Catching a dream: Moose Jaw man invents super-Canadian ice-fishing gadget
The DipStick allows ice fishers to keep their beverages icy cool — but not frozen
This story was originally published on Nov. 21, 2019.
Adam Butler says his subconscious led him to create his super-Canadian invention.
The 35-year-old grew up ice fishing near Moose Jaw, Sask. It's second nature for him, but one problem persisted through the years — frozen beverages.
"No matter what kind of drinks we had, we always had the problem of them freezing once you forget about them outside," he said.
Butler said he's always dreaming up ideas for things he could invent. In this case, that's literally what happened.
"It actually came to me in a dream," he said. "I was out on the ice [in the dream] and I didn't actually have a DipStick, but there was cans that just kept coming out of the ice hole, and that's kind of where it developed from."
That was the inspiration for The DipStick — a collapsible plastic tube that lowers into an ice-fishing hole and keeps drinks cool, while preventing them from floating off.
The morning after his dream, Butler says he ran the idea for the gadget by his wife. Following some deliberation, they decided it might not be a bad idea.
First, he needed a prototype. Butler's friend Jerred Williams — a fellow ice fisher and Moose Jaw local — was brought in to help.
"Adam always has crazy ideas and dreams, so, you know — of course, it was 'oh boy, here comes another crazy idea!'" Williams said of his initial reaction.
But he joined in on the crazy idea, as friends do.
The pair, now business partners, spent hours riffing off the dream to make a real product.
'Nature's beverage cooler'
They worked off the knowledge that drinks don't freeze if they're plunged into the freezing (but not frozen) water below the thick level of ice which fishers stand on.
But how do you keep the cans from floating away?
Enter The DipStick — now dubbed "nature's beverage cooler" by the team — which wrangles the cans into one manageable line.
While the first version of the product was made from PVC pipe and plywood, Butler eventually brought in an engineer who designed a simple yet elegant device.
"We just kept going through the chain of effects and and scenarios of 'how we can make this thing better?'" said Williams. "One thing led to the other and here we are today."
A viral hit
The DipStick has now sold nearly 10,000 units. It's stocked in Co-op stores across Saskatchewan and Alberta, and Canadian Tire stores in Ontario and Manitoba. Additionally, many smaller fishing and outdoor sporting stores across Canada and U.S. sell it.
Butler credits much of the product's initial success to a viral Facebook video the pair put out in Februrary 2017. All of a sudden, it was a hit.
"We had over 1.2 million views overnight when we launched it. And the orders started coming in from the United States and Canada," Butler recalled. "Just from regular customers and from retailers … we couldn't keep up with the demand."
Eventually, the company moved manufacturing to a factory overseas.
"It's very humbling," Williams added. "I've never really had that before. So to see that and know that you're part of that, it's very cool."
The DipStick is the only product like it in North America, according the team's Regina patent lawyer — and Butler and his business associates now own the patent for its unique design.
Butler and Williams said the product continues receives positive feedback from around the world.
"A lot of people say 'that's the coolest thing I've ever seen, a game-changer,'" he said. "We're very happy with it."
After only a few years on the market, the Saskatchewan invention has gone on to be very popular in ice fishing circles around the world, including at festivals like Minnesota's Eelpout Festival (or, as Butler calls it, "Craven on Ice").
When it comes to new inventions aimed at improving the ice-fishing experience, Butler has some other lines he plans to pull.
"I do, 100 per cent," he said. "But I'm going to keep those bottled up for now."
He noted that often people are surprised to find out that he and The DipStick's team are from Saskatchewan — and sometimes it surprises them too. He hopes their story inspires others to pursue their ideas.
"You'd surprise yourself. We had this simple idea. It's not a cheap idea, by the time everything is said and done — but we're happy we did it.
"And anybody else can too."
With files from CBC Saskatoon's David Shield
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