Casey Childre - The Beginning
Legendary status cannot be inherited. Neither can it be received through genetics. It must be earned. Lew Childre earned legendary status by transforming an industry. Lew’s son, Casey is well on his way to doing the same. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done before reaching that status, so we will begin at say “The Beginning”.
Lew Childre was already a pioneer in the rod and reel industry when Casey began working with Lew Childre and Sons in Foley, Alabama. Casey was about 14 when he started working for his dad. Casey would get out of school and ride his motorcycle to the office. He would put together the orders received that day and then clean the offices (basically, he started as a janitor). Over the next several years, Casey began to learn about the technical side of the business - how rods and reels are made. He even began to repair rods and reels that had been returned under warranty or sent for repairs after the warranty ran out.
Over the next few years he even started to give some ideas on improving on the designs of some of the rods and reels. He had kind of a knack for understanding how they worked. Like most young men in those days, Casey felt like he needed to go to college to get ahead. While attending college, he had not declared his major but was considering a major in history and becoming a History Professor. One day his dad, Lew, asked him, “hey Casey, why don’t you ask that History Professor you like so much how much money he makes?” A few days later, Casey told his dad what the professor said. Lew said, “That’s all. I can do better than that. Why don’t you just work for me?” I guess, as they say, the rest is history, and so was Casey’s history professorship.
Casey was about 20 years old. He had been working for the company for about 6 years. He was learning a great deal about the business. He had a lot of hands on experience in repairing and created some very imaginative ways to improve on some of the products the company was selling. However, he hadn’t had the opportunity to learn much about production.
One day, Casey, Lew, and Mr. Yasui were on their way to the airport in Mobile for Mr. Yasui to catch his flight back to Japan. Lew pointed out the window, pointed toward the cemetery, and said, “that’s where I’m gonna be buried when I die.” Mr. Yasui said, “Now Lew, you know you’re gonna live forever.” Lew said, “Yeah, but if something does happen to me, I want you to take care of my family.” Of course Mr. Yasui agreed, and Lew told him, “and you know I’ll do the same for you.” They shook hands on the agreement, and they began to talk about something else. Lew didn’t mention that conversation, and Casey didn’t really think much about it. A couple months later, on July 26, 1977, Casey and his 3 year old son were going on a trip with Lew. They were taking Lew’s airplane, and he was the pilot. Lew often piloted his own plane. He was a quite accomplished pilot, but shortly after takeoff, the plane went down, and Lew was killed. Casey and his son were both seriously injured. Three year old kids tend to bounce back pretty quick, but Casey was in the hospital for several months. When he was released from the hospital, he was mentally like a small child. He didn’t know anything he knew before. Casey, at 22 years old, had to learn to talk, walk, and all the simply little things we take for granted as adults. He was getting most of his day to day functionality back, and Mr. Yasui showed up to keep the promise he had made to his friend, and took Casey to Japan. Mr. Yasui took Casey to the factory and began teaching him everything about manufacturing rods and reels. Casey was still unable to remember anything from before the plane crash. However, the accident had no effect on his intellectual capacity or desire for knowledge about the business.
Casey learned a great deal while at the factory. At one time or another, he did everything from sweeping the floor to packaging products to ship. This included setting up the assembly line, assembly of reels, assembly of rods, baking rods, and testing (quality control) of both rods and reels. He even learned a crucial part of the process - Design. He began to improve the design of rods and reels. He was learning at rate that would make it difficult for most people to keep pace with him. However, he still could not recall details from before. Then, he was sitting on a bench at a train station one day when, almost instantly, everything came back. He could remember everything he has knew from before as well as all the things he had learned from Mr. Yasui.
After about 11 years (around 1988), Casey returned home with a vast amount of industry knowledge. Around 1992, Casey started Lew’s Team, Inc. and, for several years, he worked for the top reel manufacturers in the industry through Lew’s Team, Inc. He maintained quality control, oversaw the production process, inspected final production, and assisted with product improvements to their designs.
During this time, he gathered a tremendous amount of data on returns and repairs to reels. In “The Good Ole Days” back at Lew Childre and Sons, one of the engineers that Casey came to know well and respected a great deal was Robert Baenziger. Around 1996, Casey approached Mr. Baenziger with a challenge. Casey told his engineer friend what he had discovered about the repairs of bait cast reels across all the major brands. It turns out that over 85% of all the repairs and returns of bait cast reels are in some way related to the eye that guides the line onto the spool. Casey had a brilliant idea. He told Mr. Baenziger, “if we can eliminate the eye, we can eliminate over 85% of all problems with the reels.” The engineer was intrigued to say the list. They worked together trying to develop a new way to have the line guided onto the spool. Lew revolutionized the industry by reducing the friction variation when casting by making the eye move forward when retrieving and move in reverse when casting. Now, Casey wanted to eliminate the eye altogether. He thought this would reduce malfunctions and would eliminate all friction on the cast. It turns out, this was a tall order. It also turned out to be a tremendous improvement to the bait cast reel. This system will revolutionize the industry must like the Lew’s Speed Spool did back when Casey’s dad was alive.
The first patent related to this new reel was applied for on September 18, 2007. Over the next few years, there were several more patent applications for improvements to the original design. Casey took his new design to some of the largest manufacturers of bait casting reels, and they all said the same think. Basically, they said they loved the design, but they would not make the reel as designed. They wanted Casey to agree to make changes to the design. The general idea from their point of view was, “if you want to make the reel exactly as you have it designed, we won’t touch it.” When Casey asked why, their response was that they thought the design was too perfect and the reel would last too long. That would cut down resales because the reel wouldn’t break. Casey learned one very important lesson from the Legendary Lew Childre. Lew always said, “the product you sell must always be the best you are able to deliver. You always think of the customer first.” Casey has decided that a reel that isn’t designed to break is the best he can deliver, and it puts the customer first. I have teamed up with Casey to develop a way to bring this great new reel to market. Next Generation Outdoors, LLC has, with Casey’s contacts, arranged to be able to manufacture the reels as soon as suitable capital can be obtained.
In the meantime, Casey is also working on some great new concepts from Lew’s Team, Inc. These new ideas, along with this new reel, will revolutionize the industry again, and a new Childre Legend will be born.