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Riege: The business of fishing

By Bob and Ginny Riege

The Governor’s Fishing Opener has been a treasured tradition in Minnesota since 1948, while fishing is a key part of one of the largest sectors of our economy, tourism. The Opener is also a kick-off celebration for the statewide summer tourism season. Travel and tourism generate $12.5 billion in leisure and hospitality gross sales in Minnesota annually. The annual Governor’s Fishing Opener is an opportunity to spotlight Minnesota fishing and the Brainerd Lakes Area.

The Brainerd Lakes Area isn’t just all about fishing. It’s also all about the business of fishing.

Kris Kristufek builds award winning functional custom fishing rods “As Individual As You Are.” At LakeLady Custom Rods, he offers handcrafted fishing tools that are custom-fitted to your individual measurements. Using premium blanks and components, each rod is crafted with care, distinction and attention to detail, creating a unique fishing rod for the discriminating fisherperson.

LakeLady Rods was founded in 1998 as a cottage industry in the lake country at Breezy Point, MN. Kris Kristufek is a Certified Professional Rod Builder by the Custom Rod Builders Guild, Inc. He has built over 1,500 custom fishing rods.

LakeLady Rods was chosen to build eight custom rods for the Governor and his party as the “Official Rod Crafter” for the 2001 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener. This year Governor Mark Dayton will be fishing with LakeLady Rods in the Brainerd Lakes Area.

No other community hosts such a concentration of angling legends, companies and services with fishing at their core.

For example: The recently merged Minnesota Fishing Museum–Hall of Fame and Education Center is located in Gander Mountain in Baxter. Stop in for a visit, and you’ll recognize a host of local individuals and businesses acknowledged for their outstanding contributions to the fishing industry, including; Lindy Tackle Company; In-Fisherman; Al, Ron and James Lindner; Nick Adams; Marv Koep; Babe Winkelman; Joe Fellegy; Jeff Zernov; Dan Sura; Dave Csanda; Randy Amenrud; and Mister Walleye Gary Roach;

The Brainerd Lakes Area is also a hotbed of outdoor television and video production, including fishing and hunting shows like Lindner’s Angling Edge and Fishing Edge, In-Fisherman and Critical Concepts, Babe Winkelman’s Good Fishing and Outdoor Secrets, Fleet Farm’s We Love It! Outdoors, Lund’s Ultimate Fishing Experience, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Bottom Feeders, Lake Commandos, Warm Springs and others. The Brainerd Lakes Area has been called “the Hollywood of the North,” and with good reason. Toss in In-Fisherman publications, Gopher Fishing Tackle in Deerwood and Aqua-Vu Underwater Cameras in Crosslake, and their reach extends into multi-media and manufacturing as well.

The region has famous walleye and pike lakes, a smorgasbord of lesser-known but equally spectacular bass and panfish waters, and the Mississippi River flowing right through town. And a network of lakeside resorts bordering their shores. Large fishing guide services, like the Nisswa Guides League, Leisure Outdoor Adventures, Royal’s Fishing Guide Service, S & W Guide Service, Walleyedan’s Guide Service and Brainerd Guide Service, can be found here as well as a host of smaller guide groups and individuals with a nose for catching fish. Plus the Brainerd Lakes Area hosts everything from big-time fishing tournaments to weeknight competitions, including the world’s largest ice fishing tournament—the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza.

In essence, the Brainerd Lakes Area not only has the fish, but the support staff to bring them to anglers on the water, as well as on TV, via the Internet, and across the written page.