Catch Co.’s “Mystery Tackle Box” Is Tailor-Made for the Millennial Fishing Boom
Plus: Founder Ross Gordon shares his top-three Chicagoland fishing spots
“Fishing is an intimidating sport,” says Ross Gordon, founder of Catch Co., a digital-first sportfishing brand. “If you didn’t learn it as a kid, you felt like it was too hard to break into. One of the things I love about fishing is going into the small, local tackle shop. You had lures all over the wall and shelves and they came in every shape and color and size imaginable. It was cool but also overwhelming.”
Historically, fishing has been an insular sport, with fathers teaching sons — as it was for Gordon himself, who fell in love with fishing as a kid, rummaging through his grandfather’s old tackle and gear and fishing with his dad on Lake Minnetonka in Minneapolis. “I loved everything outdoors and nature,” Gordon says. “I fell in love with the anticipation of the catch, watching the bobber and waiting for it to move. That level of excitement and anticipation.”
Newcomers, though, faced a challenge breaking in — and with Catch Co., Gordon saw an opportunity to modernize the sport while making it more welcoming. He launched the business in 2012, bringing the subscription box model of shopping — à la Trunk Club and Tavour — to fishing with Mystery Tackle Box. The monthly subscription box is filled with a variety of colorful fishing lures and tackles, including limited-edition fishing swag, and is customized to your fish species preference (bass, trout, catfish or panfish), accompanied by how-to videos and expert tips on how to use your new gear. The playful and irreverent ecommerce approach to fishing retail has struck a chord with Millennials and Gen Zs, who make up the bulk of their customers. According to Gordon, 80 percent of Catch Co. customers are 45 and younger, while a quarter of their customers are 25 and under.
During the pandemic, fishing has boomed in popularity, especially among younger anglers. It’s a socially distanced way to pass the time outdoors that’s accessible to all ages and physical abilities. In Illinois alone, 454,358 fishing licenses were sold in 2020, up from 372,358 sold in 2019.
Likewise, Catch Co. grew by triple digits in 2020 and closed a $6 million funding round with Listen Ventures. They also launched their first built-from-scratch rods, the Googan Squad rods, designed in partnership with the Googan Squad, a group of progressive young fishing influencers.
Catch Co. has a highly engaged, and engaging, social media presence, as well as a solid YouTube series, Unchartered — but if you’re looking to spend some time away from your screen and in the presence of actual fish, here are Gordon’s Catch Co.-approved Chicagoland fishing recommendations:
Braidwood Lake: Braidwood is a unique, local gem – it’s a power plant cooling lake that opens to shore and boat anglers March 1. By early April, you’ll have bass in all stages of the spawn and water temperatures from 55-80 degrees, depending on the weather and how close you choose to fish to the warm-water discharge arm of the lake. With plenty of coves and wood cover, expect to catch hungry bass on moving baits, flipping/pitching jigs and soft plastics, or even topwater lures. It is also a great spot for catfishermen and bluegill anglers.
Lake Michigan Lakefront: The many harbors and shallow water areas that line Lake Michigan in Northeastern Illinois and Northwestern Indiana are a sneaky good smallmouth bass fishery that is available to anglers both from the shore or a boat. By early April, the smallmouth bass begin migrating into these shallow water areas for warmer water in preparation for the spawn. Target them with classic cold water smallmouth lures -– ned rigs and finesse swimbaits.
Statewide trout stockings: By early April, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks a large number of ponds and rivers with rainbow trout for anglers to harvest and consume. These trout are usually very easy to catch with artificial lures and taste delicious! Check the DNR website for stocking information on your local bodies of water to take advantage of this resource.
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