Bright idea puts a firm grip on leader

ON THE OUTDOORS

November 04, 2001|By CANDUS THOMSON

Things Ye Olde Outdoors Writer wishes she had been born with:

Tall genes.

Eyes in the back of her head.

Better judgment.

Another pair of hands for fishing chores.

Joe Neyman can't do anything about the first three, but he's come up with a patented solution for No. 4. And the best part is that his Clip-It Leader Holder costs under $5 - and it works.

Can you say, "Christmas stocking stuffer?"

Neyman, a retired mechanical contractor, has plenty of time for fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. But he often has to troll it alone because his friends are still punching a clock.

Last fall, he was fishing "The Hill," off Kent Island, when he decided to try another spot. He brought in his lines and carefully stretched each rig's 30 feet of leader out on the deck to avoid building a bird's nest of tangles.

It didn't work. By the time he got to his next fishing spot, only a first mate named Houdini could have unsnarled the mess.

Possessing an analytical mind, Neyman figured there had to be a better way to secure leaders.

When he got ashore, he went straight to the hardware store for some tongue depressors and glue. In no time, he had fashioned a simple leader holder.

But that, he is finding, was the easy part. Getting from wooden sticks and glue to a packaged product for the retail market has proven to be much harder.

"He walked in the door and showed us a mockup and asked if we'd be interested in it," recalls Dee Taylor at T.G. Tochterman and Sons in Baltimore. "We said we would, but we wanted to see a prototype. Then we didn't hear from him for a year."

Neyman, who lives year-round on his 35-foot boat, Margaritaville, at Kent Island, spent the winter warming himself by space heaters and burning up the phone lines.

First, he had to find someone to build a plastic prototype of the Clip-It. Four months, eight variations and $10,000 in expenses later, Neyman had what he wanted.

But would others like it?

"He came in here holding it up and grinning ear to ear," said Taylor. "We liked it and liked him, too. We said we'd stock it."

The next step was researching whether someone already held a patent on a similar device. After getting a green light from his attorney, Neyman had to find a mold maker and manufacturer. Then a packager. Baltimore firms got both jobs.

"I know nothing about plastics, nothing about manufacturing and each lesson has cost me money," said the 60-year-old who has invested his retirement money in his invention. "I don't want to make a fortune. I just want to make a living."

Finally, Neyman got 24,000 bright-green Clip-Its to sell. Unfortunately, the concept-to-fruition period was longer than he expected. Now he's beyond most of Maryland's prime trolling time, slowing his marketing push.

"I know you have to crawl before you walk, but I'm ready to run," he says.

And the Clip-It is ready for prime time.

The gizmo - slightly smaller than a dollar bill - is straightforward, has no moving parts and is darn near indestructible. I backed over one with my pickup truck and it didn't crack.

Anglers wind their leader around the Clip-It spool and tuck the end into one of the gadget's little indentations to keep it from unraveling.

I tried to make a Clip-It loosen its grip. First, I drove down I-97 at 65 mph while holding a fully loaded Clip-It out the window. Then I put Clip-It in the washing machine and ran it on the heavy-duty cycle. The little devil just wouldn't come undone.

The Clip-It attaches to the rod with four plastic clips that can accommodate rods from half-inch to three-quarter-inch in diameter. It can be used to hold leader while changing fishing spots or as a storage spool.

And during trophy rockfish season, when the Beasts of the East can snap a leader, an angler can have a spare rigged up and ready to go.

"I've given out hundreds of them. What I'm hoping is that word of mouth develops and people will be drawn to the effectiveness and the price," Neyman says.

Luckily, some local merchants know a good product when they see one. BoatUS stores have agreed to stock them. Steve Dunn at Island Fishing and Hunting in Chester is on board, too. So is Charlie Ebersberger, the main man at Angler's Sports Center on U.S. 50.

"I think it's a great idea," says Ebersberger. "They'll be a perfect spring thing."

At Tochterman's, Taylor sees the same thing I do (bless her heart): "They're nifty little things," she says. "They'll be perfect stocking stuffers."

Armed with his invention, Neyman will be making a swing through Florida, where the trolling season is longer, to see if he can drum up some business to tide him over until spring.

You can contact Neyman through his Web site: www.clip-itusa.com. Or call him at 410-643-5002.

Deer me

Each year, he gets asked. Each year he says he hates it. But each year, Doug Hotton fearlessly predicts how many deer will be shot during Maryland's season.

"I'm a farm boy, and that's like asking a farmer in spring how many bushels of corn he's going to grow," protests the state's deer program manager.

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