Hospitality, marketing and management expert, Richard Bulot, made his home in Slidell LA. Following a 25-year career in the hospitality industry Bulot decide to leave the corporate world and working for someone else to start making a living on his own. The year was 2004.
He was making headway with his new business ventures in 2005 when one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States wiped out his business and his home. Hurricane Katrina came marching through the Gulf with a terrifying and destructive impact. If he had not carried his family photos with him, when the family evacuated to Lafayette, he would have had nothing left.
Bulot’s entrepreneurial spirit kept him on target as he continued to use his creativity to develop more businesses. One of his spinoffs was Category5Outdoors.com. The name obviously came from category 5 Hurricane Katrina. The first products on the site included a line of outdoor shirts and hats, and a line of outdoor cookware. Those original offerings evolved over the years into a fully developed line of award winning plastic baits.
The plastic bait business started because of Bulot’s relationship with a Louisiana charter captain. Capt. Kenny Kreeger and I became friends after Katrina,” explained Bulot. “I encouraged him to create his own lure. He designed his Shrimp Minnow and Split Tail Shrimp and I designed the Suicide Croaker Series and Manic Minnow. Together we launched Category 5 Outdoors Fishing Lures (Cat5).”
Following those first four lures came a host of others. “Category 5 was started because of a niche that needed to be filled in our unique estuary,” explained Bulot. “Speckled trout, redfish, flounder and bass can all be caught in the same areas. Soft plastic baits that represented the relevant food sources did not exist.”
“We sought to develop uniquely detailed baits that would perform and look very much like the natural croakers, pogies, mud minnows and various crustaceans that the game fish pursue in coastal and inshore marshes. We designed our lures using our collective fishing and scuba diving experiences. We wanted them to elicit strike responses in all conditions. While we’ve experienced significant unforeseen challenges since inception, our lures have flourished and developed a very loyal client base.”
Interestingly, Bulot came up with the Suicide Croaker name based on his own fishing acumen. “A redfish or trout would have to commit suicide for me to actually land and get one in the ice chest,” joked Bulot. His baby croaker with some cocahoe minnow characteristics was fittingly named the Suicide Croaker.
The first prototypes were delivered near the end of October 2009. Early field tests were positive and the partners purchased several cases of each lure. At that time they did not even have a retail location to sell them in, but their hopes were high.
Then, in mid-April of 2010, a new storm was on the horizon. The BP oilrig explosion severely altered the way of life along the entire Gulf Coast. Bulot and Kreeger chose to hold their new baits off the market until they understood how the oil spill would affect the fishing industry along the Gulf Coast.
It was about a year later when Cat5 started distributing their products. It was the spring of 2011. Early distribution success and favorable media coverage appeared to be lifting the fledgling company. Then another setback came as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre and Morganza Spillways to prevent imminent flooding. The Cat5 entrepreneurs were setback once again right in their own backyard as local fishing conditions deteriorated.
Their response was to begin knocking on every fishing businesses door from Hackberry, LA to Destin, FL and all points in between. They also invested heavily in their online presence through the development of their website and social media presence.
Bulot and Kreeger have always had maximum confidence in their product. That confidence is one thing that kept them going. “Some make fishing lures to catch fishermen,” commented Kreeger. “We created and field tested our fishing lures to catch fish. If you catch fish, you’ll eventually catch the Fishermen.”
Even the names are creative and descriptive of what to expect from a Cat5 lure. The Mighty Mudbug is one of the most life-like crawfish baits on the market today. The Wicked Worm is a 6-inch hybridized segmented worm with curly tail featuring a leach-like head with protruding hood that is sure to get the attention of a hungry bass. Other lures like the Manic Mullet and the Mutant Prawn are further examples of Cat5 lures representing natural baits that are commonly found in saltwater, brackish and some freshwater habitats.
Testimonials from all over the place suggest that Cat5 Lures do catch fish. Pro angler, Bobby Foster, Bessemer AL, has great praise for the Suicide Croaker. “Truly the best swimbait I have seen on the market today,” asserts Foster. “The extreme durability and realistic action drives the fish crazy. I consistently catch quality fish on the Suicide Croaker when they won’t touch anything else.”
Capt. Joey Seeber favors the Split Tail Shrimp. “The Cat5 Split Tail Shrimp is the best trout bait I’ve come across in a very long time,” exclaims the Cocodrie LA Captain. “Trout aren’t the only gamefish attracted to it, as large flounder can’t resist its action either.”
Similar testimonials on other lures in the Cat5 line and industry awards continue to bolster the Cat5 brand. Their presence in Coastal Angler Magazine’s “Best of Louisiana Outdoors” readers survey saw the company earning recognition in several entry classifications.
Cat5 was awarded “Best Soft Plastic Swimbait” for the Shrimp Minnow; runner-up designations for the Suicide Croaker Series, Manic Minnows and the Wicked Worm, and a second runner-up award for their Specialty Suicide Croaker Series. Many other Cat5 lures were nominated in the survey in a crowded field of well-established fishing industry leaders.
In a local newspaper story the company was referred to as “Category 5 tough.” That is a fitting description of a company that has certainly had its share of setbacks. Nevertheless, their “never say die” attitude has carried them through, each time to a higher level than before. Their business philosophy continues to rest on the notion of providing anglers with natural life-like baitfish replicas that fish eat on a regular basis.
For more information and a complete description of their many unique lure designs visit the Cat5 website at http://www.category5outdoors.com.