The Story of the "First Fishing Float with Directional Control"
By Paul Lieb / Accidental Inventor
I am the 3rd of 5 boys with one sister but the only one in the family that was drawn to fishing. It started at age 7 when a neighborhood friend and his father asked me to go fishing with them. When I caught a little Blue Gill I thought that was pretty cool and when I caught a 2 lb Bass the game was ON. Later I found I liked fishing rivers and creeks, with a small spillway being my favorite spot. All those years of fishing in currents with probably millions of casts being made, made me think there must be a better way to fish a river. So, over a 30 year span from age 20 to age 50 I would occasionally tinker around making a planer board (a horizontal kite for water) that I could cast. I am a draftsman by profession and I guess it made sense that at some point I would apply my profession to my passion of fishing. As I look back on them, my early designs were really bad. They would tangle when I cast or break when I caught a fish.
The shape came to me when I was cleaning my garage in 2003. I had a bunch of odds and ends stuff on the work bench and one was an egg shaped foam float with a hole and lead plug in it. I looked at it and considered what I could cut away changing the shape to make it a planing bobber. The light went ON. I didn’t want to try to actually cut the foam bobber because it was too awkward to handle. So, as I looked around my work bench I saw my ellipse templates that I had brought home from work since computers replaced all my drafting tools. I also saw some balsa wood I bought my son Jon, who wanted to try to be like dad and build things. It didn’t take but 10 minutes and I had cut out 2 ellipses on the scroll saw, each with a notch so they would interlock together and make the shape I wanted. I looked again on the work bench and saw my WD40 can with its tube sticking out and picked a drill bit for press fit. I knew drilling the hole was critical and would determine if it went in the junk pile or have a chance at doing what I wanted.
At this point, I must say that I wasn’t expecting it to flip direction when I gave it a little tug – it would be crazy to think that was possible. Man has been fishing for a long time and someone would have invented that, if it was possible. I just wanted it to plane to the side and figured if it was going the wrong way I would give it hard tug and I would have a 50-50 chance of it landing on the side I wanted and planing the direction I wanted.
Anyhow, with drill in one hand and the balsa BulletBobber in the other I thought about where to drill the hole. I had built kites for my daughter Jen and later my son Jon and I thought the “in” hole for the line should be similar in location, about 1/3 of the way back from the end. I figured the “out” hole for the line to the bait should be near the back to provide leverage to hold down the keel or about 1/4 of the way forward of the back end. I drilled the hole, put in the WD40 tube and cut off the excess. I held it and it felt too light to cast far so I added a hole and added piece of lead from the egg shape bobber that started me thinking. I pulled a toothpick from a pile of sweeping on the floor to put in the tube and hold the BulletBobber in place on the line. I then coated it with polyurethane and let it dry. Folks say I’m nuts for telling how to make them…maybe I am. If you print this template to scale and use 1/4” thick pine or balsa you can make your own but I have a patent now so don’t sell them or God will get you if I don’t. My patent attorney thinks he is God for what he charged. Being a draftsman (a 3D computer draftsman) for 20 some years meant I could design it and have it made out of plastic for more strength but it wasn’t easy!
The next day I went fishing with Jon at a spillway where we had caught bluegills, perch and small bass. We fish competitively for bragging rights with mom. He usually wins and still usually wins but this day I had a secret weapon and he didn’t. I didn’t go to the spot we normally fished from, where we would cast upstream and let our floats drift down and reel in as the current swept them toward the shallows at the outlet of the hole. I went up the side of the raceway and cast downstream and out into the center. It was the moment of truth and I was totally delighted that it didn’t tangle on the cast and once it settled it started planing to the side! I thought today I’m going to out fish that boy. Then there was a moment of panic because it was heading towards the side with a brush pile. The kite eating tree thing came to mind. I was getting ready to give it a hard tug and must have given it a little tug because for some reason it was heading the other way. As it starting coming back across the hole I had a hit but missed it and very soon again I was back in the panic mode because there is another brush pile on the near side. Again I was getting ready to give it a hard tug and gave it a little one to get the feel and it flipped again. I couldn’t believe it was flipping that easily so I did again and again and again…
I reeled it in and stared at it for 2 minutes finally figuring out why it was flipping direction so easily. And getting a really strange feeling about what this little thing could mean. Then, with an enlightened sense of urgency, I out fished my son for bragging rights and to provide proof to myself that it was not just a gimmicky thing but a viable piece of equipment that would be worth development and mass production. Unfortunately now that Jon uses them he out fishes me again. That boy is a fishermen and I’m proud he still likes to fish with dad. He is older now and moved to place on Portage Lakes with a dock.