Yakima, which recently unveiled a new Midwest Finesse hardbait called the Mag Lip Finesse that was designed with the help of local fishing guide Clyde Holscher, is a traditionally cold-water fishing company looking to get into the bass-fishing market.
“Clyde the Guide has been a sales representative for years,” Heinen said. “He talked with Yakima and they talked about my fishing and the path I am chasing and Yakima asked me for a résumé. I sent one in and they called me back and asked if I wanted to be on the team.
“I was speechless. When I was on the phone with Yakima, I didn’t think it would turn into a sponsorship quite yet. I am just very blessed to have Z-Man fishing products, Yakima Bait Company, TBC Jigs and Carhartt behind my back and helping me in what I love to do.”
Adding Heinen, a three-time Bassmaster All-State selection with designs on fishing competitively at the highest levels in the sport, was an ideal fit for the company, according to company representative Jarod Higginbotham. He even compared Heinen to two-time Bassmaster Classic winner Jordan Lee, who shares a sponsor now with Heinen in Carhartt.
“Well, you know, our company is a lot different than a lot of other companies,” Higginbotham said. “We are fishermen ourselves who design fishing gear that works for fishermen to go out and enjoy the sport of fishing and love it. We’re a family-run business since 1934 and we do it. We eat it, we sleep it, we breathe it, we love it.
“He has that same thing, man. He reminds me kind of the kid who won the Classic, Jordan Lee. I watched him give his speech at the 2017 Classic, and he’s up there in tears and he’s like ‘Man, I don’t even know what to say, I’m just a kid who loves fishing. I’m just here because I picked up a rod as a kid and I loved it.’ He just kind of reminds me of that kid.”
Higginbotham said Heinen’s love for the sport is one thing that will help him go far as an angler.
“He’s just excited, he’s got a lot of good things, a lot of positive vibes and, you know, in all reality we sell fun,” Higginbotham said. “That’s what we do as a fishing company is we sell fun to people. He just kind of fits our MO as far as, you know, we sell fun. He’s positive, he’s enthusiastic, he’s already sending me a bunch of photos with my bait, catching fish. He’s smiling, he’s happy and he’s just kind of representing us as I was wanting to see somebody represent our company out in the field without me having to micro-manage them.”
He said that having some youth on the pro staff would also help to educate a younger crowd about everything the company offers.
“Guys like Thomas who are excited about fishing, who love to fish just to fish and is into the social media — his résumé is phenomenal for his age — we see him as getting our foot in the door with a younger generation,” Higginbotham said.
As a pro-staffer, Heinen said he will look to promote the company’s products to show anglers how effective they can be on bass.
“I try to represent my sponsors to the best of my ability and that’s all they ask for,” Heinen said. “There are many people who have helped me along the way, to which I owe a lot of gratitude. I just need to stay humble and make them proud.”
Higginbotham added that Holscher’s Mag Lip Finesse lures have already taken off in popularity.
“You know, it’s really catching on,” Higginbotham said. “We’re known as a salmon, steelhead company for the most part. That’s kind of our biggest thing. But you know, breaking into this bass world and showing people something that’s different — it’s completely different than the way people fish. It fits the Ned Rig style of fishing, that slower, finesse fishing, and it’s just something different.
“In the bass world, you know as well as I do that different is good a lot of times. People want to see that, and it’s being received very, very well.”He also teased that there would likely be more bass lures coming into the market from Yakima in the future.
“We look for those niches to fill that everybody else is kind of overlooking,” Higginbotham said. “But I am working on a couple of other lures for the bass market. It’ll probably be a couple of years before they’re out because my full job is not lure design ... I just don’t have that time.”
NOTE: Heinen’s former high school teammate, Brock Bila, also is making a big wave in the bass-fishing world, heading to Florence, Ala., this week to fish with Tom Alsop from Nov. 8-10 at the 2018 Academy Sports + Outdoors BASS Nation Championship at Pickwick Lake.