Minnesota teen brothers' handmade jigs catching on

Have you heard about the two kids from St. Paul, brothers, actually, who started their own bait company and are now getting the attention of pros?

Minnesota teen brothers' handmade jigs catching on

By DAVE ORRICK | St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Have you heard about the two kids from St. Paul, brothers, actually, who started their own bait company and are now getting the attention of pros?

They produce their own fishing videos, hawk their brand with shoe-leather savvy, and have landed a sponsorship of sorts, being named to the "pro staff" ranks of a major fishing-gear manufacturer.

That 12-foot Crestliner they fish from, they bought that with cash from a lemonade stand.

Consider yourselves introduced to the Sommerhauser brothers: Grant, 14, and Hunter, 16.

It's possible that these guys will grow up to be accountants or engineers. Or they could be the next Al and Ron Lindner.

It'll be the latter if either of the Sommerhausers has anything to say about it.

On New Year's Day, the duo was drilling holes and jigging furiously on Lake Owasso in subzero temperatures when they were asked what they want to be when they grow up.

"Fishing," Grant replied without glancing up from his hole. "Something fishing."

"Fishing, like a fishing guide," Hunter echoed, also without giving it a second thought, or a glance from his flasher.

Oh, to be that age again. To hop on your bike after school or after your summer job and work your way along the riverbanks, discovering a new spot where the action is so good you gotta tell the world about it.

Even if we date ourselves to the era of Betamax, didn't we all host our own fishing shows, if only in our minds? Maybe you played Jimmy Houston and your pal played Bill Dance, whether there was a video camera at hand or not. "Folks," every address to the imagined audience began, while every release of a fish would conclude with some variation of "That's how it's done!"

And so it is with the more than 50 video productions of RipSomeLipsHG (www.youtube.com/RipSomeLipsHG), where the pair pull walleye from beneath the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River and crappies from near-shore eddies in St. Paul. Grant signs off every broadcast with "Well, folks, thanks for watching Rip Some Lips HG." (And yes, a hint of southern drawl creeps into his voice, per the genre.)

Kids today, especially the likes of the Brothers Sommerhauser — don't just pretend like their VHS forefathers; they put the shows online for the world to see.

It's a trend that tackle companies have noted.

"The younger generation is really tuned into social media and the technical aspects of fishing and video production," said Ben Rand, marketing manager for ice-fishing-gear specialist Frabill and tackle-box manufacturer Plano. "The expectation of consumers today is to have real-time information in their hands. The younger generation with their YouTube channels and Facebook, they do that. You have that product released that morning and the information is up there that night. It's a real positive for us."

Rand was among a gang of professional anglers and marketers manning the Frabill station at the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show last month when the Sommerhausers showed up to hobnob with their TV angling idols and gin up support for something called HG Bait Co.

Turns out, they already were known. Wisconsin guide Eric Haataja was familiar with their lures, and the brothers could point to a pair of bait shops that carry their custom-made jigs and plastic worms.

"It was just so much fun when these guys stopped in the booth, to see the passion in their eyes," said Steve Pennaz, longtime fishing personality and president of Everfire Group, which produces "Lake Commandos." "When I was that age, I had a rod between my handlebars and was traveling down the Mississippi and fishing, but I never thought about starting a business. I just think it's phenomenal."

More or less on the spot, Frabill officials anointed the Sommerhausers to their "pro staff," which affords them discounted or free products as ambassadors of the company. The company is fully aware that the products likely will benefit from the types of online endorsements and reviews the brothers will produce, Rand said.

Matt Wiseman, owner of Matt's Lucky Bait in Lakeland, one of two shops that carry HG's products, has been smitten, as well.

"The Sommerhauser brothers? Those kids are awesome," Wiseman said. "Keep an eye on them." (Fish Lake Bait Shop in Harris, Minn., also sells HG lures, and they can be purchased through the brothers' website www.hgbaitco.com.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1adMmQ0) visited the world headquarters of HG Bait Co., located through a trap door in the basement of a modest cottage in St. Paul's West Seventh neighborhood, a quick pedal from the Mississippi. It smells of plastic (melted in a microwave) and paint (dried in a toaster oven).

Nearly a year ago, the Sommerhauser brothers, with the blessings, but no financial infusion, from their parents, Richard and Andrea, founded the company. They were inspired after stumbling across another teen lure maker promoting himself on YouTube.

"They wanted to do it, and we said 'Sure,'" Andrea Sommerhauser said. "It's amazing how far they've taken it. But I can't say we were surprised. They did really commit to the lemonade stand."

Ah, yes, the lemonade stand.

Two summers ago, the brothers set up a lemonade stand on the corner with the hopes of raising enough cash to buy a boat.

"I didn't think they'd really be able to do it," their mother said. "But then the first day, they came home with $80."

"We made $950 in a week and a half," Grant stated flatly. "We put in 8-hour days, so it didn't take too long."

To said used craft they affixed a 1950s era 3-horsepower motor handed down from their great-great-grandfather. The pair is planning to upgrade the boat and motor this year, although they still need to research boating restrictions based on age and the motor's power. (And Hunter needs to secure a full driver's license.)

Oh, to be that age again, but with a business plan in hand.

"We don't have to pay any bills now, so everything can go into the business," Hunter explained. Grant completed the thought: "We'll build it up until we're 18, so we've got some money in it, and we'll incorporate as an LLC. Then the business will keep going while we're in college."


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, www.twincities.com


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