Crafting consistently great, game-winning fishing tackle is as much a team sport as any collaborative contest played out on the grass. In athletics as in lure making, building an all-star starting lineup speaks to an edifying, enduring culture and ultimately, victory on the playing field. It starts with a singular vision and prevails with wise, impassioned people committed to a dream.
Recently, in response to continued growth and dynamic product development, Z-Man added two new positions to its talented roster of fishing tackle talent.
In July, six-year Z-Man veteran and previous sales manager Ryan Harder was promoted to the company’s newly created brand manager position. A lifelong angler with decades of experience in fishing retail and sales, Harder assumes a critical role, bridging the gap between product development, marketing, and sales teams.
“Since Ryan first joined the Z-Man team, he’s exhibited a keen understanding of our business, the fishing industry and our customers’ wants and needs,” said Daniel Nussbaum, Z-Man president. “Ryan’s new role as brand manager will absolutely leverage his skillset, highlighted by a smart, clear-minded approach and an easygoing touch while working with all the various people and personalities at Z-Man. No question, his abilities are already helping us accelerate our product line growth and retail footprint.”
Harder, who cut his teeth as a sales rep for West Marine and Grady’s Great Outdoors, remains a highly esteemed friend of the fishing industry — and a familiar face at events like ICAST, the Bassmaster Classic, and numerous national sales exhibitions.
“Fun to recall that I actually met the folks at Z-Man through friend, colleague, and now Z-Man pro staffer Brian ‘B.Lat’ Latimer,” said Harder, a South Carolina native and versatile freshwater and saltwater angler with a penchant for sight-fishing bull redfish. “At the time, B.Lat and I both worked at Grady’s, a high-end independent retailer in Anderson, South Carolina. It’s been exciting to watch our careers grow, evolve and yet remain aligned, even after all these years.
“One of the cool things about Z-Man is our ability to behave as both a large- and small-scale fishing tackle manufacturer. It’s funny and sometimes flattering when folks refer to Z-Man as a ‘big company.’ I think they’d be surprised to see that behind the scenes, our sales, marketing, and product development teams encompass a small, tight-knit group of smart, passionate people whose individual voices carry weight with every decision.
“Mostly, we’re a team of hardcore anglers who fish on our days off. That speaks volumes, and when you combine that with all our various talents and an ability to really listen, you’ve got a pretty special culture. Also makes it easy to come to work each day. Seriously, I look forward to learning and growing in this new position, as Z-Man continues to play an increasingly positive role in anglers’ on-water success.”
“Having Ryan in a role where he can bridge the gap between our product development, marketing, and sales teams will enable us to bring more new products to market faster and in a more impactful way,” said Nussbaum. “Ryan is a great guy and a true team player, so I’m thrilled to have him embrace a larger role here at Z-Man.”
Filling Harder’s vacant sales manager position, Brandon McKellar recently joined the Z-Man staff in Ladson, South Carolina. McKellar will work directly with national sales manager and tenured Z-Man luminary Glenn Young.
“Ryan has been a huge help to me over the years,” said Young, who has guided Z-Man’s sales team since 2009. “So, we feel really fortunate to have found Brandon McKellar to step in and contribute immediately. Brandon’s professional, outgoing, easygoing nature is already proving to be a great fit for our team. Like everyone here at Z-Man, he’s a diehard angler. Beyond that, his diverse background will serve him well while running a sales territory.”
A native of rural Ninety Six, South Carolina, McKellar grew up bass and crappie fishing and eventually tournament fishing on nearby lakes like Hartwell, Murray, and Clarks Hill.
“All those years, I lived 10 minutes down the road from the lake where the ChatterBait rose from a local legend to a worldwide fish-catching sensation,” said McKellar. “Pretty cool how things have come full circle, placing me with the same great company who continues creating new, fish-catching ChatterBaits to this day.”
After earning an education at Winthrop University, McKellar taught high school science and social studies for seven years. Prior to his teaching career and while attending college, McKellar sold hunting, fishing, and outdoor equipment at Academy Sports and Sportsman’s Warehouse, each providing invaluable retail and outdoor industry experience. Meanwhile, he competed in local and regional tournaments as a co-angler and enjoyed entering night tournaments on nearby Lake Wylie — all helping develop his angling skills, particularly with ChatterBaits and ElaZtech finesse baits.
When the pandemic shut schools down and instigated virtual learning, McKellar decided to leave the teaching profession and make a change.
“I grabbed my laptop and dog and moved closer to my girlfriend (now wife), Hayley,” said McKellar. “Once settled in Charleston, I reconnected with my friend Ryan Harder, talking about Z-Man and making plans to hit the water together. When the opportunity to join the team came around, it felt like a natural fit.”
While bass fishing and tournament circuits remain on his radar, McKellar has developed a passion for pursuing inshore saltwater fish.
“These days, the visual and sensory appeal of wade fishing the shallows — watching for tailing redfish — is among my favorite ways to catch ’em,” said McKellar. “Can’t think of a better way to do it than casting a 3-inch Z-Man MinnowZ.
Among his manifold responsibilities as sales manager, McKellar will serve as first point of contact for Z-Man’s six sales rep groups in the U.S. and Canada as well as its major distributors. In addition, he’ll provide sales and promotional support at annual trade shows and sportfishing conventions.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Brandon into the Z-Man clan,” said Young. “His diverse background, skillset, and angling experience set him up for immediate success, no doubt. His love for fishing and the fishing industry will be a valuable addition to an already impressive Z-Man team.”