High School Fishing pals, Now Business Partners
EJ Jigs enters year three
By Ross Boissoneau | April 24, 2021
For Jack Flynn (pictured above) and Ethan Stoops, fishing isn’t the only thing. There’s school, there’s family, there’s friends. But if fishing isn't the only thing, it’s certainly one of the biggest and best things. So much so that the two pals not only enjoy fishing, they’ve turned their passion for the sport into a business.
EJ Jigs was born three years ago. The two had formed a fast friendship based around their love of the sport. “We’re passionate about fishing,” said Flynn.
Thing is, they were dissatisfied with the lures they were using. “There was a lack of durability,” said Flynn. So they set about to change things.
They started the company at age 16, when they both were in high school. Today, the 19-year-olds both attend Northwestern Michigan College. Flynn is studying economics and finance, while Stoops is studying unmanned aircraft-vehicle piloting. But that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned their plans to continue creating and expanding EJ Jigs. On the contrary. “We want to go as far as it will take us,” said Stoops.
Their shared passion goes back to their very beginnings. Stoops said he first got into fishing as a youngster. “Mostly my grandpa, we used to go fishing all the time,” he said.
Flynn said he too got hooked on the sport early on, too. “When I was really little. I was brought up trolling,” he said.
While a student at Central High School, Stoops was introduced to jigging — dancing a lure up and down underwater, as opposed to pulling it horizontally through the water, to attract fish. He met Flynn shortly thereafter, and the two were off and fishing. “I got into jigging because of Ethan,” Flynn said.
That passion combined with their ideas on how to improve their jigs lured the two into business. While starting a business while still in high school might seem a bit much to some, their families were supportive from the start.
“We were determined to do it from day one. They were on board,” said Flynn. “Now they’re proud of us.”
They handmake all their jigs with high-quality components, including extremely strong and sharp anodized VMC hooks and stainless steel split rings. They are fully encapsulated with durable powder coat paint.
On average, it takes the pair six to seven hours to fully produce 100 lures. EJ Jigs currently offers some 20 color combinations, most of which glow underwater. “For jigging, glow jigs work well,” said Flynn. They test their designs themselves — after all, it’s all about fishing and fun — primarily in East and West Grand Traverse Bay.
While they take pride in their work, they also have fun with their business. Take their Mako series, for example. Not only does the duo note that it sets their lures apart from those of their competitors, the lures also bring to mind the ferocious ocean carnivore. “Our Mako Series product line was based off the gills of the Mako shark because it’s commonly known as a fierce predator,” said Flynn, noting it doesn’t really have anything to do with baitfish commonly found in the Great Lakes.
Their lures are available at several locations across the region: Tangled Tackle Company in Manistee, Captain Chucks II in Ludington, Shooters Range in Traverse City, Ward Brothers Boats in Charlevoix, KatFisher Bait & Tackle in Cheboygan, Jay’s Sporting Goods in both Gaylord and Clare, plus their very first retail shops, Frankfort Tackle Box in Frankfort and Roy’s General Store in Traverse City.
They also sell their jigs on sites like eBay and Hidden Michigan Monsters (HiddenMiMonsters.com), and are working on a new website that will allow for online sales. The two sold around 5,000 jigs in 2020, and look to up that by 1,000 to 2,000 more in 2021. They’re priced at $6 to $8.99 each or in multipacks for $19.95 to $34.95, depending on the lures and quantity.
The two say their lures are effective in catching a number of different game fish: lake trout, whitefish, cisco, bass, pike, and all types of salmon. And the season doesn’t matter. The jigs are effective in open water as well as through the ice.
What is the best lure they offer? As they say, it all depends — on the type of fish, the time of day, and the conditions. “We have different colors for different water conditions,” said Flynn.
“Chrome series is great for morning or evening,” said Stoops; their glow series is useful when it’s overcast.
What’s next? Well, there is school, of course, but as far as the company goes, the two intend to keep at it. They want to continue to expand their lines while broadening their retail footprint and then, they plan to do what all young startups do, said Stoops (at work below): “We have a Youtube video coming."