Photo by Todd ZawistowskiNorthern Michigan fishing fans have a new weapon for their arsenal. Ever since childhood, Ken “KJ” Scarpace, 24, had wanted to invent something, sell it, and make a living as an entrepreneur. Back in 2009 he had what he considered his first viable idea: a new fishing lure targeted to Northern Michigan fish like salmon and steelhead. As fishing fever ignites throughout the basin during the spring months, Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine’s editor Jeff Smith checked in with KJ at his Manistee workshop.  The following interview was first featured in the May 2014 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

How far back does your fascination with fishing go?

I grew up on a small lake near Detroit, and before I could spell my name I would sign by drawing a fish or a boat.

Can you recall your first charter trip on the big water?

When I was about 13, I went on my first salmon trip on Lake Michigan. I’ve been hooked ever since. I love the salmon. I love how big they are. It’s an awesome fish.

When did the lure idea strike you?

It was 2009, during a second summer working as first mate on a charter boat. I made 13 prototypes of the lure and then the 14th one I thought was good enough to take out on the water.

So, what should an angler know about your lure, Scarpace Rig? Why does it work?

It has a slot where you attach a small filet from a bait fish so it has the real scent, and it swims true, just like a bait fish.

Tell us about that first time fishing with it.

I went out with a buddy who runs a charter out of Manistee. It was just coming on to summer. We started setting lines at about 60 feet, and within 10 minutes the rod popped, and it was fish on. That lure was plain wood, no color or sealant. And I thought, I know I’ve got something here that works. We put it down again and caught another one. And I wanted to stop using it because I was afraid of losing it, but my buddy was like, “Hey, we’re catching fish with it.” So we kept using it, and we caught a couple more fish and I said, okay, that’s enough and I put it away.

What’s happened since?

From then on it’s been working with patent lawyers, developing the business, marketing, finding an injection molder. When it first came out of the injection molder, I thought holy cow, this is the real deal now.

Share a highlight from the journey.

One of my old hockey coaches from Traverse City called me. I hadn’t heard from him in like six years. And he said, “I’ve been using your lures almost exclusively, and I just won a tournament and the payout was $1,000.” He said he wanted to get some more lures. I was pretty pumped about that. I was ecstatic!

Visit to purchase the Scarpace Rig.

May 2014 coverMore Northern Michigan Fishing