Those We Honor

You’ll find more than just fishing celebrities in this list. One can make a significant impact
on the lives of many without ever being well known. It is important to honor all of
those who had a great influence on the great sport of fishing, whether famous or not.
Corporate advances tend to be much more visible to us. For it’s their products that
shape the evolution of the sport of fishing.

Class of 2023

Hank was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and had an adventurous childhood growing up fishing and hunting rabbits in the metro lakes area. He developed his passion for fishing when he was around 5 years old at his Grandmother’s resort near Garrison, MN.  He remembers spending countless hours fishing off the dock where he caught his first of many perch.

In his teen years he lived on his uncle’s farm in Eagle Bend, MN where he fine-tuned his appreciation for the great outdoors and became a more avid shooter and archer. After graduating from Southwest High School he enlisted in the Navy and did his tour in Vietnam from 1966-1970  as an HC-7 Helicopter Combat Rescue Airman, Crew chief and Swimmer, serving in Vietnam, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Once back in the states, he decided to move to Brainerd because, “If you want to be outdoors, Brainerd is the place to do it!” he says. Hank went on to get his degree at Normandale Community College and also attended St. Cloud State University.

Today, Hank remains honored and proud to tell that it was during this time in 1976 that he was invited by Marv Koep himself, to join the Legendary Nisswa Guide’s League, (the oldest guide’s league in Minnesota). These guys don’t need to tell tall tales, stretch the truth or secret away their successful fishing techniques.  Instead, it is their strong camaraderie and massive combined years of fishing that makes them stand out from the crowd as Legendary and exemplary.

Hank has not missed guiding a single Fishing Opener since 1976, as a member of the Nisswa Guides League, including all of the area Governor’s Fishing Openers.  He confidently continues to hone his lifelong passion, drive, and knack for catching all species of fish in the Brainerd Lakes Area.

With Hank’s seemingly boundless energy, can-do attitude, magnetic personality, and strong conviction and passion for fishing, he continues to make a name for himself and has been Featured over the years in Ron Schara’s Minnesota Bound, Babe Winkelman Productions, Kent Hrbeck Outdoors, Bret Amundson’s Northland Outdoors, Ray Gildow’s book Legends and Legacies, A History of the Nisswa Guides League,  PN Magazine, MNPVA Magazine, Brainerd Dispatch, On the Road with Jason Davis, Alaskan news for landing an over 76 pound king salmon, KARE11 Bring Me The News, Pine and Lakes Echo, amongst others that go back so far he can hardly remember anymore! His industry partnerships have included Fenwick Gazette ProStaff, St Croix ProStaff, Northland Tackle Guides Program, Lindy Little Joe Guides Program, Berkley Tackle, Rapala VIP’s, several sponsors over the years including St Croix Rods, Northland Tackle, Ranger Boats, Lucas Oil, Aquaview, and Head Racing Inc. In 2013 his hard work, character and popular vote won for him a customized, retrofitted, Veterans Service Organization wrapped, van from Pensky and Pennzoil.

Hank has not forgotten or taken lightly all those who have helped him throughout his life’s adventurous journey and tries to pay it forward to the community wherever he can. For many years he has volunteered as a Board Member, Fish Captain, and Fish Guide Liaison for the Brainerd Lakes Area Chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries – an organization that provides fishing opportunities for more than 120 disabled anglers plus their assistants or family each year. He has proudly helped to guide this organization into being the largest chapter in the country! In addition to fishing, he’s been an avid game hunter and trapper and continues to volunteer annually for such organizations as Trolling for the Troops, Outdoors With Heroes, Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame Night with the Fishing Pros Fundraiser , Veterans Camp Ripley deer and turkey hunts, Veterans on the Lake Resort PVA annual disabled Veteran fishing trips, and helped create and coordinates the Paralyzed Veterans of MN Funshoot where last year he single-handedly raised over 15K in cash and prizes, and is often invited to speak at many of these engagements as well as at local schools and colleges.

The Ebert family name has long been associated with some type of racing fame over the decades and when the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) decided to host fishing tournaments at the Nationals in Brainerd, the Nisswa Guides League turned out to be the only gig in town capable of handling 20 guide trips twice a day for several years running.  This was where Hank not only guided many famous names but also became fast friends with Jim Head of Fuel Drag Racing fame, and thence lifelong sponsorship for a vast number of Hank’s endeavors as well as fund raisers for fishing, disabled people, and veterans as well as trapshooting and competing in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Hank still guides and rounds up his guide friends for the racers while he runs with Jim and his pit crew all over the country on Jim’s Top Fuel Funny Car team.  With Jim’s help and creative engineering genius, Hank has fished not just the Brainerd Lakes area but whatever puddle he finds himself near, including several of the lower 48, the Bahamas, peacock bass fishing in Brazil, King Salmon in Alaska, Bonefishing the Caicos and even Kauai. (Oh the tales they can tell!)

With Hank’s contagious smile and winning attitude, he makes it all look so easy!

…From a wheelchair – that you’d never see as he Captains his Ranger fishing boat!  You see, in 1970 Hank aged 23, was paralyzed from the waist down and hasn’t stood up or taken a single step since, and if he’s not the only paraplegic professional fishing guide in Minnesota, he’s certainly the one with the longest duration, still guiding with his comrades at age 76!

Most of us cannot begin to imagine the wear and tear of walking with one’s arms for all those years, the toll it must take, or the continuous daily obstacles and barriers that Hank has conquered at every turn with his life in a wheelchair. And yet Hank is often favored as the poster child and mentor for living one’s life to the fullest.  Hank enjoys nothing more than, “helping others become reacquainted with the outdoors after being injured or disabled, whether young or old, newly injured or long-term disabled, Veteran or civilian.” He has an exceptional gift for sharing and teaching all he knows and cannot count the number of people he has taught to fish or back in a trailer in his lifetime.

A wheelchair has the power to make or break a person.  Hank’s chair has had no choice but to come along for his ride as he excels at most anything he endeavors! Hank is exceptionally patient, has a keen eye for detail, always plans ahead yet can fly by the seat of his pants and can change direction on a moment’s notice. He shifts priorities at lightning speed, his manual dexterity is wicked fast, and he has an eagle eye and can assess and respond to changes in his environment before others even know what has happened. He has impressive horsepower. (Is it any surprise that he holds a Blackbelt in Karate?) In the hills and valleys of life, in the hairpin curves and unforeseen obstacles and bumps in the road, Hank knows well how to roll with the flow, veer over, around and through those obstacles and barriers, and yes even in the crashes, he never gets too uptight when things don’t go as well as intended. Hank is extremely competitive (racing is in his bloodlines after all), he “doesn’t come to the competition for the Silver medal”, he’s been heard to pronounce, “No guts, no glory!” more than occasionally, and yet when it comes right down to it, he only tries to best himself and will readily share with you all he can to take you right along with him.

Of noteworthy mention, Hank has competed Nationally and won over 65 medals, over half of which are Gold, since the year 2000 in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.  His competitive events are Archery, Air Rifle, Trapshooting, Field Events: Discus, Javelin and Shot-put. A couple years ago an official saw Hank’s shooting and invited him to try something new just for fun. He won at first attempt, with a bow, their and his first ever Bottlecap Challenge. He had never heard of or seen it done before and Hank did it without having the proper sites on his bow.

“I’ve always called it the Henry Current. (You know, like the Humboldt Current.) If you’re anywhere near him, somehow you can’t help but get swept up and it always leads to great things and new adventures!  I still can hardly keep up!” (Sandy)

Marv Koep opened the door.  Hank has never looked back.