A look at how fishing with family and friends aided in the growth of Northland Fishing Tackle
For many fishermen, the sight of a bright yellow and red package was a common thing to be found in your tackle box growing up in the Midwest. Northland Tackle coined the “Fisherman’s Favorite” is an iconic brand that is synonymous with fishing in the Midwest, particularly Minnesota.
John and Duane following their induction into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 2012.
The Northland Tackle brand and product offerings are sometimes viewed and thought of as one for walleye and pan fisherman, but the founders, brothers, John and Duane Peterson are bass heads just like us and offer tackle that puts big bass in the boat across the country, including some hot new products that Northland has released recently.
John Peterson began selling fishing tackle for Ric Jig Tackle and then partnered with fellow Minnesota fishing legend, Ted Capra in the manufacturer’s rep business. They sold several product lines throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas; including the original Mr. Twister, which was an extremely hot lure. The life and rigors of living and traveling around the Twin Cities Metro grew long for John, which brought him back home to the north woods of Minnesota.
This brought John back home to Northern Minnesota with the vision of making a living as a fishing guide and fishing tournaments. Like many who went down this path, John learned quickly that guiding and tournament fishing did not pay the bills. This is when John endeavored to develop, test, manufacture, sell, and promote fishing tackle. “I did this with two goals in mind, first, to improve existing products and secondly to innovate new products that would meet the needs of a fast-growing fraternity of knowledgeable fishermen,” stated John.
John’s initial baits caught fish, in turn, brought in business and shortly bait shops such as, Marv Koep in Nisswa, Reeds in Walker, Christopherson’s in Alexandria, LeRoy’s in Cass Lake, Pamida in Bemidji, Fred’s in Grand Rapids, Jim’s in Duluth, and Burger Brothers in the Metro were among the first bait and tackle shops to showcase Northland Fishing Tackle.
“We designed fishing tackle to meet our fishing needs and the needs of the many expert fishermen that we surrounded ourselves with. We listened to avid fishermen, guides, tournament anglers, and the Lindner’s with In-Fishermen,” stated Duane Peterson. “We fished at every opportunity, and as techniques were exploited we built products to accommodate those techniques. We also continually looked for ways to improve quality and enhance the performance of existing products.”
Fishing was something that the Peterson’s did anytime and anywhere. John and Duane aggressively pursued muskies in the 1970s and both were in hot pursuit of winter lake trout fishing in the ’70s and ’80s. Like any northern Minnesota angler, walleyes were always on the duo’s mind, as were big pike and panfish; and especially big crappies. “But, admittedly, the large and smallmouth bass are my favorite,” exclaimed Duane. “I love their abundance and their always willingness to bite attitude. Pursuing bass is so much like hunting, and I love the challenge of seeking them out in a huge variety of cover with a wide variety of lures and techniques.” You can tell that John and Duane were cut from the same cloth as John echoed a very similar statement, “I love to fish for all game fish species that bend the rod and stretch the string. I like to cast and hunt fish down, so bass and muskie are really my true favorites.”
When you don’t find Duane on the water, you’ll find him spending time with his grandkids, especially sitting on the sidelines of their basketball and football games. He is also an avid whitetail hunter and enjoys watching sports and the news on television. Like Duane, John takes in all of the Minnesota sports, basketball, football, and baseball. If there isn’t a rod in John’s hand, then there is most likely a firearm or bow, as he is a diehard hunter for deer, ducks, geese, grouse, and turkeys.
The brotherly duo of Duane and John has fished in well over 400 tournaments over their 50 years of angling and trophies line the shelves of their offices, with plaques scattered among the halls. The brothers participated in some of the initial bass, walleye, pike, and muskie tournaments. “Fishing tournaments expedite our growth as fishermen and to the growth of our lure company, so it was an invaluable experience for us, despite the outcome at the weigh-in, said Duane.
