Before he became famous on the outdoor television scene, Mike Olson spent many hours sitting in a hard-sided fish house parked in his yard editing fishing trip footage of himself and his friends. That was roughly ten years ago, when the Thompson, North Dakota-native wasn’t the host of a national fishing show or the successful professional angler that has competed (and nearly won) the Super Bowl of professional walleye fishing.
Today, Olson has a video production company, a team of 15 that help him create some of the most unique and timely fishing excursions available (all caught on film of course) and the type of personal story that reminds all of us—from the master angler to those who’ve never baited a hook—that the thoughts and aspirations we have to live with joy and freedom and passion are all possible. Mike Olson did it, and he’s still doing it. A kid that grew up catfishing on the Wild Rice River in a town in a Minnesota County that only has one dinky lake, is getting paid to go on adventurous fishing trips where the best footage they are after comes from the times he or his counterparts are laughing and smiling the most. It’s not easy, Olson would say, but it’s worth it because he is doing what we are all in search of in our own ways and means. Mike Olson is living his dream.
From Forums To Pro Footage
In 2010, Olson had just caught his personal best walleye. After posting the photo on an internet fishing forum, he was disappointed and frustrated. The reaction he had received on his big-fish picture was less than ideal. Some questioned its size or authenticity. Others scolded him for the handling of the fish. In general, the reaction was negative. “I went from an all-time high and they took me down. I wanted to change that,” he says. “I wanted to create an online community that embraces what someone considers to be their best catch. You catch a fish of a lifetime and you should get a pat on the back, not a slap in the face.” Shortly after that experience, Olson and his brother started Fish Addictions. In the early days, it was also a forum style site. Today, Fish Addictions is a high-end outdoor-themed show sponsored by the biggest names in fishing and the outdoors aired on the biggest and broadest networks available to us in the GRAND region and beyond.
In the early days, Olson would organize and book all of their fishing trips to destinations spanning a wide swath on the map in Canada and the U.S. Olson, and whomever was with him at the time, would take turns filming their excursions. No one had real experience running a camera or editing footage. “There was zero intent to be where we are at today, but we didn’t care, we loved doing it,” he says.
Between Olson and a fishing partner, the pair figured out how to edit footage. They grinded to find sponsors to support part of their addiction and now the team is in season four. To be successful in the fishing show scene, Olson and his team decided to do what very few—if any—outdoor television teams choose to do: produce, edit and air footage three weeks after its captured. Most television shows on hunting or fishing show footage that is a year old, but not Olson. “The turnaround time is intense,” he says, “but having current video that our viewers can apply in the same year as the show is a pretty cool aspect. It is also very stressful.”
After producing the show without expectations, Eskimo—the famous fishing and outdoor brand that makes fish houses, ice augers and a plethora of other gear—approached Olson and pushed him to up his production value. Now he has a full production team, videographer and editor. The team travels all over the Midwest to capture footage. “We have a long list of places we go,” he says, “and if we haven’t been there, we’ll get there soon.”
Life As A Famous Face
The face recognition is hard to get used to, Olson says. Gone are the days of walking a fishing expo as a spectator. Now, Olson is the main draw. “Having that recognition is foreign to me. I’ll never get used to that.” Olson is married with kids and dogs and a mortgage, but because his wife has been supportive of his dream quest, he says it has all been possible (he couldn’t stress enough how important his wife has been to his success). He is gone 150-plus days a year fishing for footage or tournament winnings. In addition to hosting and producing his show, he also competes on the Professional Walleye Tour, the top circuit for walleye fisherman.
Despite the success he has had in fishing, Olson still holds another job as well. In the summers, he operates a landscaping company that he and his brother started to—no surprise—give them time to fish and hunt in the winter. At his current pace and rise in the industry, he will most likely start filming and fishing full-time.
The Key To Living Your Dream
Of anyone that could give us sage advice about living our best life, Olson is qualified, even if he is too humble and nice to reveal why he’s been so successful. But, Olson does recognize and have thoughts on his story and what it would take others to take a similar path. “I’m living out a childhood dream and that is pretty cool that I get to say that,” he says. “It’s never going to be easy to live the dream though.”
Olson believes in goal setting to start. You have to know it won’t happen overnight, he insists, but it all starts with a big goal. From there, set smaller, more attainable goals. “Little milestones go a long way in helping you stay on course.”
With his show, he tries to look at what is already being done and to do it better or differently. His team relishes the opportunity to be creative and execute on ideas—even if they don’t always work. “Don’t let the things that don’t work get you down. Don’t let failure discourage you,” he says.
The kid from Ada, Minnesota, that is now the face of a major outdoor series on Fox Sports North and brand ambassador for Eskimo his words do hold some weight when you think about it. Think about all of the footage that doesn’t get used on his shows, he reminds us. Some might consider that a failure of production. Others would say it was all just part of the process. Either way, Olson has displayed that in fishing or any other element of life, committing with passion to an act without worry of what happens after is the key to emulating Mike Olson, who on a blustery winter day on the ice in some off-the-map lake bay with snow pelting him in the face, his fishing lines freezing over and a froze-up camera can still say with a smile, he is living his dream. G
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From Issue 1, 2019