Backstage Perspectives – Shannon Wheeler of Missile Baits

Power Pole

by Mike Ferman of Tackle ModZ

Shannon says, Get you some of these!

Shannon Wheeler with a pair of nice bass

Hard work and hustle have been a regular theme amongst our guests here on Backstage Perspectives. But our next guest may be in a different league when it comes to the sheer number of jobs and responsibilities he likes to take on. Graphic Designer, Webmaster, and Marketer but that’s just one full time business. He also runs a film and videography company, is an accomplished musician who actively plays with multiple groups, manages a portfolio of over a dozen social media accounts, and fishes tournaments in and around his home state of Virginia. As well as being a loving husband to his wife Jennifer and father to their 11 and 13 year old daughters Brooke and Emma. As if all that wasn’t enough to fill up his day. The truth is, most of you know of him for something I didn’t even mention.

What most of you who do recognize him will most likely know him from his other full time day job as the Creative Director and Pro-Staff Manager at Missile Baits and Elite Series Angler John Crews right hand man.

Our next guest on Backstage Perspectives is a favorite of mine. He’s someone I look up to as an artist and respect as a business man. He’s the kind of guy who likes to never say no to any challenge or opportunity; not cause he’s unrealistic about what he can and can’t do and greedy, but because he’s hungry to solve the problem or accomplish the task. Nothing speaks to that more than the story of how Wheelhouse Films came to be. Spawned by request of his friends and family after seeing footage he had shot for a family member’s event. They had a need and Shannon felt he had the solution, a business was born.

Please join us as we welcome or next featured guest on Backstage Perspectives: Shannon Wheeler of Missile Baits, Wheeler Design, and Wheelhouse Films…

Name: Shannon Wheeler

Shannon and John Crews look on during the groundbreaking for the new Missile HQ

Shannon and John Crews look on during the groundbreaking for the new Missile Baits HQ

Location: Somewhere outside Roanoke VA

Company: A Bunch!

MF: Who took you fishing for the first time?

SW: My earliest memories of fishing are with my brother in the pond behind our house. He’s the one who got me started fishing the ‘pond circuit’ as we called it. He’d tie me on a beetle spin or a floating worm and we’d go out and walk the banks.

MF: How would you describe your fishing style?

SW: Somewhere between power and power finesse. I’m a junk fisherman really.

MF: What is it about fishing and hunting that really “does it” for you?

SW: Two things… The first is the freedom being outdoors allows. The second is the act of figuring out the prey you’re chasing; solving the puzzle or figuring out a pattern if you will. The lake I fish (Smith Mountain Lake in VA) it changes every freaking 30 minutes – it’s crazy. It’s the biggest pain in the ass but I love it because it forces you to be versatile. It’s junk fishing at its finest and if you can get good at that I feel like you have a leg up anywhere in the country.

Wheeler Family selfie stop while hiking at Devils Tooth in Catawba, VA

Wheeler Family selfie stop while hiking at Devils Tooth in Catawba, VA

MF: What is your favorite animal to hunt and by what means?

SW: I don’t hunt nearly as much as I used to but when I do I like to hunt whitetail with a muzzleloader. Where I hunt the real nuts don’t come out until till rifle season. I used to bow hunt but it just got too time consuming. I’d always find myself up in a deer stand thinking about how there was probably a sick topwater bite going off at that exact second and it would kill me inside.

MF: How did you first come by getting involved with John Crews?

SW: It was basically a cold call actually. Around 2008 or 2009 I was just getting back into the bass fishing scene and was looking around on the internet. I came across Johns’ site saw he was from the same area I was from and thought to myself; I can really help this guy.

I mean no offense to whoever was handling it before. It was a great site but I thought I saw a lot of areas that could be taken to the next level. So, I reached out to him via email and we met up at a Starbucks or Panera bread nearby. I brought my laptop and came prepared with a graphic layout of how the site could be done and how his overall image and brand could be enhanced and he dug it.

The Missile Baits Crew on the road

Shannon Wheeler and John Crews on the road for Missile Baits

We started working together on re-branding him shortly thereafter. It started small with me doing whatever he called on me for; whether it was working on the website or his logo’s or shooting some video, whatever he needed really.

Then it expanded from there and I started doing everything from football recruiting highlight videos for his son to doing work for his other sponsors and business associates. Eventually John decided he wanted to start Missile Baits and he brought me in to help make that a reality. Over the years John has become not only my boss and partner, but even more so a trusted confidant and true friend.

MF: Your title at Missile Baits is Creative Director but I know you also handle much of the day to day operations. Can you fill the readers in on some of the things you are responsible for on a daily basis?

