Scott Rall: Building a better mouse trap
Back in the day, I could not drive by a sporting goods store without having to stop. I was so into fishing at the time that I had to have every new fishing lure that was ever produced, or at least I thought I did. If a new Rapala came out, not only did I have to have it but I needed six of every size and color.
This, in many cases, meant a purchase of 20 Rapalas at about $5 each. At one time I had hundreds of these baits and still wanted more.
As I have gotten older, this desire to be at the very leading edge of the newest fishing technology has waned substantially. I still have lots of fishing tackle but I no longer have one of everything. I now consider myself pretty middle of the road when it comes to fishing tackle purchases. There is a saying that fishing lures don’t have to catch fish — they just need to catch fishermen.
I, at one time, was an easy catch.
I don’t know if this is still true but I was told that 80 percent of a bait’s sales happens in the first year of production and that only 20 percent of its sales were generated over the remaining time the lure is produced. This is why there seems to be a never-ending supply of new lures to try. As I aged I came to the conclusion that the new stuff could not possibly work better than what I already had, and it still seems like I catch my fair share of fish without great monetary expenditures.
Every once in a while something comes along that kind of proves my current mentality on fishing tackle wrong. When you live in America, if you can build a better mouse trap there is a good chance it will result in making a name for itself and selling in great numbers.
So what does it take to make a better mouse trap in the fishing world? Just ask Travis Frazee, John Koller and John Singler. These are three local guys who believe they have invented a better mouse trap.
This group has made a living teaching in the District 518 School system, although Travis now lives in Marshall and works as the assistant principal there. They have started a company called Crystal Eyes Jigs LLC. I visited with Travis on a recent stop back in Worthington and I bought a few jigs from him. He told me about his new invention in the fishing tackle universe.
A jig is a hook with a lead head molded around the hook eye. They come in thousands of different shapes and sizes and have been around for decades. They allow the fisherman to place a bait right where they want it. A jig can be casted and retrieved, drug slowly across the bottom or swum anywhere in between. If there could only be one lure in your fishing box it would most likely be a jig. They are very versatile and work in all seasons, including ice fishing season.
The initial idea the group was pursuing when they decided to make fishing tackle was to make tungsten ice fishing jigs in very small sizes. Tungsten is 33 percent heavier that lead and makes the jig behave differently than lead head jigs. The extra weight allow the angler to impart a tighter wiggle and thus induce more pan fish into biting. As the group researched the tungsten jig possibility they soon encountered some very severe manufacturing challenges.
Lead melts at 600 degrees and tungsten melts at 6,000 degrees. There was no way to get into the production of tungsten jigs without lots of start-up money. Most jigs produced today are made overseas by well established companies, and so the group decided to move forward with the production of lead head jigs and do so locally. They had an idea that would make their jigs different than any other they had seen, and it was just enough convince them to go into production.
The big difference between the jigs available on the market today and the ones this new start-up company would produce is all in the eyes. Most jigs have a painted eye. The jigs manufactured by Crystal Eyes Jigs have multi-faceted glass eyes that are hand glued on to each jig. It was explained to me that this special eye gathers and reflects light as to make the eyes look little lights. The reflection of the light might be similar to the reflection you could get from an old mirror disco ball that reflected light all over the dance floor in the late 70s.
This special eye has by all accounts made this jig perform better and resulted in more bites and more caught fish that the other jigs on the market today. The guys use the best hooks available and do all of the production work by hand. This means that all of the following processes need to take place to make one jig. The lead is melted and poured into the mold that holds the hooks. When the lead cools the jig is removed, trimmed, painted, baked and the eyes attached, and after all that the paint needs to be removed from the eye of the hook so the line can be attached.
This is not a mass production effort at this time. Even with all the hand work involved the cost per jig runs between $1.15 and $1.35 each. You can get a look at all of their offerings by checking out their website at crystaleyesjigs.com The group will do special orders for any color or any size from the smallest ice fishing jig all the way to the larger open water sizes, so they can fill any need.
It was really fun to listen to the future plans they have for this American small business. They are starting a pro staff to use their products and promote them in the fishing and resort world.
They currently sell their products at the Hy-Vee gas station in Worthington, Cabels in Spirit Lake, Minnewaska Bait in Starbuck and a few places along the Missouri River in South Dakota. The number of locations is sure to grow. There is one additional spot that you can spy these new jigs and that will be at the Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club Banquet on Saturday, May 10, at the Elks Lodge in Worthington. The social starts at 5:30 p.m. with a prime rib dinner at 6:30 p.m. and speaker at 7 p.m.
Crystal Eye Jigs LLC is giving away product to the first 50 folks through the door that evening. They will also have their jigs on the silent auction for your purchase.
The Fishing Club Banquet has been moved this year to coincide with the Minnesota fishing opener. To purchase a ticket or for more information call Larry Anderson at 507-360-3973.
One reason for the change in the banquet date is that the Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club is again holding their all-area fishing tournament on the opener.
The cost to enter the tournament is $10 and you can resister at Bob and Steve’s Shell prior to the opening bell. The weigh in will be at the Elks Lodge from 5:00-5:30 p.m. just before the start of the banquet. They award random prizes for 1-20th place and in past years many prizes in the 15th-20th place were the same or similar to the 1st -5th place spots. This means you don’t need to be a great fisherman to participate.
This has the benefit of including the entire family. I also understand that the first 50 to sign up get a free car wash from Bob and Steve’s. This is a nice contribution to the cause.
As of today the skies are gray and the wind continues to howl, but here’s to a great opening day and the much success to the new jig company founded in the garage of a few local Worthington residents.