TightRope jigs are up: Ryan Whitacre and JayPee Hey have a breakthrough with Catch Co.

Ryan Whiteacre and JayPee Hey had a breakthrough with their TightRope jigs in collaboration with Chicago-based Catch Co.

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JayPee Hey (left) and Ryan Whitacre find themselves at a junction of art, bass fishing and business with their TightRope jigs and Catch Co. Credit: CatchCo.com

JayPee Hey (left) and Ryan Whitacre find themselves at a junction of art, bass fishing and business with their TightRope jigs and Catch Co.

Credit: CatchCo.com

‘‘We had the basics to make the jigs, but no way could we have made the amount that Catch Co. has produced,” JayPee Hey messaged. “The two of us would have had to work day and night for years to make 100,000 jigs, and, well, working day and night tying jigs leaves zero time for our actual love, which is bass fishing.”

Big business, meet love of bass fishing.

Catch Co. worked with Ryan Whitacre and Hey since last year on their TightRope jig. Chicago-based Catch Co. is a mix of upward-trending online fishing brands.

Catch Co. developed a new version of the TightRope jig and helped manufacture them at high levels. In January, their Baby Firework Super Jig was featured in tens of thousands of the subscription Mystery Tackle Box.

Wes Davis did a cool video, “Catch Co. Presents: Walking the TightRope.”

“He is a madman behind the camera,” Whitacre messaged. “Couldn’t have picked a better guy to work on the video. He crushed it!”

Whitacre is a drummer/guitarist and skateboarder, a hero to our youngest son. He grew up in Palatine, not on rock but hip-hop.

Catch Co. brand director Matt Kestufskie reached out to them originally.

“We had a meeting and were totally stoked on the idea from the get-go!” Whitacre messaged. “It is definitely a breakthrough for myself and JayPee. We were very limited in the amount of jigs we could produce, being just the two of us doing all the pouring, painting and tying.”

Not a coincidence.

“JayPee and I were familiar with Catch Co. and were big fans of what they were doing,” Whitacre messaged. “A few of their baits were regularly thrown by us already.”

“We were both very familiar with the Catch Co. conglomerate of brands,” Hey messaged. “We have friends in that office for years before this collaboration. At one point, I believe Ryan and myself considered getting jobs there.”

Ryan Whitacre in action. Provided photo

Ryan Whitacre in action.

Provided

JayPee Hey in action. Provided photo

JayPee Hey in action.

fishing, JayPee Hey, outdoors

Whitacre is known for the 6.15-pound smallmouth he caught at Diversey Harbor, then held in the water for more than an hour until Tom Palmisano from Henry’s Sports and Bait arrived with a certified scale.

“The other would be my first-ever Chicago smallmouth,” Whitacre messaged. “I moved from Belvidere to Chicago in 2003 to play music, but I loved fishing and was worried about being able to still fish when I arrived. I caught a 3-pounder near the Shedd Aquarium and was just super-stoked to know that I still had quality fishing opportunities nearby. Soon after that catch, it began to rule my life.”

Hey’s favorite Chicago catch “is probably the first big smallmouth hooked on a jig [not a TightRope], but it was BIG, and I did not even land her,” he messaged. “But it opened my mind that I could chase these things the way I wanted, with bigger line and stronger hooks.”

This is one snapshot in time, more coming.

Whitacre will also chase his dream by fishing the Northern Division of the Bassmaster Opens series in 2021. He will guide smallmouth trips through Freedom Boat Club Chicago.

“I would like to get the TightRope Baby Firework jig in the hands of as many anglers as possible, scratch out a living in the fishing industry and continue to be on the water fishing as much as I can,” Hey said.

“As always, JayPee and I will be hoofing it in downtown Chicago from shore this spring, looking for that always satisfying jig bite,” Whitacre messaged. “We’re addicted!”

Jigs are available at Karl’s Bait & Tackle (shopkarls.com). Handmade originals are on sale at tightropefishing.com.

ILLINOIS HUNTING

Not sure why the holdup, but we will post overall harvest for Illinois deer hunters when it becomes available at chicago.suntimes.com/outdoors.

WILD THINGS

Readers think snows helped with feeder-bird numbers and had other suggestions I will get to.

STRAY CAST

Seeing Tom Brady in the Super Bowl again is like needing an appendectomy on the first day of a Canadian trip.

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