Two young guns are blazing a trail that has them headed for an Old West showdown with veteran lure makers.
When Bailey Smith, 13, received some inline spinnerbait parts for Christmas and started building his own lures, he came up with the idea of selling his creations. He discussed these plans with his cousin and fellow club member, Austin Hart, 15, and the dynamic duo started Young Gun Bait Co. last January.
"We just wanted to make lures that actually catch fish," said Smith. "We have been mad at several companies before because their products didn't work. It seems like those lures caught the eye of the fisherman more than the fish. So we wanted to catch both the eye of the fisherman and the eye of the fish, but more so the fish."
The cousins have received some financial and technical support from their grandfather, Don Smith, who is a retired accountant. Smith admits he knows nothing about lure making but is impressed by his grandsons' enthusiasm for their venture.
"The boys are very, very interested in fishing," said Don. "They are the fishing experts. When they started talking about a business, I provided some technical expertise about how they needed to develop a method of coming up with parts and such for their products. They developed their product, but they needed help placing orders and accounting and just general business advice. They have done very well and maintained a high level of interest."
Bailey recalls selling eight lures with their first order, and the fledgling company sold 100 lures at the last sports show the boys attended. "We don't make stuff every day," said Smith. "About every month we put in a big order [for parts] and spend about three days straight building baits," specifically spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and jigs. They already have a steady client in Yellow Dog Lodge, an outfitter in the Northern Territories of Canada that purchases several lures from them for lake trout and pike fishing.
The boys are members of the Northern Colorado Junior Bass Club and are receiving help from a member of their adult sponsor club, the Centennial Bass Club. Blake Muhlenbruck, a Centennial Bass Club member and owner of Naked Bait Co., supplies the skirting material for the boys' lures.
"They are learning the ropes," said Muhlenbruck. "I don't know too many 13- and 15-year-olds who would hang it on the line like they have done. I am really proud of these two. They are awesome kids."
The kids made a lasting impression on Muhlenbruck when he met them at a sports show this spring. "I saw the booth they had set up and I asked them who did all their print work and pegboard and they told me they did it themselves," he recalled. "I told them their display looked so much better than those of a lot of the older guys. Those kids really put it together."
Bailey said his company's lures are better than the competition because the baits are handcrafted rather than machine made.
Their early success has the boys imagining they might be able to make a living with their company. "We see this going a long way," predicted Smith.
"We hope in the next few years to get a paycheck out of this because right now we are just building up money in our bank account," said Hart.
Fellow lure maker Muhlenbruck said he thinks the young guns have the moxie to succeed. "If these kids continue to pursue it they will definitely go somewhere with it," he said. "Give them about three more years and they will really have it together.