At 77, Doug Erbeck is retired — technically — but you won’t find him sitting in a rocking chair killing time.
When he’s not angling for panfish on Twin Cities-area lakes, which is frequently, or competing in long-distance running races, or gardening, or volunteering with the Fur, Fin & Feather Club in Osseo, the former veterinary pathologist peddles an easy-tie fishing jig he invented and sells.
He calls it the Fisherbeck lure.
“I guarantee you’ll catch more and larger bluegills with the easiest-to-thread jig on the market today,’’ said the gregarious Erbeck, of Crystal.
Fumbling while trying to tie 2-pound-test fishing line onto a small jig one cold winter morning several years ago, Erbeck had a light bulb moment. “Those darn little bitty jigs have such small eyes, they’re hard to thread,’’ he said.
And paint must first be removed from them — a tedious affair. Erbeck figured he could do better.
In 2010, he made a clay model and brainstormed with son-in-law Marty Stone of Arden Hills, an engineer. The result: Fisherbeck Easy Threading Jigs, which have funnels to thread the line through instead of a small eye. He got a patent, found a manufacturer and began making and selling them.
“It’s easier to thread for everybody, but it’s particularly attractive for elderly people, for handicapped people, for kids and for ice fishing, because your hands get cold,’’ he said.
But Erbeck found it difficult getting into the tackle-making business; there’s lots of competition.
“I did the patent all by myself, without any lawyers,’’ he said proudly. “The first lawyer I talked to wanted $15,000 to do it. So I went online. The patent office people actually helped me.’’
He sells the jigs three for $5 on his website (www.fisherbeck.com), at fishing shows and a few bait shops, including Frankies Bait in Chisago City, Capra’s Sporting Goods in Blaine, Harty’s Bait Shop at Medicine Lake and Vados Bait in Spring Lake Park.
Sales have been good, but Erbeck laughs when asked if he’s getting rich.
“It’s coming slow but sure,’’ he said. “I’m not making a lot of money, just enough to put back into the business.’’
He’s adding a second jig, one to target big crappies. “It will be the same as the Fisherbeck, only a different color, white glow-in-the-dark with pink eyes. Hopefully, this will take off.’’
His jigs originally were made in China, but he’s found a manufacturer in Illinois to make the next batch, including the new crappie jigs. All are made of tin instead of lead.
“It’s environmentally friendly,’’ Erbeck said. “And with tin, it sinks a bit slower and the fish will grab it.’’
The orange and black jigs are meant to be especially effective on bluegills, Erbeck’s favorite fish.
“To me, bluegills are the premier eating fish of Minnesota,” he said. “And it’s so much fun.’’