Mathieu’s appointment continues reorganisation of Rapala’s senior management team

Posted on March 20th, 2021

Rapala’s reorganisation of its senior team continued this week with the appointment of Cyrille Mathieu as President and Managing Director of Normark Canada.

Mathieu (pictured) has been with Rapala VMC for 23 years and was previously the General Manager and VP of Sales and Marketing.

He succeeds David Neill, who was promoted to Executive VP in charge of global product development and innovation late last year. “Cyrille’s incredible experience and knowledge of the North American sport fishing industry, combined with his strong managerial and leadership skills, made him the natural pick for this spot,” said Tom Mackin, President of Rapala USA. “His promotion also reflects our culture, where we develop talent from within and continuously strive to help our people reach their potential.”

Mathieu’s appointment is the latest step in Rapala CEO Nicolas Warchalowski’s plan to ‘up its game’ in product development and get closer to markets with a more streamlined organisational structure. Warchalowski is clearly looking to promote from within where he can. Both Neill and Enrico Ravenni, recently promoted to head up distribution in APAC, are both long-time servants of the company,

Mathieu said: “It is a great honour for me to put my experience behind the most respected fishing brands in the world in Canada. I’m excited to join my colleagues at Normark Canada to continue to build our presence in the Canadian market and support the ONE Rapala initiative globally.”

Mathieu, who is relocating to Oshawa, Ontario, began his career at VMC Pêche headquarters in Morvillars, France, in 1997. He served as International Sales Manager in charge of key accounts in Asia, Australia, South Africa and North America while supporting VMC’s growing retail business in the US.

He worked closely with renowned hard bait, jig and buzzbait designers and manufacturers worldwide to develop fish hook solutions for their needs, while supporting VMC retail expansion in the US.

In 2003, he moved to Minnesota, where he was appointed Vice President of Sales and Marketing, leading the development of the OEM, ODM, private label and retail businesses for the company in North America.

Mathieu became a US citizen in 2017, the same year that he was named General Manager for VMC as the company continued to expand in the US and Canada by strengthening relationships with Rapala VMC factories and strategic partners worldwide.

Over the course of his career, Mathieu has worked closely with Rapala USA and Normark Canada sales, product development and marketing teams to support the introduction of multiple international, award-winning VMC products for the bass, walleye and saltwater markets.

He has also helped build the retail expansion of the VMC brand in Latin America and Japan, providing product and marketing expertise.

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Why Rapala/VMC purchased Okuma Europe/Russia.

Posted on March 3rd, 2021

Rapala President and CEO Nicolas Warchalowski has spoken to Angling International about the company’s acquisition of Okuma’s businesses in Europe and Russia. “This will move the needle for our entire group,” he says. And, as he explains here, he has not ruled out yet more acquisitions.

Warchakowski: I am so proud of the teams on both sides who have really made this dream deal possible.

The discussions were initiated back in May 2020. The relationship between Charles Chang’s Okuma team and ours dates back all the way to Jorma Kasslin’s time as Rapala CEO. Charles’s insight and vision has been a key driver and resulted in our teams getting closer and closer this time around. Our Taichung sourcing office is located 20 minutes away from Okuma’s global HQ and has certainly been a key enabling factor, as well as having our COO, Lars Ollberg, based in Taichung since August 2020 to oversee these latest discussions. Also, the hugely successful strategic partnership with Yao-I regarding the Sufix brand has certainly been a key enabler. All in all, many fortunate events came together enabled by great teamwork from both parties.

Our intention is to turn Okuma into a leading R&R brand in Europe and to fight for market share in the largest categories against the big three global R&R brands (Shimano, Daiwa and Abu Garcia).

Okuma will remain its own brand. When we announced this cooperation with Okuma to the wider team, I was blown away by the enthusiastic team reaction. They were thrilled with excitement. Following the amicable divorce from the distribution agreement with Shimano, and with 13 Fishing still in ‘incubation mode’, it was made very clear to me that our passionate team members have been waiting to get going on something as big as a pan-European Okuma launch. What a perfect way and timing for our group to now embark on a new growth journey. The Okuma launch will really be able to move the needle for our entire group.

