by Kevin "The Baitman" Baxter
With every new "bait" or "lure" coming out, many are designed to catch fisherman and not fish. I'll be totally honest,I've been following KGB swimbaits and owner Kevin Brightwell for several years now on social media, mainly Facebook and Instagram. I was that guy.The one that said "Those are wicked cool looking,, but way too much money". Now however, after listening to his story and seeing the work he puts into each and every bait or "sculpture" he may have the perfect piece of art-work that is beautifully blended with fish catching ability.I was intrigued by what inspires his designs, his motivation, and his success as a premiere swimbait maker. So I reached out to him. He didn't hold back. What I found solidified the old saying .you get what you pay for.
Owner, Kevin Brightwell, has been building "Baits" since he was 5 years old. starting with small hand-made lures, but didn't get into swimbaits until 2010. Brightwell, who is known for his artistry and amazing attention to detail admits that no two baits he builds looks exactly the same.
"The artist side is that you’ll never see two of my baits look exactly the same.. the body yes, the swim yes. But where I get my excitement now is letting each bait stand alone with how I paint and finish them." Brightwell says,
I didn't probe him for any of that top secret bait building juice. A true magician never reveals his tricks. But what we did talk about was what makes him tick as a builder and what keeps him going harder than ever before. Like other bait makers, Brightwell builds for a purpose, not just pocketing cash and going to bed.
Built for bigs
Swimbaits have a long history of their ability to draw strikes from the biggest bass around, which is part of the aura of swimbait fishing. Even though Brightwell is located in Arkansas, far away from the Mecca of swimbait fishing, he still has the West-Coast mindset. Go Big or Go Home. To quote the man..
" My goal is to build a bait that has the potential to catch a world record. Or at least something I’m willing to use to catch and beat my own personal best of 15.9 lbs"
Building baits with potential to catch world record bass doesn't come easily. Brightwell spends a lot of time just coming up with new ideas. Often waking himself up in the middle of the night when he gets inspired according to Brightwell.
"New ideas are a constant process, No kidding, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea and try my best to write it down or even get to working on it even if it’s 3-4 am. When a new idea hits its hard to sleep on. "
But for Brightwell its more than just an idea and more than creating something that "Looks Good". It has to perform. When building swimbaits designed at snatching the biggest #Jaint around no corners are cut into components or action. But Brightwell himself believes his baits simplify swimbait fishing.
"I design my baits to perform on their own. I believe a bait should be able to be cast out and retrieved and do just fine without any input from the angler.. my baits do that, Where they truly excel is when an angler dedicates some time into LEARNING the bait... just like you would with any other bait, The more you use it the more tricks you learn with it to trigger that bite you’re looking for... with my baits I build them stupid proof... you can literally cast them and reel them, But with watching the bait you can do multiple “tricks”
What amazed me when talking to Brightwell about his baits is the level of knowledge he has not just for his bait, but bass behavior. Learning how bass react to different baits or retrieves allows an angler to gain confidence to keep throwing his baits knowing a potential world record could be nosing up to it at anytime. Brightwell goes on to add more to the ability to create a bait that performs as good as it looks.
"With the King Shad (Pictured Above) for example you can rip it, slow roll it, you can do barrel rolls, nose it up, nose it down, You can do 360’s and more. The more time you spend with it the more tricks you can put into the bag to encourage a bite! My favorite thing for example is fishing standing timber along side a bluff line. You get that bait right in the zone, Between the tree and bluff, do a barrel roll creating that flash, and a bass will almost always show itself coming to investigate, From then on you have the rest of those tricks to turn that investigation into a bite, One that could be a GIANT"
Now for the part, that may initially make you squirm. Brightwell's baits aren't cheap. For the most part, you're not going to find any under $100.00 . But when you factor in the time it takes to design, create, and perfect each bait before its "KGB Approved". The prices speak for themselves. Labor & Time aren't free. Each bait is build individually often in batches of 4-5 baits at a time. Brightwell also has a full time job as a firefighter /emt in his hometown of Rogers, Arkansas. However, Brightwell admits pricing does matter, especially for guys who are hunting for perfection.
" Prices do matter in a way. I couldn’t possibly charge for the amount of time that goes into making a bait truly functional. If I did customers wouldn’t buy any of my products. I try to keep prices fair based on the amount of materials and time that goes into the bait they buy, But the actual time into research and the materials wasted in actually making a superior product farrrr outweigh the price the customer actually pays. Thousands of dollars went into developing the “Chadshad”. I spent 3 years and thousands of dollars before I sold my first one and they retail for $110.00. The customer sees $110, but I see 3 years of materials and time that went into that making that one particular bait work and perform like it should to catch quality fish and to make a customer happy."
As swimbaiting and bait building evolves, Brightwell has no shortage of ideas or concepts. Truly dedicated to the game some could say his artwork and bait building is a reflection of his addiction.
"I love and breathe this stuff. If something new pops in my head I’m obsessed with it until I can figure out a way to make it work"
Kevin Brightwell or "KGB Swimbaits" can be found on Facebook. He updates his page about once a week. Sometimes he does live videos demonstrating his bait designs and how-to tips to help anglers tune and modify their baits for more bites. With baits that are high in demand, feel free to message his page about inventory. His instagram page can also be found here.