WORTHINGTON, Minn. — A fishing lure business born in the garage of a Worthington home back in 2013 now has its products dangling from slatwall hooks in more than 40 bait shops and a major Midwest outdoor store, and its growth continues.
Crystaleyes Fishing has launched into the big leagues with several new products anticipated to hit store shelves in time for the 2021 fishing opener, with new Aura Tungsten ice jigs perfect for panfishing through the ice and on open water, a Tubertail panfishing jig, Phenomenon crankbait lures with the signature Swarovski crystal eyes and an expanding line of colors in their Swimbait and Live Bait jigs.
The popularity of Crystaleyes lures has grown so much in the past seven years that its founders have contracted to manufacture the lures overseas — both to meet demand, and to expand into the higher quality, heavier tungsten jigs.
Travis Frazee co-founded Crystaleyes Fishing while working as a special education teacher at Worthington High School in 2013. At the time, his business partners included WHS math teacher John Koller and industrial tech teacher John Singler, whose experience in computer-aided design helped in developing their jigs.
Now assistant principal at Marshall High School, Frazee continues to be the idea guy of the operation, designing new products and testing various color combinations on jig heads. Meanwhile, Koller and Bill Gordon, who became a business partner three years ago, work to drum up new business opportunities by visiting bait shops and outdoors stores in the Upper Midwest.
“We’re in Scheels in Sioux Falls (South Dakota) and St. Cloud,” Koller said. “I think we’ll get some more. We have merchandise in Runnings in Worthington, Watertown (S.D.) and Brookings (S.D.).
“When you’re working with the big box stores, they expect quality packaging and a quality product,” he added.
“And a really good price point,” quipped Frazee. “That’s something we’ve learned along the way. You want to make it work with everybody.”
Idea sparks invention
An avid fisherman, Frazee discovered the success in using a lure with a flashy appearance while on the lake one afternoon. The lure, though, needed improvement.
That’s when he went to Koller with an idea to attach Swarovski crystals to colorful fishing jigs. The idea sounded simple enough, but they quickly found it was anything but. There were a lot of trials and a lot of errors before they mastered the technique.
Koller said their original plan was to make ice fishing jigs, but he soon questioned, “Why not try this on some summer jigs?”
“That’s when it all got started,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many mistakes we made. We had a lot of fun times experimenting with colors, and we found out those crystals really made a difference.”
Their first official order came from a bait shop in Spirit Lake, Iowa, and that was the sole place that carried them outside of the company’s website for the first three or four years.
“We worked out of the garage, making one jig at a time,” Koller said adding they sold lots of their original — now called classic — design that featured a jig with a red sickle hook.
The increased popularity of the jigs led to increased demand, and that decreased the time the men could spend with their families, shared Frazee.
“But, we knew we had something good,” he added. That’s when they began looking for a company to do the manufacturing for them.
While it’s been a challenge, Frazee said things are getting better.
And they still sell their classic design, which means both Koller and Frazee get to make lures in their garage as orders come in.
“The new things are coming to us in a package,” Koller said. “We have a full line of swim baits and live bait jigs and crank baits.”
Color by design
All of the Crystaleyes products come in a selection of eight different colors, and Koller said they are working to expand the color line. In fact, four new colors designed by Frazee will be introduced in April.
Frazee said the color options are replicated from color patterns he’s used in the past, or were chosen based on their success.
“You try to incorporate a fair amount of things into each color,” Frazee said, noting color patterns that sparkle or glow. “Walleyes like to have multiple colors on a jig. Our Firetiger is a perfect example of that.”
Some colors are developed based on different types of water clarity, such as their new Purpledescent jig, which shows up well in dark or dirty water, Frazee said.
“We wanted to come up with a color for every condition,” he added. The other new colors include Wonderglow, Pearl, and a walleye color.
The new colors and designs — their Tubertail is a new panfish jig set to debut this spring — are being introduced at a time when more people are taking up the hobby of fishing.
“People are out fishing with their families,” Koller said, noting that panfish is one of the first things people start fishing for.
The hope of Frazee and Koller is that those new fishermen and women try out the Crystaleyes line of products. Their moniker says it all — the Crystaleyes jigs are “On every fish’s bucket list.”