One of Duane’s most memorable moments was winning the Minnesota State Bass Federation State Tournament in 1984 on the Whitefish Chain. He recalls catching his fish on Upper Whitefish on a jig worm and an AC Shiner and compiled a two-day weight of 31 pounds for 12 fish. Duane qualified and fished on several Minnesota State BASS Regional Teams over the course of his career.
John fished the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) for 15 years, accumulated many top-ten finishes, and qualified for the PWT Championship on a regular basis, John garnered a win on Lake of the Woods in 1996. John landed a heavyweight, 37 lb muskie out of Big Lake to win the Muskies Inc weight division in 1975.
Fishing has always been a family activity and place for the Peterson’s to spend time together. Duane teamed up with his sons Travis, Craig, to win Northwestern Bass Tournaments on Leech, Whitefish, Minnewaska, Dead, and others in the ’90s. The duo of John and Duane is still a threat anytime they drop their boat in the water as they won the International Falls Bass Championship on Rainy Lake in 2012. In 2015, Duane was unable to compete in this event as he was home caring for Jeanne as she battled breast cancer, so his son Travis and sixteen-year-old grandson Jace teamed up and won the event! “It was one of my most proud moments. I have so many tournament memories, and have learned so much from competitive fishing—and secured a long list of special and valued friends along the way, it is hard to pick just one as my most memorable,” smiled Duane.
As Duane alluded to, he and his brother John, surrounded themselves with a high caliber group of anglers, this BASS club in Bemidji, which began in 1978, had many successful anglers. The team won several State Federation tournaments and members participated on several Regional Teams. We learned so much from each other. Many great anglers have come through the MN BASS Federation. Mainstays on our early teams included Mike Christopher, Dr. Jerry Thompson, Mike McKee, Mark Christianson, Jim Henzie, Tim Vigen, Pat Winkler, Dean Crotty, Jim Davey, John Melhus, John Lindseth, Terry Neilson, Matt Stone, Gary Newell, and Steve Jorgenson.
The technique of jig worming was pioneered by the great Minnesota anglers that the Peterson’s surrounded themselves with and is a technique that still puts countless bass in the boat during the year in Minnesota and has now recently hit the national scene via the Ned Rig. “As far back as the ’60s, we pitched a jig and minnow to weed lines to catch walleyes; and regularly caught largemouth. When plastic worms surfaced, it was natural to fish the jig the same way, but with the worm attached,” stated Duane. “The Jig Worm remains one of the all-time most productive ways to catch large and smallmouth bass from freshwater lakes and rivers.”
All anglers have become more conscious about the quality of terminal fishing tackle, and have forced manufacturers to focus on quality. Although the tournament angler is constantly looking for an advantage by presenting the latest and greatest tackle options; many recreational fishermen are likewise looking to enhance their catches. Tournament anglers have created the demand for high-quality products that are applicable to their respective presentations and techniques. “From a manufacturer’s standpoint, this demand had to include the recreational fisherman in order to provide justifiable demand,” stated John.
One of the biggest changes that the Peterson’s have seen take place in the fishing industry is at the retail level. Many of the classic smaller bait and tackle shops have gone by the wayside. These grassroots shops were the lifeblood of the fishing industry for decades. They have been pushed aside by the multi-store chains, mass merchants, catalog houses, and now internet warehouses. Their live bait business is fading, with the popularity of soft plastics and the regulations relative to invasive species and the transportation of water.
With this change, the way the industry advertises and promotes products has changed as well. Traditional print, radio, television, sports shows, and seminars are battling social media for advertising dollars. The anglers, too, have changed. They are on the fast track and in constant communications via cell phone and social media. They want instant success and are quick to respond to hot bites and fishing opportunities. “Despite the constant and inevitable change, our opportunity to fish has never been greater,” exclaimed Duane.
With the importance of information, Northland Fishing Tackle is excited to have a brand new, interactive website that features helpful fishing tips, all of which can be delivered directly to your inbox. So be sure to check out northlandtackle.com and sign up for their e-newsletter.
