Rapala has hooked another Minnesota fishing brand.

Minnetonka-based Rapala USA has struck a strategic manufacturing and distribution agreement with Otter Outdoors that rounds out Rapala's ice-fishing product category. Maple Lake-based Otter Outdoors makes sleds for ice-fishing gear and also makes portable ice-fishing houses.

Under the agreement that takes effect April 1, 2013, Otter will maintain responsibility for product development, production and customer service, while Rapala will assume sales, marketing and distribution rights of Otter Outdoors products.

"This, overnight, puts Otter Outdoors on the map," Brian Evenson, president of Otter, said in an interview Tuesday. "For Otter Outdoors, it allows us to continue with what we did best, making a premium-quality product and looking at new product development."

In a statement, Tom Mackin, president of Rapala USA said: "Otter has long been the undisputed leader in the development of the highest quality, innovative portable ice-fishing sleds and shelters in the business."

The addition of Otter sleds and portable shelters is the last major piece to Rapala's ice-fishing offerings. The company now will offer ice-fishing lures, lines, accessories, ice augers, electronics and sleds and shelters under its Ice Force brand.

Over the past 10 months, Rapala USA has struck four deals with Minnesota-based fishing businesses. Rapala USA is the largest distribution business of Finnish fishing tackle manufacturer Rapala VMC.

In February, Rapala acquired StrikeMaster, the Big Lake-based maker of ice augers. In January, Rapala USA signed a marketing and distribution agreement with MarCum Technologies, the New Hope-based maker of underwater cameras, sonar flashers and digital fish finders primarily for ice fisherman. In August it signed a marketing and distribution partnership with St. Cloud-based Goldleaf Plastics Inc. for Goldleaf's AP Outdoors line of plastic cutting boards and other products.

Otter products will be a familiar fit with Rapala's other brands.

"Otter has been a marketing partner with StrikeMaster and MarCum for many years," said Evenson. "Any time a manufacturing company starts a proprietary [ice-fishing] brand, if Rapala were to come knocking on your door and say, 'How about we take over your sales, marketing and distribution?' that would be a dream come true."

Otter Outdoors is a subsidiary of Rhino Inc., a privately held rotational molding company. The sales and marketing agreement deals only with its Otter Outdoors brands.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported in its most recent survey (2006), that 1.7 million people participate in ice fishing each year and spend about $105 million a year on ice-fishing equipment.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926