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The Jig is Up

Angler turns love of fishing into successful business.

Winter is just around the corner, which means that—in some states—lakes will soon be frozen over and fishing enthusiasts will be hitting the ice.

This is a good time of year for Brian Larson, who lives in Minnesota and manages his Evolution Outdoors shop on eBay and Bonanza. Larson sells hunting, fishing and other outdoor-sports equipment, but specializes in ice fishing and salmon jigs.

The salmon season runs between May and late fall, depending on location. Ice fishing follows soon after, from the time a lake freezes to at least three or four inches thick until it thaws in late spring. Once the ice fishing season begins, fishermen—or anglers—drill holes in the ice and sit on stools or in portable shelters. They use jigs, a type of fishing lure, to entice the fish below.

“For the ice fisherman, it can be a hard life on the ice,” Larson says. “It’s cold and, if the fish are not biting, it can get even colder from inactivity.”

That’s why Larson thinks his own line of ice fishing jigs are good for the winter angler. He sells a wide variety of colorful jigs, allowing anglers to try different options until they find one that works.

“Most of the time, there is one or more that the fish will like on any given day or night, and this equates to greater success and a better experience,” he says.

When an ice angler has a more successful experience with his jigs, he will tell friends about it, Larson adds.

Know where your customers are—and aren’t

“This will get us in front of tens of thousands of ice anglers, and we will make hundreds of sales that will turn into referral and repeat business”

Besides word-of-mouth, Larson gets most of his customers through eBay and by putting himself out there at ice fishing shows. From mid-Nov to mid-Dec, Larson will attend three shows. He’s tried to market his shop through Facebook with little success, but he’s confident hosting an exhibit at these shows will produce better sales.

“This will get us in front of tens of thousands of ice anglers, and we will make hundreds of sales that will turn into referral and repeat business,” he says.

It’s evident Larson is passionate and knowledgeable about what he’s doing. Not only does he have experience in retail and marketing, but he used to sell advertising for a national fishing publication, and was a fishing guide in Alaska for almost 20 years.

Larson made his first purchase on eBay about six years ago, he says. He bought fishing reels, and thought it was “pretty neat” that he saw what he wanted and had it in his hands a few days later. He was selling advertising at the time, so he called a few of his customers to ask if he could sell their products online, and if they would drop ship for him.

All of them answered affirmatively, and with that, Evolution Outdoors was born. It took about 15 minutes to come up with the idea and find half a dozen suppliers, Larson says.

Angling for a niche

At first, Larson says he was selling with a “scattergun approach.” His shop offered products for fishing, scuba, golf and camping, but most of the merchandise had too much competition to justify carrying it. Since then, he has refined his products to only those items that sell really well.

More recently, Larson began creating niche sites outside of eBay and Bonanza to avoid the fees associated with those marketplaces, and to increase his business’ search engine optimization.

“I am becoming enamored with the idea of having a few niche sites rather than one main site with a mishmash of items,” he says. “This will keep each site more relevant for better Google search relevance.”

“I am becoming enamored with the idea of having a few niche sites rather than one main site with a mishmash of items”

For his ice fishing and salmon jigs, Larson created a website called Wonder Jigs. His jigs are custom made, which give him an advantage in quality and pricing, he says. Larson’s salmon jigs were designed by a fly fishing shop owner in Austria who recently passed away, while the ice fishing jigs are a composite of other worldwide persuasions.

“They are unique and original designs that come from a variety of influences that range from the old timers who ice-fished the northern tier of states to fresh takes on Scandinavian and Russian ice fishing lures that have been used for centuries,” Larson explains.

When Larson first came across these jigs, he was guiding fishing tours in Alaska and found them to be the most effective lure for Pacific Salmon, he says. Today, the only place he knows to find these particular jigs is on his own site.

Forced to think outside the box

Larson appreciates the freedom that selling online affords him, but acknowledges it’s not without its challenges. Many distributors won’t sell to merchants who don’t have a physical storefront, he admits, but it forces him to think outside the box to find new products that can be successful. Plus, he’s been challenged by online sellers who he thinks don’t know how to price properly.

“It, therefore, puts downward pricing pressure on the marketplace and has the effect of negatively impacting other merchants’ margins on that product,” he says.

Nevertheless, Larson is satisfied with his business.

“I like selling fishing equipment because fishing is one of my passions, and I can also live a bit vicariously through the success of my customers as well.”

That will have to suffice for Larson, because his business now keeps him too busy to go fishing as much as he’d like.

Visit Evolution Outdoors on eBay and Bonanza.

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About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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