Three casts in a bass fishing trip on the Subway this week, Sam Sobieck was kneeling on the sleek foredeck of his boat, landing a nice catch – a real “Billie”. But all he could talk about was his triumph from the night before.
He and his longtime girlfriend, Stephanie Hanson, had crushed all competitors at their weekly “Tuesday Nighter”, a summer pool tournament held among friends on a hodgepodge of lakes outside cities. binoculars. As the sun went down, their five-a-bag fish weighed 20.06 pounds.
“Steph was on fire,” he gushed. “She put the hammer down.”
Tens of thousands of YouTube subscribers will see it for themselves when the next “Sobi” video comes out. The 27-year-old outdoors junkie has developed a loyal and growing fan base by mixing friendship and fun in an endless series of four – Seasonal Fishing, Hunting, Camping and Foraging Exploits filmed in Minnesota and the Midwest.
YouTube channel “Sobi” competes for clicks in a sea of other fishing and outdoor content, but its childlike enthusiasm, expert videography, humor and embrace of realism have set it apart and have attracted valuable promotional partners.
Matt Johnson, a Lake Minnetonka fishing guide who leads the professional staff at Clam Outdoors, said Sobieck turned down major jobs in the fishing industry to pursue independent outdoor storytelling. If you haven’t heard of “Sobi” yet, it might just be a matter of time.
Johnson said Clam entered into an initial promotional partnership with the Southern Minnesota native, as the animated, half-full character on camera is the same person in real life.
“He’s a complete human being and his integrity shines through,” Johnson said.
Where many fishing-focused YouTubers live in hype, Johnson said, Sobieck embraces his weaknesses and takes the time to share techniques and model selective harvesting and other conservation practices.
During a recent roundtable with Minnesota fishing stakeholders, Johnson said it was time for the Department of Natural Resources to incorporate social media practitioners like Sobieck to promote fishing and deliver messages to a younger audience.
Sobieck picked up his first used GoPro camera when he was 15 years old. By then he had seven years of fishing adventures under his belt with buddies from the Cedar Lake area to New Prague. They acquired a rubber raft paid for by mowing lawns, then transformed into a small aluminum boat.
“As kids, we just took our bikes and went,” he said. “We were just fishing, fishing and fishing.”
At New Prague High School, Sobieck played baseball, football, acted in plays, and fished. High school fishing leagues were beginning to form, but he and his friends resorted to local weeknight fishing tournaments against adults.
“We’d get our asses kicked…just absolutely killed,” he recalled.
Part of the action was content worthy of the Facebook pages they had been feeding since their sophomore year. Around the same time, they organized Team Yukon Outdoors and started producing more serious ice fishing videos which attracted support from Clam Corp. and Vexilar Inc., Minnesota’s renowned hard water equipment manufacturers.
Sobieck became the man behind the camera, teaching himself shooting and editing techniques before there were YouTube videos to learn. His pals were featured on the film.
“That’s when I fell in love with making videos,” Sobieck said.
By the time he was off to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to fish competitively and study graphic design, he was getting enough gigs as a freelance videographer to get himself out of roofing and landscaping work. In his senior year, he was kind enough to drop out to work full-time for an emerging group of Southern fishing YouTubers. He followed them on adventures in Thailand, New Zealand, China, Mexico and other countries as a videographer.
“It was fish, film, editing, rehearsal,” Sobieck said. “That’s when I got really efficient with my eye and my equipment.”
To run a race
On the Stevens Point Fishing Team, Sobieck competed in Nationals and after college continued to hone his video production skills. In 2018, he broke away from side jobs to get in front of the camera and seriously launch the “Sobi” brand – a video franchise centered around lucrative YouTube episodes, complete with promotional partnerships and growing merchandise sales. The Sam Sobi Special rod, made by Texas-based Dobyns, one of his promotional partners, is already part of his stable.
“I just thought I could do a race myself,” he said. “I jumped head first.”
Sobieck has the ambition to make longer videos, even films in the field of fishing and the outdoors. He has a fascination with weekly local fishing leagues – those “Tuesday Nighters” and “Wednesday Nighters” which are full of lore, competitions and colorful characters. They could be documented, he said, the same way others have filmed in-depth baseball stories from the city of Minnesota.
“You have a lot of superstars locally… camaraderie and excitement,” he said. “Find out who owns this lake.”
For now, Sobi has garnered an impressive 70,000 subscriber base on YouTube and 40,000 followers on Instagram with photos and 10-12 minute videos that capture fun outings. The clips include a rotating cast of close friends who attend elementary school.
There’s Brok “B-Rock” Schwarzkopf, a fishing enthusiast at heart who makes his own videos when he’s not slamming bass with Sobi. Then there’s Hays Baldwin, a long-haired professional fishing guide who led the way this spring on a kayaking adventure. pop crappie on Lake Minnetonka before the ice is completely cleared. The dialogue in Sobi’s adventure video incorporated Hays’ fascination with an albino squirrel. Between some clowning around, Sobi and Hays shared fishing tips on how to replicate their success. They also talked about their selective harvesting of smaller sized Guardians.
In another recent video, Sobi and Stephanie searched for morels during a spring rite around their little lakeside cabin near Shieldsville, Rice County. They whispered to each other while keeping the location of their usual trouble spots a secret. “We already have enough for burgers tonight,” Sobi said. “It’s money time.”
Sobieck said he barely scratched the surface of filming outdoor adventures in Minnesota and surrounding states. In the field and behind the computers in his editing office, he strives to produce dynamic and fun stories around fishing and other good times in the great outdoors.
“The plan is to continue to grow the fanbase,” he said. “We eat, sleep and breathe… I want to show awesome adventures.”