Having survived the bumps and bruises that life has thrown at him, Dan Lorentz just wants to go fishing.

Lorentz is at the Northwest Sportshow at the Minneapolis Convention Center through Sunday showing off a new twist on an old fishing standby -- the jig.

Or, rather, his son, Ivan, is there, with the Danlure Freedom Jig, while his dad cools his heels in the northern part of the state, near Wadena, awaiting the fishing opener.

"I was diagnosed with rectal cancer four years ago, and at the time the doctors gave me six months to live," the elder Lorentz said. "Then, a year and a half ago, they gave me four months to live, give or take a week.

"But I'm still here. I have too many people I still want to aggravate, and too many people who have prayed for me. I can't let them down."

When initially diagnosed with cancer, Lorentz, a former hog farmer and auto-body shop owner, was hospitalized for nine days. It was then, and during his later recuperation at home, that he let his mind wander to subjects that in his 61 years have brought him joy.

Next to his five children and eight grandkids, fishing topped his list.

"You know how you get an idea sometime, but you don't really know how you got it?" he said the other day. "Well, I'm not sure how I got the idea for the new jig. Except I fish a lot and I think a lot about fishing."

The problem with standard jigs, Lorentz long believed, was that they inhibited bait movement unless they were actively fished, or jigged.

Freedom, he figured: That's what jigs and particularly the bait impaled onto jigs need to trigger strikes.

But how to effect freedom in a jig, therefore giving anglers -- especially kids and other inexperienced fishers -- a chance to catch trophies they otherwise might not?

Simple, he thought.

Detach the hook from the jig head and reconnect it using a ring, allowing the bait to "swim" the hook in tandem with movement of the jig -- or even independent of that movement if an angler is leaving the jig stationary, whether by intention or inattention.

A dentist friend, Scott Armstrong, who lives in the Twin Cities, helped refine the concept.

Thus a novel way was born to shorten the time between bites for Lorentz, while also helping him beat his illness.

"If you find yourself in a situation like this, you can't sit in a corner and twiddle your thumbs and worry," he said. "You have to think of positive goals you want to reach, things you want to accomplish."

A prodigious walleye fisherman, Lorentz, with his wife, Pat, keeps a travel trailer on walleye-rich Lac Seul, in Ontario.

It's there when that province's fishing season opens in May that Lorentz will return with a tackle box full of his specially designed jigs.

"Right now, we've got them in eighth-ounce and also quarter- and three-eighths-ounce," he said. "And in the colors that most jigs come in, including the glo colors. They're made right here in Minnesota."

Successful anglers have long been capable of mustering the faith and determination necessary to stay on the water when action is slow, or nonexistent.

The same qualities are necessary to survive illnesses against long odds, Lorentz believes.

"I've always thought that in addition to the nutrients that your body needs to recover from an illness, and the medicines, you need faith," Lorentz said.

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com