Lucky Dog reels ’em in after first year in business

Jon Totzke had an ulterior motive in mind when he decided to start selling his own hand-made fishing lures.
“I figured this was an excuse to do more fishing,” Totzke said, with a chuckle. “I mean, you have to test them out, right. I’d tell my wife, ‘Honey, I have go do research.’ You can’t just throw them out there and say they work.”
But they do seem to work, and that’s why Lucky Dog Lures has grown faster and become a much bigger deal than Jon and his wife, co-owner Anne Marie Totzke, anticipated.

Jon and Anne Marie Totzke manufacture and sell a variety of handmade fishing lures at Lucky Dog Lures in Readfield. The couple has operated the business for the past year and it is growing quickly.

The couple manufactures the lures and operates the business out of their Readfield home. Lucky Dog Lures sells eight styles and 37 color combinations of beaded fishing lures with various blades. The Totzkes operate on both a wholesale and retail basis, and their lures can be found in 15 fishing stores across Wisconsin. They hope to sell the lures nationwide eventually and penetrate the Canadian market.
Jon, who also is a painting contractor, started the business about a year ago with the idea that it would provide an income during the winter months when the painting industry wanes.
“That was the plan, but it’s getting to be more and more of a full-time business for both of us,” said Anne Marie. “Really, it all started when we started making them for ourselves because we both love to fish. They started producing a lot of fish and people kept saying, ‘Wow, you should manufacture these.’ It was kind of a hobby that turned into a business.”
The couple needed a name for the business and got a good one after attending a Ducks Unlimited banquet in Oshkosh. They entered their names in a raffle for the grand prize of a new boat, motor and trailer. On a lark, they also entered the name of their dog, Willie, a 4-year-old golden retriever — one of three dogs the Totzkes own. A few days later, they received a call from Ducks Unlimited with the news that Willie was the grand prize winner, giving the Totzkes a new boat and a catchy business name.
“People kept saying what a lucky dog we had,” said Jon, who often wears a Lucky Dog T-shirt with Willie’s logo on it.
The Totzke’s lures are used by anglers of different skill levels and can snag a variety of fish. Most are made from stainless steel wire with blades of both nickel and polished brass. Jewelry beads of glass and brass arranged in different sequences complete the look.
“They’re very versatile — you can go from panfish to northern to bass to musky,” said Jon. “We’ve caught just about everything on them. Our lures are a combination of things. Fish like flash, color and sound, so we try and combine all three of those. We’re able to get the flash with our nickel and polished brass, color with the beads, and sound with the brass and the glass hitting each other, because when that happens it produces kind of a clacking noise underwater which attracts fish. Sound underwater is four times louder than above water.”
The Totzkes try to incorporate both old and new elements into their line of lures, and Jon initially was inspired by his 92-year-old grandfather’s tackle box.
Lures in the Lucky Dog lineup include the Chatter Bug spinner, which features a June Bug blade that has free-spinning action, glass beads for instant flash, brass beads for additional noise and shiny nickel hooks. The Chatter Bug is great for hooking panfish, walleye, bass, trout and northern pike.
Another popular lure is the Big Bugger, which has a June Bug blade and fire-polished glass beads which give off an enticing flash to attack bass, walleye and northern pike. The Chatter Bug comes in four color combinations and the Big Bugger is available in 10 color choices.
“You can’t make just one color,” said Jon. “Everything works differently depending on the lake. Right now, the red hooks and red beads are our big seller. But it depends on what lake you’re on. It depends on things like water clarity — whether it’s clear or cloudy — how much light you’re dealing with, and what the fish normally feed on in that lake. We have some new blades and have brought back some of the old blades like the June Bug, which has been around since the early ’60s.”
The Totzkes have made strong business contacts and learned more about their field by attending fishing shows around the country.
“We go to shows and talk to people who are fishing guides and field testers,” said Anne Marie. “We have six different fishing guides who are using our lures and even have field testers using them in California, Oregon, North Carolina, Tennessee and lower Michigan.”
Learn How To Make Lures Yourself Click Here.


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