SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa — On a cold December morning, with signs of a new season starting to form on the banks of Spirit Lake, Dan Spengler hopes to land the ‘big one’.
"I’ve got to be careful of this ice," Spengler said, walking into the cold water sporting fishing waders.
But today’s fishing endeavor isn’t for fun, it’s his job.
"I've been obsessed with fishing since I was a little kid. My dad got me interested in fishing when I was a very young child. "Now I develop fishing tackle for the largest fishing tackle company in the world."
Every lure Spengler creates at the Berkley Pure Fishing center hatches and develops inside a coveted notebook.
"This notebook represents probably three or four years of research and development," Spengler said. "I probably have three or four (books) in the back of my office that span my past ten years being here, so lots of top secrets here."
After an idea takes shape on paper, fine-tuning down to millimeters takes place inside the Pure Fishing multi-million dollar lab and testing facility.
"It takes a lot of different prototypes, lots of hard work to get the baits down to where they need to be."
One of the newest, most popular lures he took from design to market is the Berkley Hit Stick, a popular line of bait for walleye fisherman.
The plastic minnow mimics the same movement as balsa wood Spengler accomplish through a process of cracking a code in movement that took him 10 years to make perfect.
“This was something everyone told me was impossible, can't be done in a plastic bait. I tested so many competitor baits and none of them met the requirements and you'd think it was an impossible feat or task. We made countless changes to pull points and bill shapes and body forms."
The final step in the process is to let the fish decide what works, and what goes back to the drawing board.
"We let the science lead us to the final say and the fish tell the final story," Spengler said.
Proof of the breakthrough can be found at the Fisherman's Outlet store across the street, where the product display has been difficult to keep fully stocked.
“Once fishermen find out what's catching on, they buy all of them," store manager Jon Woizeschke said.
The real joy for Spengler is seeing pictures of happy anglers with hope that something he's created leads to special memories like he had fishing with his dad so many years ago.
"I try to return the favor, not just so they buy our product, it's about building a bait for the angler," Spangler said.
"And if I can build a bait and a little kid can catch a trophy fish, there is nothing cooler than that."