So who’s the guy behind this blog with all the crazy passion for ice fishing? Well that would be me, your humble author, Mitch Bennis.
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in the outdoors industry in one way or another since 1983. I started when I was 15, first as a dock boy at the Ash-Ka-Nam Resort on the Northern border of Minnesota. My family had a cabin on the Ash River Trail and I had spent my summertime youth there, fishing the waters of Voyageurs National Park in my tiny 16 foot Lund with 25 horse Mercury for Walleye, Smallmouth Bass and Northern Pike. I spent three summers working at the resort, tending the dock, cleaning fish, guiding guests, selling bait, running garbage to the dump, carefully avoiding and shooing away bears, mowing rocky pine-rooted cabin yards and learning how to be a man and work hard in life. Late in my second year I met an amazing woman, who 25+ years later is still my wife.
Later I went to college and got a degree in electronics. During this time I worked for my family’s business doing mostly window delivery and repair. I didn’t fish much then, having sold my boat and bought a motorcycle. Life was busy with other things and there was little time for fishing.
I got married on August 5th, 1989 and also began working for Vexilar, Inc., a marine electronics company. I started as an electric trolling motor technician, fixing Minn Kota, MotorGuide, and Mercury trolling motors. I made trips to the manufacturers, got certifications and became one of the top trolling motor techs in the upper Midwest. I later moved into working on the sonar, fish finders.
I remember the day clearly; me, with my mentors, Skip and Steve, packaging up the first Vexilar FL-8 models, in their plain white boxes with black type, for shipment to local retailers. It was really a game-changing moment in the sport of ice fishing, as the use of electronics has unquestionably transformed and expanded the sport. Looking back, it was really an honor to be there and be part of that transformation.
For 17 years I worked there, fixing Vexilars, shipping product, buying and managing inventory, administrating a growing computer network, helping with new product development, writing manuals and editing video instructions, developing packaging, managing customer service, working sports shows, building a pro staff and, along the way, having the pleasure to deal with and fish with many of the greats in the sport. Needless to say, I learned a lot about fishing, and ice fishing in particular through this time.
Then in 2006 I decided to go it on my own, pursuing the freelance route, doing website development, video editing and general graphic design under the moniker, Element Engage. The corporate life, not to mention a 90 minute drive to work, had gotten the best of me and I wanted my life back. Vexilar became my first client and I’ve been fortunate to enjoy success in my endeavor since then.
This new life allowed me to embrace my love of fishing in a new way. I could go out in the middle of the week and choose to work on the weekend instead. I was the boss, and he said “go for it!” I had the chance to use all the tips and knowledge that I had learned over my years “in the biz” and really began to enjoy fishing more than ever.
I developed this blog because I wanted to make a place to share my knowledge and excitement for the sport of ice fishing. And I enjoy giving back to the industry that I have been so fortunate to be involved in for most of my life.