Whiskey Myers’ frontman Cody Cannon built his fishing lure company Toad Thumpers out of a love for the outdoors that started with a frog.
After standing on stage for more than 2,500 shows, Whiskey Myers’ frontman Cody Cannon admits to approaching life on the road with blinders on. No matter where the band stops, Cannon has one job: rock out for two hours and give the fans a high-energy performance before heading to the next town to do it all over again.
It’s been that way since 2008. But when it comes to making fishing lures, the Texas native is a bit more meticulous.
In the midst of a nonstop touring schedule, a new album Tornillo, released last summer, and a rise in popularity that now sees the independent band selling out arenas, Cannon has found the time to launch his own fishing lure company. And when Cannon is designing bass lures, the blinders are off.
A Musician With Lures On The Brain
Music may be his first love, but the outdoors ranks right up there. For a long time, Cannon yearned to get more involved in the latter, especially the lure industry, and it was music that helped open the door. “I had all these ideas and designs for lures,” he says. “I wasn’t really thinking about starting a company; I just wanted to design some baits for people.”
One area where Cannon felt the lure market was particularly lacking was frogs, and it ultimately led to the creation of the Toad Thumper Lure Company in 2022, which he founded with friend and business partner Cody Tedford. “We have a lot of grass and pads where I fish, and I always threw a lot of frogs. There were a lot of them I liked, but none that I loved,” Cannon says. “I saw certain things I wanted to address, so that’s why we went with frogs first.”
Meet “Toad Thumper”, Cody Cannon’s Lure Shop
Toad Thumper officially launched its line at the 2022 Bassmasters Expo last April. At the time, the company offered two designs: the Swamper—a walking frog that creates havoc on the surface to trigger a reaction strike; and the Thumper—a popping frog that chugs and spits like a baitfish dying.
At Bassmasters, Cannon and Tedford knew they were on to something when all of the lures sold out. Toad Thumper was ready to take a leap.
But the endeavor into the fishing lure industry started long before the Bassmaster event. Designing a lure is a time-consuming affair with an emphasis on detail, and that’s where Cannon excelled.
How Cannon Built Toad Thumper”s Lures
It wasn’t as simple as sketching something on paper and tossing a prototype into the lily pads to see if it worked. Cannon had a method. He started the process by identifying things he’d like to improve, incorporate the changes in the design, and then build and test.
Sure, it’s possible to make a lure and get it on the market quickly, he says, but to do it right it’s going to take at least a year.
Fortunately, Cannon not only had the desire to get things right, but the patience as well. It’s an attribute he learned from his years of writing music.
“The creative aspect is the most fun part to me. The design concept and bringing it to life, it’s very parallel to songwriting,” Cannon says. “When I look back at the music and my career, the thing I enjoyed the most was the creation of the song. Designing lures is the same thing, and I find that really cool.”
Music Doesn’t Take A Back Seat
There are a lot of cool things happening for Cannon and his Whiskey Myers bandmates after the group came together in the red dirt of east Texas in 2007. There have been plenty of chart-topping hits, five albums, a few thousand concerts, an appearance on the Paramount hit series Yellowstone, sold out arenas, and being chosen by Mick Jagger to open for the Rolling Stones at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2019.
“You hear about things being once in a lifetime, well that was like a never in a lifetime chance,” Cannon says of opening for the Stones. “It didn’t get no better than that.”
While the band has gained headliner status, Cannon attributes much of the current success to the opportunity with Yellowstone, where Whiskey Myers had nine songs featured on the show, exposing their music to millions of people. “Being an independent band, a touring band, we were always really grassroots going town to town to earn our fans the hard way,” Cannon says. “Yellowstone gave us so much more exposure.”
Even though Cannon is fine with the term “touring band,” that’s where it ends as far as labels are concerned. Sure, there’s plenty of old country and southern rock influences in the music, but for him, the Whiskey Myers sound is much more than a single genre or two. “I think labels are more for people sitting in an office to make it easier to market it and sell it,” Cannon says. “At the end of the day it’s just music. From a creative standpoint, I would never box myself into a certain sound. If I had to do that, I wouldn’t do it at all. We’re just us.”
Bringing A Hardcore Mindset to Frog Lures
His mindset is similar when it comes to the Toad Thumper business. The company began with two styles of frog lures, and with Cannon involved, it’s destined to become much more.
But it’s going to take time, and Cannon is fine with that.
On stage, Cannon performs with energy and adrenaline. When it comes to building bass lures, however, his approach is methodical and patient. “I can throw a prototype and think it’s perfect, but I keep testing it and it kind of falls short,” he says. “It’s back to the drawing board and more changes, but take your time and you’ll get it there.”
The Frog Lure That Changed It All
With frogs, he had a number of areas to address. For starters, Cannon wanted to find the perfect balance between hook up ratio and action. It isn’t easy to get both, he says, as a super soft, collapsible body improves hook up ratio and action, but it can comprise durability. But if the body of a lure is built to be durable, the hook up ratio can be compromised.
It took a while, but Cannon believes he found the balance between a soft body conducive for a better hook up ratio while maintaining durability. “Some of it was just getting rid of some lines, making it less rigid. It can be achieved, and I think we walked that line,” he says. “Material and hook placement is a big thing. You put the hook in the right place, it’s going to hit them in the mouth where it’s supposed to.”
Cannon also tinkered with how far the top lip sticks out on the popping frog in order to achieve different actions, and he came up with a lure that both chugs and spits through the water. The result is a topwater frog that generates a lot of commotion on the surface, triggering a strike.
He also tested several placement options with the tails, finding a way to give them a natural action while keeping them away from the hooks so it wouldn’t interfere with a strike. “You got to have the hooks in the fish’s mouth, so the tail can’t be in the way,” Cannon says.
Affordable Lures, Happy Customers
And then there’s price. It would be easy to take any lure concept and use the components to make it better than anything out there, he says, but it might cost $100 or more. Making a great lure at a reasonable price is a challenge, and it’s also Cannon’s goal. All Toad Thumper frogs cost $10 each.
“Getting into $100 lures; that just wasn’t our vibe. There’s a line where you have to use quality components, but you can’t drive the price up. We want to fit into that sweet spot,” he says.
Based on the reaction at the 2022 Bassmasters Expo and at the lure tank during ICast last July, Cannon and Toad Thumper have successfully reinvented the frog. “People loved throwing the frog, and they actually put it to the test,” Cannon says. “Some people messaged us and said they’ve thrown away every other frog they owned.”
Expect More to Come From Toad Thumper
Still, just as Cannon shuns attempts to label his band’s music, it’s not accurate to designate Toad Thumper as simply a frog lure business. There are more soft plastic designs targeted to come out later in 2023, and other products set for 2024. Cannon is currently designing and testing prototypes—and being the perfectionist that he is—there will be a few trips back to the drawing board before he feels the new lures are perfect.
“We built this company to be able to grow. But I’m more worried about making the products right, and I let my partner worry about the business side,” Cannon says. “It’s kind of like music. I don’t even think about the other stuff, just the music. With lures, I just want to make good shit and take those extra steps, and time, to get it right.”