Okuma rods and reels will be the perfect complement to 13 Fishing products, which we are beginning to introduce to Europe.

13F products are seeing a very successful introduction in their core segments, but the brand still has some way to go when it comes to international capabilities and range expansion. We have great belief in 13F and I firmly believe that it has all the potential to become a global megabrand in the industry. Together with 13F, we are now rolling out more global products that carry its modern and young DNA.

With the small entrepreneurial 13F team there are no shortcuts – all products must be properly tested and have enough of the brand’s ‘secret sauce’ applied to achieve that special cool and edgy appeal that young millennials have come to love in the USA.

13F is targeting anglers aged 15-35 behind an innovative, narrower product line-up and edgy, digitally-focused sales and marketing support going up against brands like Savage Gear. Okuma, on the other hand, can compete against the big three global R&R brands (Shimano, Daiwa and Abu Garcia) with a complete and highly-commercial R&R range.

We are now gearing up to commence our Okuma partnership with a ‘big bang’ pan-European/Russian launch for the 2022 season worthy of this flagship brand.

Okuma is on an exciting brand transformation path to becoming a serious contender to the biggest brands in Europe and we hope to greatly accelerate that journey through our new cooperation. With Okuma we are in it for the long run, meaning that we will take no short-cuts and will turn every stone that needs to be turned to get the brand where it should be in consumers’ hearts and on retailers’ shelves across Europe and Russia. From a product development and innovation perspective, the reel range is highly impressive and is already proven in Europe. However, the rods and combos range needs some further joint attention. From a sales and marketing perspective, point-of-sale material and social media presence will get an extra push. Last but not least, the Okuma brand will benefit hugely from applying one consistent sales and marketing strategy along with significantly increased investment across the entire European and Russian markets.

There will be some organizational changes to achieve a flatter reporting structure because I believe this has real benefits for the group.

Historically, Rapala’s country heads in Europe reported directly to former CEO Jorma Kasslin (who, by the way, they loved). It was a very flat, agile organisation and decision-making was fast. To get something to happen took only a quick call to Jorma and the decision was made right there on the spot.

Over the years, and as the business grew, governance, of course, had to be adopted. However, management layer after management layer was added, resulting in Rapala becoming too bureaucratic, slow-moving and, crucially, some of the fun of working together was lost.

In Europe (and across our other business units) we are now removing management layers to get our team members closer to each other, to make us faster, more successful and, most importantly, to enjoy what we do as a team. We are already seeing positive benefits and believe this to be an important element in our new growth journey.

I have always practiced an informal leadership style. I really like to be close to the business and out and about with the team. For me, it all begins and ends with the team, boosting the culture and team spirit. If we can get our people to jump out of bed in the morning, have fun together at work and to feel that, hand-on-heart, they are working in their dream job, all the other matters become so much easier to deal with.

With Okuma having its own rod and reel factories and Rapala owning the full value chain for most of our brands, along with impressive manufacturing capabilities, there are several future acquisitions that could bring additional synergies.

Our new ONE RAPALA VMC business plan is built both on organic growth and mergers and acquisition activities. In rods and reels we could not have dreamed of having a stronger brand portfolio in Europe and Russia than we have now with our group brands, 13F and Okuma. The key focus for us right now is to help the 13F team to expand internationally and to turn the pan-European Okuma launch in 2022 into an overwhelming success. The better we succeed with this the faster we can look at additional acquisitions.

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US Bass pro uses Rapala lure to win brand new Toyota

Posted on November 17th, 2020

US tournament pro Seth Felder has reason to be forever grateful to the OG Rapala Slim bait he fished during the four-day Toyota Bassmaster Fest, which finished yesterday.

On the first day of the event the lure enticed a 9lb 9oz bass for the ‘Mullet Man’ from Minnesota and won him the keys to a brand new Toyota Tundra truck – the prize for catching the biggest fish of the tournament.

“It’s been stressful,” he admitted. “I probably checked BASSTrakk more times than eventual winner Patrick Walters’ mum to see if anyone caught a bigger fish than me.” The Tundra-winning bass fell to green-gizzard shad-coloured Rapala bait tied to a 12lb line and fished in four feet of water.

