Something's fishy here. That is what Frank T. Koe, CHEP '72M, thought when he found himself nicely outfitted for angling with the latest in rod and reel, yet mucking about the creekside woods in an agonizing search for a simple forked stick on which to string the day's catch.
Koe cast about for an answer to the question that had been carping at him-isn't there a better way? Necessity truly being the mother of invention, he found the answer in the creation of a functional device, dubbed the Stick-in-the-Mud.
The Stick-in-the-Mud is a hard plastic spike on which a fishing enthusiast can attach a string of fish. The spike can easily be driven into a stream bank so the fish stay fresh in the water. And, the device features a U-shaped top, on which a rod can be rested. Sixteen inches long, it includes raised ruler markings to measure the day's catch, and comes in three colors-fluorescent orange, mud brown and camouflage green.
Manufactured in China for Koe's Whipple D Productions of New York City, the Stick-in-the-Mud has been featured in a variety of trade publications, including Fishing Tackle Trade News, Tackle Talk International, Canadian Sportfishing and In-Fisherman. It is available at Sears, Kmart and The Sports Authority, and talks are under way with other major retail chains.
Creating the device and bringing it to market have made for an interesting several years for Koe, who grew up in the small, central Pennsylvania town of Hollidaysburg, Pa., and learned the love of fishing in the region's freshwater streams and lakes. "I started fishing when I was very, very young," says Koe. "My father taught me at age 3."
Koe brought his love of fishing to saltwater Delaware in 1969, when, after earning an undergraduate degree in education from Pennsylvania State University, he accepted a position as teacher of English literature and history at Christiana High School in Newark.
While teaching and serving as assistant tennis coach there, he enrolled in UD to pursue a master's degree. Life eventually led him back to Penn State, where he earned a doctorate, and then on to his current home in Manhattan.
It was during one of his fishing trips to central Pennsylvania that Koe had the inspiration for the Stick-in-the-Mud. On his trips, he would always end up searching for a y-shaped stick to anchor a stringer and rest his fishing pole.
"I thought, 'this is kind of silly,'" he recalls. "I had all this expensive equipment-the rod, the reel, the line, the accessories and clothing-and here I was walking around looking for a stick."
Although he came up with the concept for the Stick-in-the-Mud, he had no background in business. He learned it would take time, money and perseverance to put the product on the shelves. "There was a tremendous amount of stuff I had to learn-patent attorneys, trademark attorneys, how to manufacture the products," he says.
Citing statistics that showed angling to be the nation's fifth most popular sport, with about 35 million "afishianadoes," Koe developed a business plan, had prototypes made at Paramount Industries in Langhorne, Pa., and found a manufacturer. He then battled his way through the highly competitive retail trade market and managed to hook shelf space for his invention.
"This is a sideline that has taken an awful lot of my time and money," he says. "I'm hoping for a return, and it is a gamble." One which, given interest by major retailers here, as well as in England and Denmark, might soon pay off.
"When I came up with this idea, I thought it would be perfect for the fisherman and easy to sell," Koe says. "I thought this might be a winner."
-Neil Thomas, AS '76