MINNEAPOLIS -- While many Minnesotans were huddled inside their homes over the holidays, hiding from subzero temperatures, ice fishing guru Steve Baumann had a crew on a frozen Twin Cities lake, boring practice holes with an innovative auger his company, AWC Distributing, makes and markets.
Baumann, an engineer, is known nationally and even internationally for the Vexilar sonar units (aka depth finders/fish locators/"flashers") manufactured by another company he owns, Vexilar Inc. Like AWC, Vexilar is located in Bloomington.
People who don't fish, especially those who don't ice fish, can be forgiven if they haven't heard of Baumann. A native of southwest Minnesota, where his family farmed, Baumann, 65, cut his angling teeth on Lake Shetek, far from Minnesota's storied northern lakes country.
When he was just 3 weeks old, Baumann was bitten by an encephalitis-infected mosquito. He recovered. But he never fully regained use of his legs.
The affliction didn't hold him back. While a student in Marshall, Minn., Baumann worked part time for a company that did contract work for Vexilar. In time, Vexilar would develop the first liquid crystal display fish finders. But its signature product didn't surface until Vexilar bought rights to a "rotating wheel flasher" sonar unit that was a flop for bass fishing -- its intended purpose -- but perfect for ice fishing.
Baumann and a partner, the late Skip Christman, bought Vexilar in 1986, and in the years since, the company has thrived, despite an onslaught of competition from multiple big names in the fishing sonar business.
Now Baumann, who was inducted into the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame in 2004 and the national Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 2012, appears to have hit another home run in the ice fishing game with an auger he calls K-Drill.
"The K-Drill will be a disrupter in the auger business," Baumann said.
Innovatively, the K-Drill relies on a separately purchased 1/2-inch cordless drill for its powerhead. Even more innovatively, the K-Drill (the auger part of the unit) isn't made of steel, as many conventional augers are.
Instead, the K-Drill features an aluminum shaft, steel cutting blades and a plastic conical auger section. The result: A K-Drill tips the scales at only about 10 pounds, a fraction of the weight of some augers.