Love the Store – Love the Story: Grizzly Jig Company
CARUTHERSVILLE, MO – You could call him the Steve Jobs of Crappie Fishing. Big Lou Mansfield started the Grizzly Jig Company in his garage and in 1991 opened in a sheltered workshop in Haiti Heights. In less than a year, the company outgrew their space and moved into downtown Caruthersville. By 1994, the store needed more space and began buying up the block of buildings at the corner of Ward and 3rd Streets.
Grizzly sells everything from rods and reels, trolling motors and depth finders, boat seats and accessories, and an enormous selection of jig heads, plastics, and jigs. Many of their products are exclusive to Grizzly, like their hand tied jigs, custom crappie poles, and locally poured heads and plastics.
With upstairs rooms used for inventory, the main floor showroom houses every possible crappie fisherman’s desire. According to Big Lou, he “started by making a bluegill rig for Reelfoot Lake.” Mansfield found that the jig was useful for just about any kind of fish and the Grizzly Jig quickly became a style of fishing: Grizzly Fishing.
“Our claim to fame,” Mansfield said, “is that we’re the largest crappie store in the world and have more crappie paraphernalia than Bass Pro Shop, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain and WalMart put together.” And that’s easy to see once you start walking around the Grizzly Jig showroom with more than 1500 poles on display and over a million poles in stock.
As an avid fisherman, Mansfield knows that a good pole doesn’t need to be thrown away just because the tip comes off. “We probably have more rod tips than other stores have rods,” Mansfield said. He said if they sell a pole they will have replacement tips as well, “and if the manufacturer doesn’t sell rod tips for their poles, we’ll find one that works or we won’t sell the pole.”
Mansfield said that during their busy season, they ship over 100 poles a day. Mansfield said “We have over 20,000 marine seats in stock,” and that’s after selling 10,000 in the last year.
Back in the inventory room, Mansfield walked over to 10 large boxes and said, “In here are hundreds of left-handed crappie reels. I bought these from Dick’s Sporting Goods at a greatly reduced price.”
The reels were part of a combo rod & reel set. Grizzly Jig Company sold the poles at a discount and then Lou used the left-handed reels to introduced crappie fishermen to a brand-new way to troll. “It was a no-brainer use for these reels, while crappie trolling you can adjust your line with your left hand and use your net with your right hand. It’s a no-brainer.” It’s that type of ingenuity and entrepreneurship that has propelled Mansfield and Grizzly Jig Company to the front of the pack.
According to staff, on a daily basis the stores walk-in traffic comes from a 250-mile radius. In addition to their showroom they sell online from their website and on ebay, but a large percentage of sales, especially in the crappie off-season, comes from their yearly printed 196-page, full-color catalog.
Each year, the week before the Super Bowl, the store hosts a 4-day Spring Tackle Show “with seminars every-hour-on-the-hour.” Leading manufacturers send in crappie fishing experts to show off their wares. B&M, the largest pole manufacturer, sends eight crappie professionals to the 4-day show.
In 2010 at the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development, the Grizzly Jig Company was awarded the Director’s Small Business Award. At the time, David Kerr, Director of the Department of Economic Development said, “This is a home grown, Missouri business that is working through difficult economic times and prospering in a hard-hit area.”
Fishing advice comes easy from Big Lou when asked how to catch crappie or bluegill, “Grab a Grizzly Jig, put a wax-worm on the hook, and let it float down.”