Q: Where did the idea of a fishing lure that jigs while being trolled come from?
A: A trolling spoon that jigs through the water column is an absurd idea really. The audacity to dream it up was only outdone by the determination to make it a reality. The truth is, initially we didn’t even know if it could be done. What we did know, from years of jigging inland lakes over hard water and jigging rivers during the spring walleye and steelhead runs was that jigging action can oftentimes make all the difference in the world when it comes to catching more fish.
Back in the early 2000s my uncle, who lives in New Hampshire, won a land-locked Salmon fishing tournament using fishing spoons. When I asked him what his 'secret' was he said it was simple. The guy who he bought his boat from left it on the boat when he sold it. What was the secret you may ask. It was a home-made rod-holder that was mechanized to 'jig' a trolling rod forwards and backwards. My uncle said every fish he caught on tournament day came off that rod. Cool idea, but alas one of a kind. I did tuck that little nugget of info away for a rainy day though.
Then, fast-forward to the early 2010's where my brother and I along with our wives took a Lake Erie, Ohio walleye Charter out of South Detroit where I witnesses something that vividly awoke the story my uncle had told years prior. I'll never forget it. The Charter was the 'Hollywood,' the first mate was a college kid working the summer on-water catching and filleting fish for clients. He was an MSU student studying wildlife biology and majoring in Fisheries, and what he did once we got to our destination and all the rods were all set was to grab each rod and methodically 'jig' the rod forwards and backwards.
Before I could even ask him why he was using that particular technique, and long before I could tell him the story about the device my uncle inherited, he jammed the rod in my hand and said 'reel', there's one on there. If we caught two dozen Eyes that day, believe me when I tell you that 50% came on rods he was finessing...and they came while he was jigging them.
In conversation with him at the fish cleaning station later that day he said that what happens is fish will often times see the spoon, swim up to it, and begin following the lure. Sometimes they'll follow it a long time before they either strike or lose interest. By jigging the trolling rod what you're effectively doing is you're changing up the presentation of the spoon. A forward movement speeds the lure up just like S-curving the boat where the outside lines speed up. But the real instinctive strike magic starts to happen when you jig the rod backwards. What happens to the spoon then, with the lack of resistance, is the spoon drops in the water column and Bam! fish on.
Having fished the great lakes for Salmon you see something similar play out when you change trolling speeds or toss the boat in neutral trying to net a stubborn lunker. Erratic speed changes also affect your lure presentations, and if there happens to be a Salmon, Steelhead, or Lake trout following your spoon, you might just get lucky. We thought, instead of pumping the rod in an attempt to jig the lure vertically while it's being trolled horizontally, what if the lure was the thing that was doing the jigging. Like a boat coming up on plane, or like a hydrofoil rising up out of the water.
In terms of attempting to create a hydro-lift or hydrofoil lure (as it were), the obvious examples to look at were planes and jets which do these kinds of maneuvers. Planes, unlike lures have engines and yokes. And you know trick kites, which is what some of our lure action resembles, also accomplish similar action, but with multiple cords tethered to them and attached at different points of contact.
A fishing lure is something different. A lure, having a single attachment and no real way to be steered or maneuvered (especially in terms of trolling applications), poses different challenges. Unlike our readily accessible examples I just mentioned, the lure needed to possess its functionality being entirely contained within the design itself. In part, this is accomplished by having a design with the center of lift aft of the center of gravity.
Q: This is easily the first breakthrough in fishing spoons in over 50 years! So, How did you get it to work?
It was Charles Sanders Peirce that pointed out that "No new idea in the history of the world has been proven in advance analytically." How'd we do it? We got it to work by 'failing'... At lot. Some days we felt like Edison searching for a filament. Other days we felt like the filament...chard up and burned out.
Seriously though, here’s what else we knew starting off: We knew that a hydrofoil works by being a solid and possessing a specific shape such that a suitable angle can be maintained to create lift that is substantially larger than the drag. So lift greater than its drag. Sounds simple right. We spent a ton of time on R&D as you can imagine. Years, really. We studied a ton of lures, and this is what we concluded.
While traditional trolling spoons and casting spoons have excessive drag (at desirable trolling speeds) which keeps them either suspended or corkscrewing from centrifugal force, flutter-style spoons don't maintain enough drag (at desirable trolling speeds), resulting in inconsistent and unpredictable, lure action (basically they flap around like bike tassels). Suffice is to say that our Custom RIFT Hydrofoil lures have less drag to overcome, and at the same time, just enough drag to maintain suitable hydrofoil lift. Design, proportionality, mass, materials, all became critical components central to the hydrofoil design.
