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Tracker Bait Company
Cat Tracker Bait Company
was founded in 1988 in Dubuque, Iowa by Junnie Mihalakis from
homemade formulas tested in catfish habitat throughout the United
States. The research continues around the world thanks to a growing
fan base of fishing enthusiasts who have discovered catfishing.
Junnie, a professional fisherman, owned his own retail sporting
goods business in Dubuque which grew and grew. Through his affiliation
with many successful manufacturers, Junnie has fished every kind
of fish that swims in the Western Hemisphere (North, Central
and South Americas). The manufacture of bait became a sideline,
and due to the effectiveness of his special formulated bait products,
Junnie eventually made it a full-fledged enterprise involving
his many family members.
Junnie not only performed
important research in dip baits but in plastic worm design. He
was not happy with existing products on the market, so he began
experimenting with his own designs. He literally invented original
designs that have revolutionized the sport which up until Junnie
went into the business, remained virtually unchanged for over
50 years. Junnie brought a vibrant innovative spirit to catfishing.
He enjoyed catfishing more than bass or walleye fishing, and
he figured if he could educate the public about this largely
underutilized fishing resource, he could introduce a whole new
audience to the joys of catfishing.
Junnie developed a unique
look and feel to the company's packaging, making every component
of the product line coordinate graphically on the shelf. He also
began promoting the product as a system rather than just a growing
list of individual products.
Everything was dedicated
to making catfishing fun and productive. Junnie also wanted to
marginalize the notion that his bait was a categorical "stink
bait," which may have a bad connotation with some folks.
The core ingredient of the bait is a cheese byproduct which is
recycled from the dairy industry. Junnie and his son Mark came
up with commercial packaging that would seal the bait product
completely making the package virtually odorless on the store
shelf. But as many long-time catfishing enthusiasts know, the
smell of a well-formuated catfish bait is not necessarily something
that smells badly, and they never minded calling their favorite
bait a stink bait. In honor of that notion, Junnie named some
of his most effective products "Sewer Baits," and they
were an instant hit in the marketplace.
As catfishing becomes more
popular with the fishing public, more innovation is happening
in the industry. There are now catfishing rods, reels, even boat
models available from a growing list of manufacturers who have
jumped on the bandwagon started by Junnie. There are catfishing
tournaments, and some observers have compared today's organized
catfishing events to the early days of bass tourneys. Catfishing
could be even bigger in time, some say, because catfish habitat
is much larger than bass. There are more opportunities to catch
catfish with less expensive gear which is attractive to many.
Plus, some experts say no matter where you are in North America,
you are never more than a few miles or hours from catfish water.
Junnie has always believed that catfish are among America's great
gamefish species undiscovered and misunderstood by most people.
Junnie's son, Mark, now
manages the company that is his father's legacy. Mark has continued
the innovation. Also running critical aspects of the Cat Tracker
Bait Company operations is Junnie's daughter, Viola "Babe"
McLaughlin, and there are other family members who are involved
in this family business. Many serve as models in the advertising,
and all of Junnie's grandchildren star in the video "Kids
to Junnie's Cat Tracker Baits
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