The close-knit nature of the fishing community helped unite four people three years ago with one objective: To catch the biggest fish possible.
Cottage Grove's Blake Bednar teamed up with fellow Twin Cities residents Jakob Hals, Luke Hentges and Peter Warner in 2014 to create fishing videos under the name Northwoods Angling. The group met at fishing tournaments and on social media pages dedicated to the sport.
Today, the group does regular YouTube videos under the channel Northwoods Angling. A quick look at those videos will explain what kind of fish they seek.
"We're a niche group," Bednar said. "We're kind of bottom-feeder fisherman. We're fishing for the biggest fish. Lake sturgeon and flathead catfish are the two biggest fish in the state of Minnesota."
While the group is stationed in Minnesota, and like to fish the rivers around the Twin Cities, they often travel across the country to film new footage. They work day jobs, and most have families, but they always manage to find free time dedicated to Northwoods Angling.
"We all have very diverse backgrounds as far what we do to earn our money to go on long trips like this," Bednar said. "When you have your own boat and your own truck, you essentially are just paying for gas."
Northwoods Angling focuses on mostly riverways in search of monster fish.
The group's most popular video to-date occurred when Hals and Hentges captured a 100-plus lbs. Catfish on the Missouri River in Missouri. The video, which is 10-and-a-half minutes long, has more than 175,000 views.
"The true emotion comes out in that video," Hals said.
Northwoods Angling has worked to create high-quality videos with the goal to set itself apart from other competition. They shoot video in 4K resolution and a use strict editing process.
"Anybody can go get the fish, that's safe to say," Bednar said. "As far as putting together high-quality fishing films, especially at night, those are a lot fewer and far between."
While the group seeks the thrill of catching trophy fish, they also advocate for the catch and release method of putting them back in the water. This way, future fishing enthusiasts can have the same experience.
"We try to let the people know, put the fish back," Bednar said. "Especially big trophy fish. We have no problem with consuming smaller fish, but as far as sustaining the trophy population of fish, one key factor to doing so is releasing the breeding population back into the river system."
Northwoods Angling has increased its volume of the videos in the past few years, and the group has also used live stream videos to interact with viewers. The efforts have helped increase the number of YouTube subscribers from 200 to about 5,400 in the past year.
In the future, the group hopes to travel even further in search of new adventures.
"Next year we're going to maybe Spain and Alaska," Bednar said. "We'll get further out, branching out getting footage in places other people haven't."
The group's videos can be found by searching 'Northwoods Angling' on YouTube, and more information can be found online at www.northwoodsangling.com.