July 17, 2023
Country music superstar Toby Keith loves fishing so much he bought a tackle company.
First off, it’s not all that unusual for country singers to express their love of fishing and the outdoors. Brad Paisley liked bass fishing so much he wrote a song about having to choose between love and a bass. Luke Bryan loves it so much that he wrote a song about his hero Bill Dance.
But Keith, who recorded "I'll Probably Be Out Fishing" in 2018, one-upped his other music brothers and bought Luck E Strike this past spring, with "plans to restore the brand to its previous glory," the company says. And that’s what brought Keith, 61, to the recent ICAST 2023 fishing trade show in Orlando, his first show as a fishing-industry business owner.
Keith’s acquisition of Luck E Strike was announced on May 24, 2023. Endorsed by International Game Fish Association Hall-of-Fame member Jimmy Houston, the company and its line of lures is being operated by fishing industry veterans Jeff Williams as general manager and Todd Hempen as operations manager.
"I love ICAST," he said. "I got more accomplished in three days here than I did in the last two months. It was unbelievable and my connection with the military was a big involvement here, that I forgot about. I wasn’t expecting it, but all of the military guys that attended ICAST, they showed up and said, 'We’re going to fish Luck E Strike and I was like, ‘Well, there you go.'"
'Fell in My Lap'
But Keith’s appearance at ICAST wasn’t fishing-only—at least for one night. The Oklahoma native attended the Outdoor Sportsman Group and Outdoor America VIP party at Tin Roof Orlando, and was invited to the stage during the LOCASH Live concert to put on an impromptu show. He delighted attendees with well-known tunes like "Should Have Been a Cowboy" and Jerry Lee Lewis’ "Great Balls of Fire."
Before invited to the stage, fishing and his new business venture were his biggest topics of conversation.
Relaunching this summer after a few years of business decline, Luck E Strike will have a new focus on its traditional American-made division in Greenwood, Ark., while still maintaining current assortments being sold nationwide.
There's also a new slogan, "An American Original Since 1970," an appropriate one for an owner who co-wrote and recorded No. 1 singles "Made in America" and "American Soldier.”
Keith, who told The Oklahoman newspaper in early June that he plans to return to the road in the fall of 2023 as he continues to battle stomach cancer and receive chemotherapy and immunotherapy, seemed at ease in the crowd, willing to talk to OSG crew members, industry veterans and professional anglers in attendance.
“I was building a tackle company with a few of my friends who had built great big tackle companies and they were going to build me a tackle company because I fish all of the time,” he said. “This Luck E Strike thing fell in my lap.
“The people that had it sold all of the inventory and so we went back in (and bought the business). Jimmy Houston has been the spokesperson here and we’re bringing Roland Martin on board. We’ve got a great team and we’re not going nowhere. We’re going to revive the old glory.”
As the music played in the background at Tin Roof Orlando, Keith expounded on his fishing business as a crowd of people began to assemble for selfie photos with the recipient of the National Medal of Arts award presented by President Donald Trump in 2021.
Keith doesn’t just occasionally wet a hook, mind you. His real-estate investments reflect his love of the angling arts.
“I have a house in Cabo, so that’s my saltwater (place)," he said. "And my buddy owns a boatyard there."
Then he added with a wry grin, “I don’t like to fish, I like to catch. When they’re biting on the saltwater, marlin, tuna, whatever else, I go.”
Here stateside, Keith owns property in his native state, near the site of next year’s 53rd edition of the Bassmaster Classic which is scheduled to be held in northeastern Oklahoma. “At home, I have a lake house up at Grand Lake, Okla., and I probably go crappie fishing or catfishing every day (when he’s there),” said Keith of the 46,500-acre lake that will host its third Classic from March 22-24, 2024.
“I’ve bass-fished for years, too, and I’ve bass-fished with Jimmy Houston for years too. But I don’t go out everyday bass fishing, because I like to crappie-fish and catfishing.”
That doesn’t mean he isn’t an enthusiastic bass angler. When he was asked whether he would rather record another No. 1 hit or catch a 10-pound bass. "A 10-pound bass,” Keith answered immediately and with some humorous authority. "I ain’t ever caught a 10-pound bass but I’ve got 31 No. 1 songs.”