“Fish have adapted to species realignment and taken up new niches. The explosion of smallmouth bass within our lakes is notable, as is the movement of walleyes in some waters to a very shallow existence. Fish still eat and reproduce, eat and reproduce, and, at all times maintain a safe and comfortable existence within their available niche…nothing has changed!” “Let’s hope competitive fishing can survive going forward. It will take a “clean up” effort by the anglers that include a public relations campaign to ward off the anti-tournament sentiment,” stated Duane.
With the growth and popularity of bass tournaments across the United States, Northland Fishing Tackle has developed some great new products that are already proven winners on the local, regional, and national level tournament scene.
Impulse is the brand name that Northland uses for their soft plastics and some of the new products include a Fatty Tube. It is a soft and flexible, yet durable wide-body tube that is heavily salted tube and impregnated with their leading university-developed scent. It is available in a traditional 3.5” size for flipping and also a 2.75” version that is specific to smallmouth bass applications. “This little treat is really special, especially when you combine it with our new Inner Tube Jig with a heavy-duty short shank hook,” stated Chip Leer, Product Manager.
The new Impulse Fatty Tube.
The specially designed Inner Tube Jig to accompany the Fatty Tube.
Soft plastic swimbaits are an ever-popular item on the tackle store shelves these days, from rigging it on a jighead, to on an Alabama Rig, or on a swim jig or ChatterBait, anglers love them! So North came out with their version of a soft-bodied finesse Swimbait, the Impulse Core-Shot Swimbait. It is horizontally oval in shape and its super-soft plastic provides lift and tail action during a cold-front slow retrieve. “The appearance of this bait is unique due to the core structure. Colors include traditional solid colors such as Green Pumpkin, yet what bass anglers will find appealing are the core-shot colors. The core-shot series of colors have unique core only colors that are surrounded by clear scent-filled Impulse plastic that helps illuminate the swimbait underwater. It’s a very unique look. So appealing we had to make multiple sizes species-specific colors to share with walleye and panfish anglers as well,” explained Leer.
A unique-looking soft plastic swimbait, the Core-Shot Swimbait, is catching the angler’s eyes.
Surrounding themselves with the passionate and die-hard fishermen is what the Peterson’s have done their whole life, thus it makes sense that Northland Fishing Tackle appointed Chip Leer as its Product Manager in 2015. Leer is a 28-year veteran fishing guide, tournament angler, and outdoor promoter who grew up fishing the Northland brand.
Leer is responsible for the teams that are the workhorses for developing new products for Northland Fishing Tackle. “I know it’s a great gig, I’m excited every day when I head out to fish…I mean head into work,” smiled Chip.
Northland Fishing Tackle Product Manager Chip Leer shows off a brute smallie!
FLW Tour Pro, Jeff Gustafson has been a lifelong user of Northland Fishing Tackle and had his best year on the FLW Tour in 2016 and much of these can be based on his use of these great new products from Northland. “” Northland Fishing Tackle plays a role in nearly every FLW Tour event that I fish whether it’s flipping a Brush Beaver down in Florida, fishing a Puppet Minnow for spotted bass, or using the new Impulse Fatty Tube for smallmouths. At the last event of 2016 at Lake Champlain I caught every single fish I weighed in on the 2.75″ green pumpkin Fatty Tube,” explained Gussy. John Peterson teams up and fish’s the Fort Francis Smallmouth Bass Tournament with Gussy, in which the duo won in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014!
Here is the complete Impulse Fatty Tube setup that Gussy relies on.
FLW Tour Pro and Northland Fishing Tackle Pro Angler Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson
“My greatest pleasure is sharing a boat with my family, friends, and anyone else that shares my passion to fish. Fishing has provided me with a vehicle from which to nurture relationships and enhance the quality of my life.” – Duane Peterson