DULUTH — T. Dwight Kurz made his living in the Twin Cities investment banking and finance industry, but his passion is ice fishing.
He's been fishing since he was old enough to walk and ice fishing nearly as long, so when Kurz retired a few years ago, he made his permanent home in Hackensack where he can find plenty of lakes to fish.
But Kurz didn’t stop working when he moved north. Instead, he turned a knack for developing his own ice fishing gear into a new company, Tip Down LLC, built around three unique fishing rod holders he says will help anglers catch more fish on the ice.
“I’ve been using the original design, the hoop model, for probably a dozen years myself. I like to tinker in the garage and try things that will help me catch more fish,’’ Kurz said. “As more of my friends saw how it worked, they asked me to build them one. Now we’re making them in a factory in Elk River.”
He’s been producing them commercially for three seasons now and touring Midwest ice fishing shows, like Duluth’s Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show coming up next weekend, to introduce his inventions to more ice anglers.
The first of Kurz’s designs, the Tip Down “hoop” model, balances the rod and reel on a hanging arm so it will tip down with the slightest bite from any fish. It’s designed especially for crappies, bluegills, perch and other smaller fish that tend to bite lightly.
“You don’t need to use a float so the fish feels absolutely no resistance. It shows even the slightest movement,’’ Kurz said.
His second design is called the “coil,” or spring, model, designed to sit on the ice and hold a rod setup, more like a traditional ice rod holder. But the design allows the angler to lock-in the rod so it can’t come free from the holder.
“It’s great for grandchildren who tend to put the rod down on the ice and walk away and then you realize the rod is gone’’ down the hole, Kurz said. “You can lock it in and forget it. And then reel it in while it is still in the holder. Or you can keep it unlocked and pull it out. Either way, it works.”
The coil model also can be mounted on a wall in any fish shack.
A new, third design out this year allows a rod holder to be clamped on to a bucket, the tubing in a portable flip-up shelter or on the hard case of a flasher depth finder. And now Kurz is producing a new “beer holster’’ beverage holder that can mount on buckets, the side of a plastic ice house sled or even on your pants pocket.
“I like to create things,’’ Kurz said. “And with the phenomenal growth of this (ice fishing) industry, I’m really excited about the potential of this company to grow.”
Kurz said his takeaway from talking to customers at multiple ice fishing shows, and conversations with other people in the ice fishing business, point to no slowing of the fast growth of what was once considered a cold, boring, old-man’s sport.
“All the developments in technology, new tools for people to use, coupled with what appears to be an increase in disposable income, and ice fishing just keeps getting more popular,’’ Kurz said.
Each of the rod holders retails for $15.99, or get two for $25.99, plus shipping at tipdownllc.net or at the Tip Down booth at the Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show. Tip Down rod holders also are available at Marine General in Duluth, Reeds Family Outdoor Outfitters in Walker and Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul.