ForEverlast Hunting and Fishing Products

Billy Gerke
ForEverlast Hunting and Fishing Products
"We live hunting and fishing," is more than a slogan or catch phrase with Billy and Amy Gerke of ForEverlast Hunting and Fishing Products. Billy, president and founder, says, "There are lots of folks in the hunting and fishing business so we try to stay on our toes. This is our life as much as it is our business. The heartbeat and spirit of the Texas outdoor tradition is what our company and products are founded upon. We know what works here in Texaswhat the hunters and fishermen needbecause we are hunters and fishermen."

Billy grew up at East Bernard and graduated Texas A&M with a degree in Ag-Economics. Leaving Aggieland he went to work in the agriculture chemicals industry as a sales rep. Halletsville was central to his sales region, and since Moulton, very near Halletsville, is Amy's hometown, it was natural to settle there. Amy's dad introduced Billy to coastal fishing, wade fishing in particular, and the young man with a lifelong passion for hunting was soon equally passionate about salt water.

ForEverlast was started in 1998 and the first products were skinning tools for Texas deer hunters, gambrels, block and tackle setups, hitch hoists, tripod style game hangers, and the like. "I would work all day in my ag-chemicals job and Amy had a fulltime job too. We had stuff stacked all over the house and on the porch, anywhere we could put it. When we got home we'd start packaging product for shipment on our living room floor, that's how we got started," Billy says, "It was pretty cramped and when we were not at work or hunting or fishing that's what we did, we were building a business, a dream actually."

Amy's dad made an unlucky step one day and was hit by a stingray. "That stingray hit is what got us to thinking about developing protective gear for wade fishermen. Amy's dad can make or build about anything and has been a big help to us. We put our heads together and eventually came up with the original Ray-Guard Wading Boot that we began selling in 2003. We listened to lots of fishermen and some liked the wrap-around guard concept but not the whole boot idea. So in 2004 we brought out the Ray-Guard Shield and the ForEverlast Reef Boot which could be worn separately or together, whichever the fisherman prefers."

Organizing the supply and marketing of the Ray-Guard Wading Boot, Reef Boot, and Shield seemed an endless uphill battle. Given the excellent reviews and quick acceptance in the marketplace, the supply could rarely match the demand, even during winter. However, Billy and Amy are long on entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic and they continued to make improvements. In 2005 they added wading belts and other wade fishing equipment to the ForEverlast line.

"It was plain that we needed to make some changes. Our home simply wasn't big enough for us and the business. We already had Ty, our oldest son, and Layne was on the way. Momma said something had to go," Billy said with a grin. "I really enjoyed my job, but our hearts were in ForEverlast and deep down we believed if we worked hard we could make it go. So I told my boss I wanted to concentrate on ForEverlast and rented a building. It wasn't an easy decision, when you have a family coming up and all, but it's the best one we ever made."

Today, still at Halletsville, ForEverlast's third home is a recently completed 12,000 square foot structure with plenty of space for product storage and room for growth. "I even have an office," Billy beamed. Strolling along the warehouse aisles required making way for the fork truck busily unloading a shipment of Ray-Guard Boots. Signing the freight ticket, Billy said, "Believe it or not, we're still barely keeping up."

No business creates itself and ForEverlast is no exception; it takes a good team with vision, skills, and determination. "I owe a lot of credit to my father," Billy offered. "He taught me how to communicate with people, to work hard and be self-reliant. I still make deliveries to some of our retailers. I could have somebody else do it, but I think it's a great way to stay in touch with those folks and feel the pulse of the market."

The ForEverlast fishing product lines have grown considerably since the days of the first wading boots. Today's offerings include wade belts, tackle management systems, stringers, shoes, boots, landing nets, and there's more on the drawing board. The new G-2 line of Ray-Guard boots and shields will be hitting the stores just any day now and bring some serious upgrades fishermen have been asking for.

On the hunting side, the Foreverlast lineup has been expanded to include snake boots and chaps, bird hunter's belts, shell bags and holsters, more game processing equipment, game feeder systems, trail-cam stands, receiver and tailgate style sendero feeders, protein feeders and hog traps. And just like the fishing side, there's more to come.

"This is a family business. Amy is our business and office manager and I am involved in every way with our suppliers and our customers. We try to get our two boys involved and we hope to pass everything to them someday so Amy and I can just go hunting and fishing," Billy said in closing.

Sure sounds like a good plan, and knowing the Gerkes, I'm betting they'll pull it off.