The little lure that could was already winning the hearts of Western anglers, but one day Bobby Garland was paired up with Guido Hibdon in a tournament on Lake Mead. Hibdon quickly learned about the magic the little 2.5 inch tube, called a Fat Gitzit, could produce and took his new-found toy back east. Other anglers joked about the small lure, to them it wasn’t a “finesse” lure it was a “sissy” lure. But, when he placed well at several tournaments, eventually winning a tournament, the “sissy” lure started looking pretty tough.
When anglers, such as Shaw Grigsby, saw how effective the lure was when used for sight fishing, the angling world turned upside down and the Garland brothers were on their way.
Over the years many others have duplicated the original tube, but none have enjoyed the success of the Gitzit.
One angler and businessman who has long followed the Gitzit story is Jerry Hansen. Hansen, who started out as a taxidermist, had a second love, bass fishing. Living in southern Utah, Hansen has been surrounded by such wonderful bass fisheries as Lake Powell and Quail Lake. He has enjoyed the clear waters of Lake Mead and Havasu. Both perfect tube lakes.
In 1989 Hansen started a small lure manufacturing company called Big Boy Baits as a hobby. It helped fill in some time, allowed him to write off a few fishing expenses, and spend a little more time fishing – in the beginning. The business was being run out of his garage and was fun, but it started to grow.
By 1990, Big Boy Baits was growing faster than Hansen expected and he was faced with a decision, whether to continue his taxidermy business or go full time into manufacturing lures.
To ease the decision Hansen started raising his prices for taxidermy and demanding to be paid up front. To his surprise, business picked up. But, Big Boys Baits was growing, too.
There was a strong Japanese market at the time and Hansen decided to get serious about Big Boy Baits. It wasn’t long before he had 26 employees and was grossing $1.5 million a year.
The Japanese market finally fell through and Hanson started to wonder what to do with his business. Things were still going well, but he thought that maybe he should sell the company. In 2002, he sold his business. Of course, now he needed a job.
“I had been involved with Yamamoto baits for many years and when I sold my company, Gary Yamamoto stepped up to the plate and hired me,” said Hansen. “Big Boy Baits had been working with Yamamoto for years and when I sold they offered me a job with company. It was a great union. I was able to help develop lures, and they taught me a lot about marketing and business. They also made it possible for me to spend more time with my children. I can’t thank Gary Yamamoto and everyone at Yamamoto Baits Company enough.
“I am very lucky to have worked with Ron Colby and others to develop the Creature Bait, now the number two selling bait at the company. Then I worked with them to develop their swimbaits. These baits are designed for salt water, but let me tell you, they work great in fresh water, too.”
Then Hansen was approached with an opportunity to share in a business he had only dreamed of, to be a part of the original tube manufacturer and make the original Gitzit.
“The Garlands are the originators of the tube lures,” said Hansen. “Others have copied them, including me. Garry Garland sold the company this past June to Jay Pennington for health reasons. Pennington then brought Bob Brown on board to help with marketing. In August, they approached Hansen about joining their company, Canyon Plastics.
“I knew Jay and liked him, I just needed to know more before I could make a decision,” said Hansen.
The current plant for Canyon Plastics is located in Kingman, Arizona. That posed a problem for Hanson because his children are in southern Utah and he felt the commute was too far.
“Then they asked me to build a plant in southern Utah, my home,” said Hansen. “A few weeks ago we met, came to an agreement, and have recently found a building to set up a new plant.”
There was, of course, his dedication to Gary Yamamoto.
“Yamamoto has been so good to me, I felt like I was letting them down. I spoke with Jerry Puckett about the problem and asked him for some advice, or at least his opinion. He said, ‘what in the hell are you still doing here?’ Yamamoto has been very supportive of my decision and I am thankful. They provided a great opportunity for someone like me.
“My time at Yamamoto was a learning experience. I learned more about plastics, and marketing. I was able to travel and meet so many good people. I will cherish my three years with them.”
Canyon Plastics is looking towards the future while still hanging onto one of the greatest plastic lure designs in history, the original Gitzit.
“We are expanding and improving,” said Hansen. “The old style card-type of packaging is out. We are now packaging the Gitzit in new four-color polybags that are UPC labeled and coded. This makes the product more fisherman friendly and store oriented. As far as out production is concerned, we are simplifying the process and becoming more professional. You are going to see more consistent colors and pours. We are expanding our market by including more lures and will introduce mini-jigs. Out marketing campaigns are going to be much more professional.
“It feels great to part of the original tube manufacturer,” said Hansen. “I have always had a lot of respect for the Garlands and now to be manufacturing the original tube bait is a good feeling.”
For more information about Canyon Plastics and the original Gitzit, go to www.canyon-plastics.com.