Players: Bill Pino

The fishing visionary discusses innovation and the impact of social media

Bill Pino photo Squidnation founder
Bill Pino is all smiles after a fun day of tournament fishing in the Pacific Ocean.Courtesy Pepper Ailor / lossuenos.com

It's a Squid Nation

Bill Pino is a lucky man. He transitioned from a successful career in the telecommunications industry to pursue his passion for offshore sport fishing at the helm of Squidnation, a business he founded seemingly on a whim. Along the way, Pino has won an impressive string of tournaments in Central America as part of the Tranquilo fishing team, and he is charting a course as one of the sport's top innovators.

Let's start from the beginning: How did you get into the tackle business?
We were fishing in the Northeast several years ago when spreader bars first became popular. The guys who were pulling them were just wearing out the tuna. At that time, a spreader bar was $200; we were scraping up money just to buy fuel. I had a few too many drinks one night and started researching a way to buy my own squid online. It was midnight here in the States and noon in China, but I finally found a guy who spoke some English and who had what I wanted. I placed an order on my credit card for a thousand dollars' worth of artificial squid and then promptly forgot all about it the next day. My wife pays the credit card bills, so she thought it was just another boat expense and never thought anything about it. About two months later, I got a call saying I had 36 huge boxes to clear through customs in Baltimore. That was the birth of Squidnation.

Bill Pino Squidnation photo with pink squids
Since its inception, Squidnation has become one of the top innovators in the tackle industry.Pepper Ailor / lossuenos.com

And you started catching fish right away?
We hadn't caught a bigeye [tuna] yet. Then we caught a quad of bigeyes on the rasta squid spreader bar. We were the first ones to use molded squid, not the tube squid everyone else had. Our friends started asking about them, and it just took off from there.

How did artificial squid make it to the dredge?
Capt. Sylvain Cote on Espadon came up to me in Ocean City [Maryland] and said he thought the squid would look good on a dredge, so we built one for him, and it worked great. Then Howard Lynch on Predator started using them the next year, and Tucker [Colquhoun] took one down to Costa Rica. By then, everyone wanted one.

Bill Pino Squidnation Tranquilo photo
Pino fishes with a number of different teams, including with Ken and Amanda Cofer's Tranquilo in the Pacific.Pepper Ailor / lossuenos.com

The Squidnation Flippy Floppy Thing has become the hottest teaser in recent memory. How did that one come to be?
Capt. Victor Julio on Tranquilo told me the sailfish in Costa Rica were eating clouds of these little red lanternfish, and he wanted to know if I had any tiny red squid. We came up with the idea of putting small squid on the ends of a piece of springy wire running through a larger squid, so when it's pulled through the water, it looks like a predator showering through bait. We took it down to Costa Rica, and it did well on the sailfish, but what we found was blue marlin just couldn't leave it alone. Capt. Corey Kennington was riding with us, and he kept saying, "There he is, there's another one on that flippy floppy thing." So the name stuck. And while it's a great teaser for big boats, it's also something that the small-boat guys can use too.

Bill Pino Squidnation photo with remora
Whether it's a thousand-pound marlin or just a remora, Pino still gets excited with every fish he catches.Courtesy Bill Pino

Where do you get the concepts for your new products?
Everything comes directly from our customers. The captains are the ones who directly influence how our products are designed and produced. Guys like Jon Duffie, Butch Cox and many, many others tell us what they are seeing out on the water and how we can produce the things they need to catch more fish.

You just don’t get that kind of feedback sitting behind a desk — you have to be out on the water fishing.

What role has social media played in your success?
It has helped tremendously, especially with the Flippy Floppy Thing. It was a new concept that didn't look like anything else out there. It was a matter of having the right people talking about it and also relentlessly posting photos and reports from around the world. It's one thing to hear it from the company, but to get firsthand reports from the guys actually fishing means a whole lot more.

What's next for Squidnation?
We recently signed an agreement with Peter Pakula where we will distribute his lures in the U.S. and he'll sell Squidnation products in Australia, so that's exciting news. The brand is doing well in South Africa, Kenya and the Seychelles, and we're setting up distributorships in places like New Zealand. We're also working on some new concepts to make sure we stay ahead of the curve. The future is going to be really exciting.