SW: I design and maintain the website. I also manage all the social media accounts and do all the videography. I design the bags. Johns boat wrap. Basically everything you see of Missile Baits comes from my laptop and goes to the printer or whatever. All the way down to the boxes we ship out baits in that now have our logos on the side. Everything branding wise of ours you can think of I designed. But you’re right, I also will do anything else that needs to be done around the office from answering phones and packing customer orders to running QuickBooks if need be. I also manage our pro-staff and a field staff of over 50 anglers we call the Bomb Squad.

MF: Aside from working a full time job at Missile Baits you manage number of personal projects and side companies full time as well. What tips do you have for someone trying to diversify and successfully manage multiple accounts and projects?

Fishing action shot

Shannon Wheeler swings aboard a bass caught on the Missile Jigs Ike’s Mini Flip Jig

SW: I have a bunch… Organization is huge. Figure out if you work best doing ten things for ten people at once or if you need to schedule time throughout the day to focus on each project alone. But put your full effort into each project separately. If you take on too heavy of a load all your projects will suffer.

SW: Don’t let money – or the lack thereof, affect how you perform on any project. The amount of money someone has to put towards a project doesn’t always speak to the quality of that product or how much money and work it might actually bring in the long run, so treat each one equally. The only difference in say a $500 website and a $2500 for me usually isn’t in the quality of the site it’s in the amount of site management work I’ll be doing after it’s published. It’s not $500 because the quality of the work is any different, it’s only because the client will be managing the site themselves. Never try to screw people over on price and that includes yourself. I also believe your personality and the way you treat your clients is of equal value to the quality of your work.

SW: Being dynamic and versatile job role wise is also important especially for those people in a one man show situation. Take whatever work you can handle no matter the medium; but be honest about what you can and can’t handle. Don’t go running around telling people you can do something and then trying to figure it out if possible.

Hard at work... But he'll say he's hardly working

Shannon Wheeler (left) playin’ his fiddle with the Larry Keel band

SW: Always have a hard deadline. Whether you are setting it for yourself or have someone you can ask for one from. Always know exactly when the project needs to be completed by and stick to it. Be realistic when you are setting that deadline too. If you can’t make the deadline don’t agree to it because no one likes when a deadline is missed.

MF: What’s the best tangible benefit of being in the position you are in at a bait company?

SW: The creativity it affords me. I get to put my own creativity into a company like Missile and I can see it, I can see it everywhere. I can see it on so and so’s wrap; I can see it on the shelves in Walmart, you know. I can see it on TV, whatever. I can see it and I can say I created that, I done that. It’s an amazing feeling.

MF: The use of camera drones has become quite common place in the fishing industry. It’s easy to see the effect that they have had on the quality and production value of the coverage we see as fans. But what are some of the effects it’s had on you as a videographer and film maker?

SW: I love them. They are a whole different tool, like a new medium to go by. What you can do with them is just crazy. Any shot you want you can get with a drone. The only downside is the batteries don’t last very long. But it’s really been a huge help and I think the best is yet to come with drone cinematography. I just need to remember to try not to overuse it and show my other cameras some love too.

Again... Sometimes you just gotta talk dirty to it

Shannon Wheeler feelin’ his fiddle

The last time I went fishing me and my buddy went out and after 30 minutes and a few fish I gave him the front of the boat so I could fly the drone. He looked back at me and called me a nerd, then changed his tune and got super amped up when I showed him the footage. It’s been a great tool to add to the arsenal for sure.

MF: Music is a major passion and an integral part of your life. You currently play fiddle in more than a handful of projects and have played other instruments in the past… How would you describe the role music currently plays for you?

SW: I’m kind of a fiddle whore these days. I used to play drums a lot but I maybe play them once a month now, maybe. I’ve mainly become the type of musician people call up and say “hey man I have a gig tomorrow night, can you make it?” and I just say yup and show up. There’s probably about five or six different bands that I play with; but I’m not the kind of guy to be like, I’m in a band! Although, one of the bands I play with, a Bluegrass outfit called Mason Creek; is kind of like a new project that’s kind of serious.


MF: Time for the Flash 5… Please answer with the first thing that comes to mind.

MF: If you had to choose ONLY ONE technique or lure to use for eternity… What would it be?

SW: A Jig, hands down!

Nothing like an afternoon of pond fishing to cure the workday blues

Shannon Wheeler testing Missile Baits with the Boss – John Crews

MF: Sushi – Yes Please or No Not For Me?

SW: Hell Yes… Like now!

MF: What’s your favorite lure color?

SW: At the moment it’s Sexy French Pearl by Megabass.

MF: Clam Chowder… Red or White?

SW: Neither!

MF: You are going to be indefinitely stranded on an island and are given one last request… What are you asking for?

SW: An unlimited supply of Loose Cannon IPA

MF: Is there anyone you’d like to thank or mention?

SW: I’d like to thank John Crews for believing in me; and of course my parents for raising me as an independent hard worker. I’d also like to thank my beautiful wife of 16 years Jennifer and my two amazing daughters Brooke & Emma. You are my rocks and I love you dearly… Thank you!