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Of Innovation and Ice Fishing

Business Trends, Highlights| Views: 747

Saline, MI– Right place. Right time. Great lure. For Jamie and Carmin Olson of Your Bobbers Down, Inc., the old fishing adage parallels not just the successful company’s back-story, but also serves as a sort of remarkable self-fulfilling prophecy.Sixteen years after the company’s inception, the Olson’s brands remain benchmarks in the ice fishing industry.

In 2001, Jamie Olson was on a mission to find the best spring bobber for his ice fishing when he came across FISKAS, a Swedish manufacturer of top hardwater products. Unable to sell across oceans at the time, FISKAS opted to ship Olson a sample of every product they made—primarily FISKAS Wolfram (tungsten) ice jigs — hopeful for a U.S. distribution deal.

“It was a small box of jigs,” Olson recalled. “There were just four sizes and thirty color patterns back then, plus a pile of FISKAS Balances(swimming / jigging lures), but the package weighed well over 20-pounds.

“At the time, no one in North America had any idea what a tungsten jig was, let alone how heavy they were compared to lead or how effectively they fished. But when I placed a single tiny FISKAS Wolfram Jig in my palm, and felt its impressive heft, I knew we were on to something big.”

That very November, Olson and his wife Carmin launched, a family-run online store offering cutting-edge, hard-to-find ice fishing products. “My favorite fishing partner is my wife’s father, George Pullin. He’d call me up at work all the time when he wanted to go fishing. I’d pick up the phone and hear George’s exuberant voice: ‘Hey, your bobber’s down!’ he’d always say. Later, when we started our business, the phrase became a natural for our company name.”

Success followed, with product placement at numerous local retailers, and Cabela’s stores in 2003. “Our good friends Jeff Morse and his father Phil understood the power of FISKAS Wolfram Jigs right away. Jeff worked at the local Cabela’s store and introduced us to Cabela’s corporate folks. In 2004, the Morses also won $20,000 and the first NAIFC Championship, pairing FISKAS Wolfram Jigs with Little-Atom Nuggies.”

Soon, the profitable lure pairing led to a relationship between and Little-Atom, a classic ice fishing company who created early microplastic baits, such as the Wedgee, Noodle and Nuggie. “While most folks consider Little-Atom the pioneer in ice plastics,” noted Olson, “few know that they also crafted some of the original ice jigs. The RembrandtRat FinkiePurist and Shmoe are all classic lure designs created in the 50s and 60s by Little-Atom, imitated by many other companies over the years.”

Following a handshake in 2005, became the sole online sales point and a distributor of Little-Atom lures and plastics. “Before this, I was traveling to the big ice tournaments, selling FISKAS Wolfram Jigs and Little-Atom lures out of my van. I remember having lines of anglers wrapped around parking lots, people who’d heard about the success of our stuff and couldn’t find it anywhere else. At times, folks wondered if we were selling fishing tackle, or something else less legit,” Olson laughs.

“When we first showed tackle buyers at Cabela’s, Scheels, Bass Pro Shops and other stores our products, they told us they’d never seen anything like it before.

We were the first company to bring tungsten ice jigs to the U.S. market. It took some time and education for the market to accept the higher cost of these premium products. Today, all our FISKAS Wolfram Jigs are still made in the same factory, using premium tungsten molded bodies and the finest Japanese fly-tying hooks. Every lure is hand-soldered and painted by artists with tremendous attention to detail.”

All these years later, tungsten jigs have become big business, with numerous other companies jumping at the ‘heavy metal’ hype. “Anglers have a lot more choices now,” observes Olson, “but what we’ve found is that most of our customers remain loyal to FISKAS and Little-Atom because no other company can match our quality and our personal service.

Interestingly, more and more anglers are also discovering the advantages of heavy tungsten for their spring and summer fishing. They’re just so much more versatile and an awesome alternative to lead.”

Indeed, even with a surplus of new tungsten ice jig entries—including models from much larger companies—top anglers continue to choose FISKAS. At least six NAIFC Championships have been won by anglers using FISKAS / Little-Atom plastic combos to date, including titles in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Interjects Tony Boshold, NAIFC and World Ice Fishing champ and longtime FISKAS-Little Atom aficionado. “When you add up all the championships and other tournament wins, FISKAS jigs and Little-Atom plastics are without question the money-winningest ice lures of all time. Even though a lot of imitators are out there now, word on the street about who’s got the best stuff has never strayed from the lures we’ve always used.”

Joe Sills Hi there, did you know? Each week, we curate a list of the Top 5 stories in fishing and send them right to your inbox. Reading Tackle’s Top 5 is one of the best ways to become or remain an industry expert. -Joe Sills, Digital Editor