Q: I Gotta ask. What were you like as a kid? I mean you must have been a curious child.
A: Here's the thing. We didn't have television growing up, we did, but our version of 'having TV' was Saturday morning cartoons for an hour. With all this spare time I loved small game hunting and fishing, and I loved taking old electronics apart. I loved learning how mechanical things work. Remote control cars, radios, computers, whatever I could get my hands on and open up with a screwdriver or wrench. Then, what I enjoyed almost as much was putting them back together and creating a Frankensteinian’s monster rock n’ roll fan, boat, car things and other creations.
I loved building paper airplanes too. I would find how-to books at the local library and play around with how different materials combined with different designs would yield planes better at flying higher, farther, faster. Capable of floating or doing a series of tricks. Another thing I loved was basketball. As a player I was mediocre at best, but I loved it all the more. I loved the game, College and professional players, collecting the cards, and I loved the patterns of the game most of all. The zone defense and offensive playbooks, the screens and full court presses were all patterns, many predictable.
I remember going to one of my first Detroit Piston’s games as an adolescent and these two loves of mine were destined to collide. We sat in the budget seats. So we're sitting there and the stadium employees started handing out these flyers made from glossy stock paper so my buddy and I immediately had to have a competition to determine who could make the best paper plane.
This paper was easily the best paper I had ever seen for making a flying machine. He folded what you might expect a paper plane to look like, long and slender. Not me, I folded my latest, and infamous front-of-center (FOC), blunt-nosed design. He tossed his plane first while I kept a look out. His plane made it to the guard-rail ten seats or so in front of us and slipped over the edge. We cheered. I was up next. I launched that folded machine from the nose-bleed section of the Piston’s Palace stadium. It was beautiful. You would have thought there was a micro motor on the back of it. That damn plane flew far enough and high enough to catch the updraft of the stadium. Then, the damn thing flew all the way to the middle of the stadium, all the way across the width of the basketball court, and slid under the player’s court side seats! It was amazing!
Q: That’s a great story. So how long after you had completed your proof of concept, with what would later become the Custom RIFT fishing spoon, did you decide it was necessary to patent the idea.
A: Almost immediately. Backing up a bit in the timeline, we had built our lure tank, which is what we use to test lures in a controlled environment, from spare and recycled parts in 2019. The only thing we purchased new for it was the DepthRaider to track the speeds we were producing. So, by 2020, by the time we had proven out our CAD work and spoon dies, and by the time we found a company with a press and progressive stamping process, we already had a few hundred hours with what you might call traditional spoons (what we euphemistically call Old School Spoons) in the tank. Under similar conditions they all pretty much looked and acted the same. Trolling spoons are known for that 180 degree rotation with very little variability.
Truth is, our first prototypes looked pretty similar to Old School spoons in terms of the lure action under water. What we discovered though, through tedious trial and error, what may even seem obvious now, is you need to be willing to ‘...sweat the details.’ as Tim Leatherman put it. Like Tim, we sweat the details. This is everything from the density, mass and type of materials you use; to the plating (if any), to the mils of primer, paint, and clearcoat you put on the lure; to the terminal tackle. Everything needs to be considered. Nothing can be overlooked. You do so at your own peril.
Among those details for us were the protections a patent affords. As expensive as hiring a patent attorney is, and as time consuming writing and filing a patent can be, those costs pale in comparison to the opportunity costs you lose if someone else copies your ideas with impropriety.
Q: Where do you go from here? What’s your next project.
A: We’re always working on several new ideas simultaneously. We started the company basically three (3) years ago now and have spent the majority of the time writing our first five (5) patents, building our website, and marketing at trade shows and the like. Now that we have the intellectual property protection that those afford, we feel like we’re in a really good spot to be able to scale and sell in bulk to tackle shops and other retail stores. We’ll eventually need to build a bigger shop too.
Other than that we’re working on Glow Mag Custom RIFT spoons for Salmon fishing which will be coming out this Summer. We also have our ‘Damn Good Deer Drag’ hitting stores soon. New projects are always fun. Revisiting and reworking previous projects is really a lot of fun too.