Fairmont-based Catch Cam Nets gives anglers proof for their fish tales.

A few months back, Beau Robinson was fly fishing in the West Virginia back-country when he snagged a massive brook trout. “Definitely the biggest I’ve caught,” says the 26-year-old lifelong angler. “It was probably the new state record.”

Robinson didn’t have any way to land the fish once he got it reeled in. He was alone and had lost his net while hiking in. He had a camera, but not enough hands to take a picture while keeping the fish on the line. “There’s just no way to get the proof of it.”

But that’s not even the worst part of this one-that-got-away tale. Robinson is the inventor of Catch Cam Nets, fishing nets designed for use with GoPros and other action cameras. And this was exactly the kind of situation Robinson designed his nets to solve. “If I had the camera rolling, even if I lost it, I’ve still got pictures and videos.”

He came up with the idea for camera-equipped nets in 2015. He was tired of missing photos of his catches just because he didn’t have a friend handy to take pictures, so he duct taped a GoPro to his wooden fishing net. When the tape wore out and he lost a GoPro in the water, Robinson realized the design could be improved.

The next version was an aluminum net featuring a camera mounted on the handle. He filed for a patent and began looking to have his nets manufactured. He considered outsourcing production, but that didn’t feel right. He looked for manufacturers in the United States, but that was far too expensive. So Robinson decided to do it himself and set up a shop in Fairmont where he bends the frames, puts the net bags together, and attaches the handles and camera mounts. Only the camera mounts aren’t manufactured in Robinson’s shop. A machinist down the street mills them for him.

Robinson brought Catch Cam Nets to market in July 2017. And even though he hasn’t done much advertising, his nets have now caught fish in 37 states. “Our product pretty much markets itself. Once people buy a net and take a photo with it, they’re going to post it.”

Catch Cam Nets are now exclusively available on the company’s website, but Robinson hopes to expand into brick-and-mortar stores soon. He is also still perfecting his product. This year he debuted a new model with a powder-coated finish and hex-shaped handle. “Now I feel I have a perfect product I can really scale up.”

It’s a crowded marketplace. Outdoors enthusiasts—and anglers, especially—are constantly being pushed to buy new gadgets. But Robinson says his business is different. “I’m not just selling a product. I’m selling the memories you can capture with it,” he says.

catchcamnets.com, @catchcamnets on Facebook

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Zack Harold
Written by Zack Harold
Zack Harold is a southern West Virginia native. He covered education, health, and government at the Charleston Daily Mail before becoming the newspaper’s features editor. He joined New South Media in 2015, became managing editor of WV Living in January 2016, and took over as managing editor of Wonderful West Virginia in July 2016.