In His Own Words…Larry Bollig, Borderline Bear


About the most pretentious thing you’ll ever hear out of Hall of Fame Angler Larry Bollig is, “I was pretty good looking back when I had hair.” The rest of the time, this humble fishing legend maintains a pretty low profile, and lets his angling accomplishments speak for themselves, just in case anyone asks.

Larry was born and raised in the small town of Pierz, Minn. about 20 minutes south of Brainerd. He was introduced to fishing at an early age by his grandmother; the two would catch rock bass together from Skunk Creek in Pierz. He remembers catching his first northern pike on Boom Lake, a tiny pond connected to the Mississippi River within the Brainerd city limits, at age 7 or 8.

“My grandfather took me on many fishing trips up to Cass Lake,” Larry recalls. “When I was about 12 years old, I saw a Super Dude saltwater jig in a bait shop, and begged my grandfather to buy me one. We took it the area where Kitchi Lake meets the north end of Cass. I wound up catching a whole bunch of walleyes on it, while my grandfather caught none on his usual tactics. I learned the power of the jig that day, and have been a jig fisherman ever since.”

At age 18, Bollig joined the Marine Corps, serving for 4 years until 1966. He moved to the Minneapolis area, took a job in a foundry, and in 1966, married his lifelong partner Jeannie, and started a family. Today, they have two boys and a girl, having lost another daughter at an early age.

“I really got into walleye fishing on Mille Lacs at that time,” he says. “I’d drive up the lake, fish all night, come off at dawn to grab a couple hours of sleep, then head back out and fish all day.”

Life on and off the water has been an adventure for this straight-talking guy they call The Bear, and here we go, with Larry Bollig in his own words.

MidWest Outdoors: Take us down the roads that got you so deeply into the fishing business. You’re out of the service, married, and working.

Bollig: “About that time, the Lindners started promoting fishing, tournaments came along in the early ‘70s, and I figured that fishing might be a good and enjoyable way to make a living. So I started getting into walleye tournaments, and did pretty well. Around ’75 or ’76, Burger Brothers Sporting Goods, where I later worked as a store manager, began running what they called triple-header tournaments, held on three lakes–one for walleyes, one bass and one muskie. Those were right up my alley; in fact, I won the overall title that first year.

“I also started doing fishing seminars, and began to gain some notoriety. I took a lot of pride in never asking for anything, and doing things on my own; and in sharing as much information as possible.

“Throughout it all, I fished for just about all species in every way you can imagine. But I really got into multi-species fishing weedlines in the many natural lakes in our area. I didn’t have any teachers, so I learned pretty much on my own. I made up a lot of my own jig & worm combos along the way, before jigworming components became popular and available in stores. I found that you could catch just about everything on a jig, and it remains my favorite way to fish.

“I really got into bass tournaments about 20 years ago, and started going up to the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, held on Rainy Lake at along the Minnesota/Ontario border. I just loved the area, and decided early on that this is where I wanted to retire. Fortunately for me, Jeannie agreed, and we now live in International Falls. I get to fish all year long here. Admittedly, I’m still waiting for Al Gore to come through on that global warming stuff, but in the meantime, I’m happy.”

MWO: “So, what keeps you busy these days, besides fishing every chance you get?”

Bollig: “I still enjoy fishing tournaments, although I have to admit that Rainy Lake smallmouths drive me crazy, because the patterns can change so much on a moment’s notice. On the one hand, I absolutely love fishing for them. On the other, they are such versatile and adaptable fish that they are on the move at all times. Just about the time you figure them out, poof, they’re gone again. It’s a real challenge.

“Every year, I come down to Brainerd to fish the annual Camp Confidence Nick Adams Fishing Classic, which is a charity event that raises money for kids with challenges to spend some quality time at camp, fishing and enjoying the outdoors. They learn to appreciate that they’re not alone in their challenges, and draw strength from others in similar circumstances.

“Fishingwise, my partners and I have done very well at this event over the years, particularly in the multi-species division. Guess why? Gull Lake is the perfect example of a lake where you can go out all day, pitch a jigworm, never take it off your line, and expect to get bit all day long. Putting together a nice mixed-species limit of one walleye, one northern pike and one largemouth bass is right up our alley. We catch fish, have fun and raise money for a good cause. Can’t beat that!

“While I’m pretty much retired these days, I still keep a few irons in the fire. Back in about 1993, I started doing a radio show with Mark Fisher, the man from Rapala. We were substitute hosts for an outdoors show at KSTP, and the station manager immediately decided that we should replace the existing host, based on how our camaraderie and fishing knowledge came across on the air. The show ran for many years on KSTP AM, but eventually moved. However, Mark and I still host Bear Facts and Fishing Tales on Sunday nights on KBOB and three other stations in Minnesota. And it’s still a lot of fun, sharing our experience and insights with anglers everywhere.”

MWO: On a personal note, way back in the late 1970s, my very first field assignment at In-Fisherman was to go fishing with Larry Bollig on the Mississippi River at Redwing, Minn. It was midwinter, the temperature was cold, but the fishing was hot, and Larry made sure we put a ton of walleyes in the boat. We’ve been friends ever since, which is a pretty easy thing to do. Because even though some folks fall for the misconception that he’s kind of a gruff bear who tells things as he sees them—thus the “Bear Facts” moniker—on the inside, he’s actually kind of a big softy with a big heart, always willing to share his knowledge to help others catch more and bigger fish.”

In recognition of his long career at doing just that, Larry Bollig was inducted as a legendary angler in the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame in 2002, and in 2015, into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. Both honors have been well earned over his many years in the fishing industry, and continue to be to this day.


Want more Bear Facts from Larry Bollig?

You’ll find them in the podcast section at MidWest On the bottom of the home page, look for the button that says Podcast, click on it and you’ll find the interview. Look it up for May, where Larry Bollig shares how he made his own jigworming combos, and learned to fish weedlines on his own; describes fishing for smallmouth bass on Rainy Lake; and offers a few words of wisdom for catching big northern pike throughout the angling season.

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Bollig through the years

1950s: Grows up in rural Minnesota, fishing creeks, backwaters and small lakes for anything that bites.

1960: Joins the U. S. Marine Corps.

1964: Moves to the Minneapolis area.

1966: Marries Jeannie and starts a family.

1970s: Begins fishing tournaments and doing seminars.

1980s: Works at Burger Brothers as a store manager.

1993: Starts doing Bear Facts and Fish Tales radio with partner Mark Fisher.

Mid-1990s: Begins fishing Canadian Bass Fishing Championships at Rainy Lake.

2002: Inducted into Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame.

2015: Inducted into National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

2017: Now resides in International Falls, Minn., where he fishes darned near every day.



Bollig clearly has his priorities in order.



There’s plenty of time for crappies on ice during a long winter in International Falls, Minn.

Jigworming his way to success at the annual Camp Confidence Nick Adams Fishing Classic.

The bear and a spare—Mark ‘Fish’ Fisher and Larry Bollig, Sunday night hosts of Bear Facts and Fish Tales at KBOB FM radio.