Mark Mihalakis - President of Manufacturing and New Product Development
Paul Swartzel - Website Business Manager
Welcome to Cat Tracker Bait Company. Founded in 1988 in Dubuque, Iowa by Junnie Mihalakis from homemade formulas tested in catfish habitat throughout the United States. And the research continues around the world thanks to a growing fan base of fishing enthusiasts who have discovered catfishing. Junnie has been a professional fisherman for several years having owned his own sporting goods retail 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 cat fishing tourneys, 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 Mihalakis, 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 and Kats."At right is a typical ad for Cat Tracker products that has appeared in fishing publications throughout the country. That's Junnie's grandaughter with the huge blue cat she caught. Junnie's was one of the first bait businesses to have a Web site and an online catalog. The photo above right is son Mark with his dad and a 42 pound blue catfish Junnie caught in the Tennessee River. Above is an example of the packaging used to market Cat Tracker bait. The tubs are double sealed.
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