by Joe Cermele


When I was in college, the only things I invented were new ways to make a guitar amplifier sound louder and crunchier, and new reasons to skip class to go fishing. Perhaps if I had studied biological systems engineering like Justin Vannieuwenhoven (left) instead of journalism, I too would have been on my way to being a noted inventor in the fishing world before walking at graduation.

Vannieuwenhoven, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently won top honors at the school’s annual Innovation Days competition. His self-adjusting fishing rod holders not only earned him the Schoofs Prize for Creativity, but also a cool $10K, per this story in the UWM News.

As I understand it, Vannieuwenhoven’s rod holders keep your bait at the same depth no matter how hard the boat is bobbing up and down. The article doesn’t give much detail about how they work, but I’m guessing it has something to do with counter weights. Vannieuwenhoven says he got the idea from listening to his grandfather complain about how much harder it is to catch fish on Green Bay when it’s choppy and the boat’s rocking. As for marketing, Vannieuwenhoven plans to hand out 100 rod holders at an up-coming tackle show in hopes that he’ll get more feedback from anglers.

This, by the way, is not Vannieuwenhoven’s only victory in these innovation competitions. According to the story, last year he took fourth place for inventing an electronic coal for burning tobacco in hookahs. Ah, college…