March 2021 News/Columns Tackle

Product Profile: Deerback Crappie Gauge, by Richard Simms

The patented Crappie Gauge allows an angler to measure your fish while still hooked, without ever touching it.


Product Profile: Deerback Crappie Gauge

by Richard Simms

Patented design unlike any other crappie-measuring device

How many times has it happened to you? You are crappie fishing with several keepers in the livewell and in the distance you see the man in green (or whatever color your game wardens wear) motoring your direction.

Don’t lie – your heart flutters and your stomach flip-flops. Mentally you begin going down the check list: fishing license, boat registration, safety equipment and finally, legal-length crappie. Another big heart flutter because you know you dropped a couple of “squeakers” into the livewell.

Sure enough, this game warden starts measuring and indeed, his ruler finds two crappie a quarter-inch short. Maybe he writes a ticket, maybe just a warning – it depends on the warden and the day. Regardless James Douglas says the unpleasantness could have been avoided with his patented “Crappie Gauge.”

The light, flexible molded plastic Crappie Gauge is extremely durable, and it floats.

Douglas is the owner of Deerback in Mesquite, Texas. While the Crappie Gauge is his cornerstone product, he also manufactures other products for crappie anglers.

Of course, there are other crappie-measuring devices on the market, however the patented Crappie Gauge design includes a very unique feature. Jeff Williams with Fle-Fly demonstrates.

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James Douglas shares more about he and his company:

Q: How often do you crappie fish and where (mostly)?

A:  I live in the Dallas area, so I mostly fish the local lakes such as Lavon Lake and Joe Pool Lake.  I’d love to fish every day, but I only get there once or twice a month.

Q: What are your own preferred crappie-fishing techniques?

A: I like to use the jig heads and soft plastics from our Deerback crappie fishing kit, they work really well.

Q: When did you create your company and what was your primary motivation?

A: I’m in the plastic injection molding business, and formed my company in 1994 to manufacture custom plastic components for large OEM manufacturers.  Over the years, I developed the Crappie Gauge, Crappie Light, and Crappie Fishing Kit. . . which is a lot more fun than industrial components.

Q: Tell us more about John O’Keefe, the man who originally invented the Crappie Gauge.?

The Crappie Gauge accurately measures crappie from seven-inches to anything over 10-inches.

A: In 1994, my big customer was Siemens.  An engineer that I was working with at Siemens introduced me to his friend, John O’Keefe, who had invented and patented the Crappie Gauge in the late 1980’s. John was a fascinating guy who had invented many interesting things. He owned a die shop in Dallas and he was producing the Crappie Gauge by heating plastic sheet and forming the product on a die. He was selling more than he could produce with this method, so I designed and built an injection mold to speed up production. I manufactured them for John for about 6 years, then one day he called saying his wife had Alzheimer’s disease. He couldn’t take care of her, run his die shop, and sell Crappie Gauges so I bought him out. I have been selling them to crappie anglers for over 20 years now.

Q: Why the name “Deerback” when your products are all crappie-related?

A: For one it’s a cool name.  Secondly, I already owned the name from buying the assets of a defunct company that used to make clay pigeons and toys.  I decided to split off my crappie fishing products from my injection molding business, so Deerback was it.

“Making the Crappie Gauge and other fishing products is a lot more fun than making industrial components.” ~ James Douglas, Owner Deerback Crappie Gauge

Q: Since the name is your website domain, I assume the “Crappie Gauge” is your primary product. I know there are competitors out there. What makes the Crappie Gauge better?

A:  The Crappie Gauge was invented in the late 1980’s, so it is the first product of its type.  Unlike other measurers, the patented slot allows for the measurement of crappie without having to touch the fish. So, no flopping or painful finning, and it also helps protect the fish.

Q: I understand there is an interesting story behind your Crappie Fishing Kit.

A: Exactly, our Crappie Fishing Kit is a neat, tight package nestled in our Crappie Gauge. It provides all the basic tackle needed to fish for panfish.  It was actually inspired by my 12-year-old nephew. I took him fishing at Lake Lavon and he came with a small tackle box that his Mom had bought for him. I gave him a Crappie Gauge to take home, and I noticed that he immediately slid his little tackle box inside his Crappie Gauge and it fit perfectly. I thought it was brilliant.  A few months later I started packaging and selling kits. That was 18 years ago.

Q: You also manufacture the Deerback Crappie Light. I know submersible LED lights are very popular for nighttime crappie anglers these days. What do you see as the major benefits of the floating Deerback Crappie Light?

A:  Our Crappie Light is made using durable engineering grade plastics with a super bright spotlight bulb that is a great fish attractant. However, it can also be used as a hand-held spotlight for boat, car, truck, or campsite.

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