The Big Interview – Michael Starkey

As part of the hugely successful Frogleys Offshore business, Australian brand Atomic has been winning tournaments – and friends – for the best part of two decades. Company director Michael Starkey talks TTW through its growth.

TTW: How and when did Atomic start?

Michael Starkey: Frogleys Offshore is the parent company for Atomic, so it would be better to explain how that came about and when Atomic came into the picture.Jeff Frogleys Agencies, for whom distribution in Australia was focussed on rod building products, including Fuji, d-ecided to expand. It purchased another company in Australia, Offshore Sports, with the distribution rights to another Japanese brand, Gamakatsu. Also, as part of the business, Offshore Sports had already established a soft plastic range called Atomic.

Atomic had many tournament-winning baits in the plastics market and it was launched at the start of the plastics boom in Australia in the early 2000s. With the purchase of Offshore Sports in 1998 the company was renamed with the two combined into Frogleys Offshore and has been trading under that name in Australia since then.

TTW: How did Atomic go from a Plastics brand to the complete product range it has today?

MS: There are a few things that were able to make this happen. At the time of the Atomic purchase there were two partners in Frogleys Offshore, one being my father Paul Starkey.

Shortly after the purchase of Atomic, one partner decided to retire and this allowed me to purchase a share in Frogleys Offshore and it became a family-owned company. This offers massive freedom to be able to trial and explore product ranges and develop products to expand the brand, without a lot of red tape. Much of this comes down to the trust Paul had in me to grow the brand.

The second thing that helped Atomic expand was that both Paul and I are and were always fishermen, so we know what we use and if we use it, we figure why wouldn’t other people.

As part of this it took a massive learning curve to get into lure fishing through tournament fishing. The first three years after I came into the company I fished a lot in tournaments, around 30 or 40 a year. I fished small social ones up to the main bream and bass tournaments in Australia and, with this much fishing and contact in the fishing scene, it is hard not to pick up what people want and are using.

I took this information along with the final piece of the puzzle, which was having good financial support. As you know, expanding brands is not cheap.

We were lucky enough that Frogleys Offshore was strong in the Australian Market with brands like Fuji, Gamakatsu, MajorCraft, Bassday and others. We were strong enough to keep growing Atomic and, as a matter of fact, that is how we develop such high-quality products. A lot of these are manufactured at or by the same factories that these Japanese brands are.

TTW: So what products have been the most successful in Atomic in the last few years?

MS: In the last few years we have launched a rod range called Arrowz. A clever design and priced right, these have been insanely popular and have taken the market share from others. Now the rod range is competing with the likes of Shimano and Daiwa – not just a second tier brand but right against the big guys.

We can’t forget the main product range, which is Hardz. These are hard body lures. In fact still, after more than 10 years, they‘re the largest-selling bream lure in Australia. It is amazing how it has kept going, especially the Crank, this lure is one of the highest money-making lures in Australian history in the tournaments. But there are now over 400 lures in the range and ever expanding for all types of species.

TTW: Where is the Australian tackle trade right now, would you say?

MS: The trade in Australia is on the back of a boom from Covid-19, like most countries. With supply always a problem along with increased pricing, it will be an interesting time but my prediction of the Australian market is that with the number of boats being purchased and with that extra money people saved over Covid, people will use these for the next few years so there will be no big downturn afterwards. We will continue to have a strong market and this will allow for growth in new products from everyone.

TTW: And how does the future look for Atomic?

MS: Atomic’s future is bright, we already have many products in the range releasing in the next 12 months including tools, a new range of lures which are designed to imitate local bait fish called Real Baitz, plus other expansions in current ranges like the rods.

The largest change for Atomic is the expansion to the international market. We are already selling into a few markets but are now setup and ready for larger expansion. We know part of this is also getting products to suit the markets in their own countries, which is very important to us, so when we find partners to distribute our brand we will be looking at people who want to develop Atomic with us to grow like it did in Australia.

Being a distributor of brands ourselves, we know how this works and what is needed from both parties to make it happen and be successful for everyone.