Nov 20, 2020 by Derek Montague

HALIFAX – Guillermo Villarreal was first taught the sport of fishing by his father when he was just six years old. Together, they fished for large bass in the northern region of Mexico and even entered competitions. For the father and son, fishing was an activity they did nearly every weekend.

It’s no surprise that, while taking a business class at Saint Mary’s in 2019, Villarreal chose fishing as a theme when he had to create a business idea. Looking back, Villarreal realized that a lot of plastic waste ends up in the water when fishermen would lose their lures.

“One of the main lures that we use are made of soft plastics,” explained Villarreal.

“Once we finished fishing and we see that the lure is not really useful anymore…we would just dispose of the lure in the water. And we didn’t really think back then of the consequences of the disposal of these lures.”

From that business class, Villareal came up with the company Clean Catch Baits, which creates lures that completely biodegrade within six months. He can’t disclose the materials he uses for the lures since he is hoping to get the design patented. But he does claim that the fishing lures are “organic, plant-based, and ethically harvested.”

The issue of plastic waste has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. Not only does plastic harm the fish and animals when they enter the water, but studies have shown that invisible microplastics are becoming a common problem in drinking water supplies.

Villarreal’s idea has received some traction in the business community. Over the past year, Clean Catch Baits has raised money for research and development through pitch competitions. In their first one, they won a $5,000 price. More recently they won more than $20,000 in a pitch competition.

Clean Catch Baits is hoping to manufacture their lures and bring them to market by the spring of 2021. It’s a big accomplishment considering that, less than a year ago, the Clean Catch team was making these lures in Villarreal’s kitchen.

So, the big question is: can this biodegradable lure still catch fish? According to Villareal, product testing has been successful so far. The company has used 100 anglers throughout North America for trial runs, and they were able to catch large fish, including some hefty bass, using the biodegradable lures.

“They’ve caught fish since our first round of product testing, but we’ve got better numbers on the second round,” said Villarreal.

Villarreal isn’t the only person involved with launching Clean Catch Baits. When he came up with the idea back in 2019, two of his Saint Mary’s classmates jumped on board: Robel Berhane and Kati Vanzutphen. The three business partners are all under 25. Villarreal and Vanzutphen recently graduated with their degrees in entrepreneurship, while Berhane is finishing up his degree.

“Personally, I don’t have much of a background in fishing,” said Berhane. “I came into play with the whole sustainability side of things and I also have a love for the outdoors as well.

Back in 2019, Berhane was originally part of a separate group in the business class. But when he heard Villarreal’s pitch, he decided to join him.

“I spoke to my professor that day after class and told her that I’m not really interested in what my current group was doing,” recalled Berhane. “I’m very grateful that I did that. What we’re doing is something bigger than the classroom, and we all recognize that.”

Berhane said he knew everyone was committed to the company when they discussed what to do with the money that they won at their first pitch competition.

“We all immediately agreed, we’re putting this back into the company,” recalled Berhane. “And we’re going to retain it so we can continue to grow the company.”

“Myself, Guillermo, and Kati haven’t taken anything out to pay ourselves for any of the earnings that we’ve gotten.”



January 19, 2021 — Guillermo Villarreal