Felder added: “I just want to thank Toyota for investing in the sport we all love, for sponsoring B.A.S.S. and supporting anglers the way it does.”

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Lake Erie & Ontario hit hard by environmental stresses.

Posted on September 30th, 2020

ASHINGTON – If red means trouble – and in this case, it does – a map of the Great Lakes published by their binational overseer identifies Lakes Erie and Ontario as the places where the region’s many environmental concerns come together.

On that map, Lake Ontario is mostly a sea of red, with a few spots in the center of the lake shaded orange, signaling that they are only slightly less troubled. Meanwhile, the map of Lake Erie features a deep red blotch stretching from metro Buffalo westward along the Canadian shoreline for about 130 miles. A similar red blotch stretches westward from Erie, Pa., past Cleveland and Toledo and into Michigan.

Neither Lake Ontario nor Lake Erie features the deep blue hue that dominates Lake Superior, signaling that it is comparatively free of environmental stress.

That map illustrates what an International Joint Commission panel found when it looked at the major challenges the lakes face – climate change, invasive species, excessive nutrients, pollution, habitat loss and others – cumulatively rather than as individual issues.

“The stress was greatest in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario because you have the confluence of strong stressors,” said David Allan, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan and the author of the report. “You have the most population, the most wastewater contributions, the most agricultural runoff contributions. You have an abundance of other stressors influencing those lakes as well.”

“In terms of the magnitude of the damage that results from the interaction between two stressors, sometimes the relationship between stressors is additive, so one plus one equals two,” he said. “But sometimes there’s a synergy, so one plus one can exceed two. And, occasionally, one stressor can counteract the other stressor.”

The study did not focus on the flooding that has occurred on the Lake Ontario shoreline in recent years. Instead, it focused on environmental concerns.

Lake Ontario is mostly shaded in red on the map in part because of longstanding data showing that invasive mussels are common there, Allan said. Substantial pollution from farm run-off and shoreline development are issues along Lake Ontario as well.

The eastern portion of Lake Erie is shaded red because of the influence of industrialized cities such as Buffalo. Meantime, the Canadian shoreline west of Buffalo faces issues with agricultural runoff, while western Lake Erie in Ohio has suffered from algal blooms thanks to excess nutrients such as phosphorus.

Buffalo News


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Fly fishing industry unites on climate change.

Posted on September 24th, 2020

The Fly Fishing Climate Alliance has been formed in the US by businesses within the industry to tackle the effects of climate change.

A first-of-its-kind initiative for the fly fishing industry has brought brands, shops, lodges and guides together to take action over the climate crisis.

The Fly Fishing Climate Alliance says that climate change is the single biggest threat to fish on the planet and has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2030.

As of today, 16 businesses have joined, including Patagonia Fly Fish, Seigler Reels, Monic Fly Lines, Rep Your Water, Rock Treads, Crazy Creek Products, Tailwater Lodge, School of Trout, Emerald Water Anglers, Lary’s Fly & Supply, Low Tide Charters, True North Trout, Soul Fly Outfitters, Emerger Strategies and Craig Matthews.

“It is our responsibility to do our part to solve this crisis so that we can save the planet, the fish and our businesses,” says the Alliance.

Corinne and Garrison Doctor, co-founders of the apparel brand, Rep Your Water, said: “Our business is dependent upon a healthy environment, and because climate change poses a significant threat to that environment and the fish we love, the least we can do is take responsibility for our actions by working to achieve carbon neutrality. We think our industry has everything to gain and nothing to lose by acting on climate.”

The initiative is the idea of sustainability consulting company Emerger Strategies, which began working on it in 2019 to raise awareness and responsibility for sustainable business practices among the fly fishing community.


Writing on the American Fly Fishing Trade Association website, Emerger Strategies’ Rick Crawford said: “By working towards a common goal of achieving carbon neutrality, we can make a significant impact in solving the climate crisis while leading by example.

“It is through the actions of the members of this alliance that the fly fishing industry can do its part in saving both the planet and the fish their businesses depend upon.”

Angling International – by Anthony


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