmen in conversation.  He said, “I’m a fisherman, although I wouldn’t consider myself an expert by any means.  I can tell you that I have learned so much in the past year though, by just listening to everyone.  It’s interesting that everyone has their own techniques, style, etc. ..No one is wrong.  It’s great.”

Running a fishing tackle manufacturing company can’t always be the proverbial “bed of roses.”  I asked Rick what the pitfalls of ownership are.  He replied, “As far as the manufacturing process, my experiences in the past have proven that it’s what I figured it would be and it has been.  A challenge is keeping inventory numbers up to where there are no back orders.  It’s guessing which colors are going to be “hot” and have enough to fill the orders.  Everything runs out to two to three months for delivery time.  Nothing is quick, so we have to anticipate the needs of our customers.”

I asked Battalini if, so far, he is happy with his purchase of Yellow Bird Products.  He smiled and responded, “We have been blessed.  Things are looking up and getting better every day.  I love this industry and the people involved.  It is not work at all.

“The business is close to home, and the people are passionate.  The sport of fishing and all that it entails is outstanding.  It appeals to all walks of life and any age, and it’s always changing.  I can pass this down to my children.  I can’t see doing anything else.  Again, we feel very blessed to be a part of the fishing industry.”

Battalini is a friendly and honest man.

I wish him the best successes he can attain.  I know that when I am looking for a product that can be filled with an item from the impressive Yellow Bird product line, I will certainly choose to buy it, rather than another brand.

You can check out the Yellow Bird product line at

Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley’s radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” airs live at 5 a.m.  Sundays on AM-560.  He can be contacted at

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