Written by Jessi Cole
When Guntersville Lake guide Mike Carter asked 14-year-old Carolina Justice how far she wanted to take fishing, she said “all the way.”
And she’s certainly on her way. With a successful custom lure business operating out of the family craft room, a second-place tournament win under her belt, and now 5 fishing sponsors, Carolina is paving her own fast track to professional angling.
Lip Rippin’ Lures, her custom lure business, shares a workspace with Carolina’s younger sister. Half of the room—Carolina’s half--is lined in soft plastics, a microwave, packaging materials, and buckets of color, while her little sister’s half is covered with Bob Ross-inspired paintings of the mountains and sea.
Proudly hanging above the plastic drawers filled with spinner skirt materials is Lip Rippin’ Lures’ official business license—established December 2020.
Carolina’s always been interested in the outdoors. Her grandfather used to take her out fishing for bluegill and crappie with a bucket of crickets. But it wasn’t until she joined the school fishing team, the Arab Fishing Knights, that Carolina discovered the whole wide realm of lures and baits. She began to learn new techniques and strategies, and the sport of fishing really took a hold of her.
She said, “When I joined the team, I was like, ‘This is fun!’ It wasn’t just putting a cricket on a hook. I mean, yeah, you catch less, but it takes more skill.”
Carolina was obsessed. It wasn’t but a few months later that, for her 14th birthday gifts, she asked her friends and family for molds and materials to make lures of her own. She got started right away by watching Youtube videos and other how-to’s, and only three months later, she had placed her signature “Carolina Craws,” along with a few other designs, into the local tackle shop—Guntersville Tackle & Outdoor.
The tackle shop has Carolina’s line of products displayed at the very front of the store, and her packaging looks as professional as any others—she even designed the logo for her business herself.
Paul Ponder, co-owner of Guntersville Tackle & Outdoor, said of Carolina, “We love what she’s doing. She’s one of the few that will take the time to do it, and we want to back her 110%.”
Clearly, the community on Guntersville Lake is a tight-knit one, and one that is supportive of Carolina’s fishing endeavors.
Though she was doing well on the school team and had perfected her Carolina Craw recipe, Carolina knew she needed a good teacher if she was to make it as a professional angler. That’s where guide Mike Carter came in.
When she first approached Carter about becoming her fishing coach, he was impressed right out of the gate. Upon their first meeting, she gave him a pack of her signature Carolina Craws in green pumpkin blue—a color combination she’s mastered by adding four different shades and sizes of blue flake to the traditional pumpkin base.
Carter then took her out on the water to get a feel for where she stood and how well she was able to handle her own.
He said, “It was pretty much right away I saw the skill she had. The way she handled a bait caster, the quality of the lures she made—when you see a young girl with that kind of talent, you’ve got to teach them everything you can. Especially in this male-dominated arena.”
So, Carter took her on as a “protégé,” he said. They practiced often, and he taught her how to catch a bass on a frog, how to tie up different rigs, and even how to load the boat up on the trailer.
After training with her and becoming more and more impressed by her seemingly innate ability to catch a bass, Carter asked Carolina to compete with him in the local Rat-L-Trap tournament there on Lake Guntersville.
The pair received some skepticism from the other competitors. Carter is a well-known guide and competitor—he was expected to do well in the tournament. He said, “All my friends thought I was being cute and sweet for inviting her to be my partner, but then when we came in second place out of 318 boats, she really earned their respect.”
In fact, Carolina had caught the first fish of the day for the pair, starting them out with a healthy 4-pounder to put them on the board. No longer was she thought of as just a young girl—essentially a non-threat—she became seen as a promising up-and-coming angler.
Carolina shows a lot of promise in the fishing industry, but really, she’s still a normal kid. She hates Algebra 2 (“It’s pointless!” she said.), loves Dolly Parton, and, much to her dad and coach’s dismay, just got her first boyfriend. Her bedroom is painted blue, and she has a turkey—her first ever—hanging proudly among school trophies and framed photos of friends.
Her parents, Lance and Jodie Justice, support her every step of the way. Lance often rushes home after long days of working in the hospital to take her out in the boat, and her mom and sister cheer her on from the banks at tournaments. Her little sister has even gotten the itch to start fishing, and she’s starting to follow in Carolina’s footsteps.
Carolina’s Youtube page, SheFishesBama, has tips for anglers, like how to remove a hook from a catfish using only your hands, and stories and recaps from her adventures fishing. It’s here that she hopes to grow a following and create a name for herself in the professional angling world.
When asked about her future endeavors, Carolina replied that she was looking to get into airbrushing crank baits so she can expand her product line. She especially wants to try creating stripes on the bodies using a comb—she’s read that this a great way to make more natural looking bodies. She’s hoping to receive the tools she needs for Christmas this year.
And as for what she’s using the money she earns from sales, she says she’s saving up for a pair of Costa sunglasses and some new molds—all tools she can use to further her business and her angling career.
As a 14-year-old, Carolina Justice is ahead of the game, leaps and bounds. The initiative alone is impressive—she’s got her business model expanding and growing quickly. We’ll be looking out for her career to jump in the next few years, and Mossy Oak is proud to call her a friend.