Beyond the Pond with Connie Fuller of Snag Proof

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story by Jody Only – photos by Jody Only and Dan O’Sullivan

Editor’s Note: For this installment of Beyond the Pond, we take a little bit of a different turn with our subject. While Beyond the Pond is typically about the spouses who stand behind their angling husbands in support of a family business, we decided to talk to another type of woman in support of a family business.

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This time we turn our attention to Connie Fuller; one of the owners of Sang Proof Manufacturing; makers of the original hollow bodied topwater frog. Fuller and her brother; Harry Ehlers, took over the family business from their mother after the passing of their father and have built one of the most recognizable lure brands in the industry.

While she doesn’t have a husband casting and retrieving on the Bassmaster Elite Series or the FLW Tour; Ms. fuller has been like a friend and big sister to many of the sport’s best anglers. Please enjoy our first departure into women of the industry in Beyond the Pond with Connie Fuller of Snag Proof Manufacturing.

“I would come home from school and there would be boiling pots on the stove and I would ask my mom are we having frogs for dinner, again?” recalled Connie Fuller the female force behind Snag Proof Manufacturing. Thinking back she said she cannot remember a time when the original, hollow bodied soft plastic frogs didn’t fill the house.

“My dad; Harry Ehlers Sr., started making them as a hobby in the late ‘50s,” reported Fuller. “The dip mold process was something he learned about when he worked in advertising at Solo Marx, the Totes rubber boot company.”

Who would’ve known a rubber boot business could blossom forth the thought of a new fishing lure? Who would’ve thought that the soft, hollow bodied, weedless frog that was spawned from the rubber boots could turn into such an influence in the bass fishing business . For that matter, who could’ve known that the young girl in the Ehlers home was actually witnessing her future before her eyes.

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In 1961, Snag Proof incorporated; but as a mere toddler, Baby Connie had no interest. As a young girl she saw the frog business move to the basement of her family home in Ohio and their first employee hired. “That first employee still works for us today,” noted Fuller. “We fished with my dad when I was little. Mostly, I liked to go and catch panfish and bluegill. My dad taught me to use a fly rod to catch trout and when I was eight, I caught my first bass. “

Remembering the big bass catch while fishing with her dad Fuller stated, “We had to go way back on a farmer’s pond and it was getting dark; I got the bite and it was so big I thought it would pull me in the water.”

As she grew up, she married and went on to study fine arts and the family business went on without her. At the age of 26, she and her husband left Washington D.C. to return home to Cincinnati and both sought work.

On the recommendation of her mother, Mrs. Fuller ended her job search and went to work alongside dad. “It wasn’t something that I ever pictured myself doing; but I had studied advertising and thought I would do something with an ad agency or that type of marketing, she said. “Eventually, I took over everything my mom did and my brother Harry Jr. took over the things my dad did.”

Her husband fully supported her decision to enter the fray in the lily pads. The opportunity in the family business gave her time when she needed it and the flexibility to do things for her own family that she and her husband planned to grow. “It was a different time back then,” commented Mrs. Fuller. “It was a little difficult to be taken seriously in the industry as a female; but as years went by that changed and now I think I’m just seen as a person in the industry that is doing a good job.”

Fuller encompasses the business part of Snag Proof. She has also enjoyed much of the artistic side designing ads, writing copy and creating taglines like “Frogs Rule and Bass Drool” or “Frogzilla.” She has done this while her brother has focused on more of the research and development. Her favorite part of the business is talking to people. She commented, “The customers – the anglers – they are just genuinely good people.”

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With more than 20-years of froggin’ under her belt, Fuller’s fondest memory was the very first Snag Proof Open in 2001 on the California Delta. “It went out of Big Break and it was the second largest tournament ever to take place in the state,” she recalled. “We were blown away when we had 305 teams show up. It was kind of crazy. We actually had to have guys show us their frogs, they had done some wild things to try and get it to pass for a ‘Snag Proof’ bait. We even had one fisherman that had tied a Snag Proof frog without hooks to the back of a Zara Spook.”

Needless to say, they didn’t let the Zara Spook contraption fly. Last year, Snag Proof celebrated 10-years of Opens in the West on the California Delta and by now has added three annual events on the Potomac River in our nations’ capital and eight of them on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.

Fuller recently experienced another proud moment. She said that was quite proud that Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chris Lane – one of her pro staff members – had just fished his way to the Classic championship only weeks ago. “He is a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy,” she stated. “I loved seeing the Snag Proof logo on the jersey of the World Champion bass fisherman and I also loved seeing him Tebow at the end.”

Through the years of Snag Proof, Fuller has also filled her time with family; her husband and her 19-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son. “To me, the part I like best about being part of Snag Proof is being part of my family business,” she said. “But, I don’t see either one of my children following in my footsteps; first of all, neither one wants to live in Ohio.” She said she had given some though to what her move might be when the time comes for her children to leave her own lily pad field. “I guess when it is time for me to retire; I will find the next step for Snag Proof, probably sell and move away.”

Her hopes for that time include a place where she and her husband can have a couple of horses; a lake or a pond and a studio where she can continue to draw and paint. If that pond just happened to be filled with weeds and croaking bullfrogs; it may just be the perfect place for Fuller to spend her days.
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