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.

J. R. Cooper

J. R. Cooper

Inducted 2019


When nominating J. R. Cooper, Jim Kalkofen said the following about Coop: “In my opinion he is one of the all-time greats when it comes to Minnesota fishing. He may own the claim to the most giant pike boated and released in the Brainerd Lakes area. Along with his guiding and lure development, Coop has won more than 75 bass and pike
tournaments. Add many impressive second- and third-place finishes. He’s conducted thousands of seminars, at area resorts in summer and at sport shows in winter. His company connections include Clam, Northland Tackle, and Vexilar.” In the 1990s, due to health reasons, J. R. Cooper wound down his super-busy guiding schedule. But his deep involvement in Minnesota fishing has continued, with frequent sport show seminars, tournament-fishing, tackle promotions, media appearances, support for charity fishing events, and lots of fishing in all seasons. More about J. R. Cooper, “Pike Specialist”

• J. R. Cooper was born in Brainerd on Feb. 5, 1947, growing up along the Mississippi River. He graduated from Washington High School in Brainerd. Besides his intense open-water fishing and related exploits by day, he was a master mechanic for 46 years, including self-employment and work for others; employed by BNSF Railroad for 25
years; periodically returned to college to update his industry knowledge; and taught auto tech at Brainerd Vo-Tech for a few years. His education included courses in fish biology.

• In his early guiding years, Coop booked trips via numerous resorts and bait shops. Examples: Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge, Myr-Mar (Mille Lacs); S&W Bait & Tackle, Sportland Bait & Tackle, Nesheim Bait & Tackle; Gull Lake: Cragun’s, Grand View Lodge, Island View, Lost Lake Lodge, Madden’s, and Quarterdeck Resort; Nokay Lake Resort, Shingwauk Resort (Little Pine Lake), and others.

• In 1982, experienced guide J. R. Cooper started his Area Guide Service, including five full-timers and 18 on-call guides. Coop specialized in bass, pike, and muskies, plus walleyes on request. While operating his Area Guide Service for nine years, he still booked trips via resorts and bait ‘n tackle shops.

• J. R. Cooper’s Minnesota fishing has been featured on Lindners’ Angling Edge, Ron Schara’s Minnesota Bound, Winkelman Productions, and Fishing the West. Newspaper and magazine articles have featured his tournament wins. He’s fished many Governor’s Fishing Openers.

• J. R. started and co-owned Impact Lure Company with Jeff Wrobel — designing, producing, and marketing hand-tooled hard baits, as well as heavier spinner baits, for 16 years. Marketing included sales booths at sport shows in the five-state area.

• Coop’s tournament schedule includes charitable fishing events for Adult & Teen Challenge, Nick Adams Classic, Fishing Has No Boundaries, Confidence Learning Center, and the Coop’s Classic, named in J. R. Cooper’s honor. He also works with Wounded Warriors for Fishing.

• In 2009, J. R. Cooper helped start the Brainerd Lakes chapter of Let’s Go Fishing (LGF), which provides fishing opportunities for older adults, veterans, youth, and the disabled — on Gull, Bay, Rice, and Pelican lakes. Early on, he contributed his fishing knowledge and mechanical skills to make the LGF pontoon fishing-friendly. He donated fishing tackle, encouraged tackle dealers to do the same, and helped train LGF First Captains.

• In the 1970s, Coop, Jeff Wrobel, and several others began Brainerd’s Take A Kid Fishing Day, the first year on Upper Crow Wing River, the second on Gull River; and at Lum Park on Rice Lake ever since. Over the years, take-a-kid-fishing events have become popular across Minnesota.

• Since the early 1970s, J. R. Cooper has annually competed in Northerns, Inc. tournaments.

• On June 3, 2017, J. R. Cooper and Cindy Gibbs placed first in the Nor-Son Pike Division of the MN Fishing Challenge multi-species tournament on Gull Lake. They were among 127 teams who helped raise nearly $300,000 for Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

• On June 16, 2017, at the Confidence Learning Center’s 34th annual Fishing Classic at Madden’s on Gull Lake, J. R. Cooper placed first in the pike division. Coop was also honored with the Everett Lassig Award given to the Fishing Classic Ambassador of the year.