MATTHEW G. SOBIENIAK has accomplished something many anglers only dream about: He "invented" a fishing lure.
Better than that, the Turbo No-Twist spinner is being produced by a major lure manufacturer.
"Actually," Sobieniak says, "it's almost impossible to patent a spinner. The clevis, the blade -- that's all public domain. But I did get a patent on the lure body, and that's what makes this a unique lure: It does not twist line."
Spinners -- the popular Mepps is the best known -- all work on the same principle: A blade spins around a shaft, flashing to attract fish.
They are popular because all you need to do is toss them out and reel them back. The lure does the rest.
But they do twist line, eventually causing it to break.
Put a snap swivel on the line to prevent twist, and you've added 80 cents to the price of your fishing; and, with smaller models, a swivel also kills the lure's action.
Sobieniak, 64, noticed that every spinner on the market has a streamlined body for casting weight.
Pressure keeps shaft from spinning
A successful development engineer for Bell Aerospace and J.A. Webb, among others, he started to play around at his workbench.
"I took a dime, cupped it with a ball-peen hammer and added that to a weighted body," he said. "It worked. The pressure of the water pushes back on the body with enough force to keep the shaft from spinning, thus preventing line twist.
The shape also creates turbulence."
That turbulence makes the lure work easily at low speeds. You can feel the blade working, especially with the larger models.
Low-speed action you can feel is another angling plus, because spinners seem to work best when fished as slowly as possible -- just fast enough to get the blade spinning.
The design was firmed up almost four years ago while Sobieniak was working full-time as Webb vice president and serving, as he does today, as deputy mayor of Lewiston. Today he works 100 days a year as a consultant to Webb, which produces conveyors and materials-handling machinery, and fishes a little more often from his boat on the Niagara River.
Once he had a patent, Sobieniak began pursuing manufacturers and landed Red Eye Tackle Co. in Oakfield.
Some ideas 'really off the wall'
"We probably see between 25 and 50 lure ideas a year, and some are really off the wall," said Paul Betters, president of Red Eye.
"Matt had a ways to go to get his lure to work the way he said it would, but he is a smart fellow -- and he is persistent."
Red Eye was interested in branching out beyond its popular casting and salmon trolling spoons so Betters and Sobieniak struck a royalty deal and began to sort out manufacturing problems.
"I learned a lot as we went along," Sobieniak says. "Like paint: Too much on the blade and you can actually change its shape, change the lure's action."
Four sizes of the Turbo No-Twist are now available, size O through size 3 (roughly one-twelfth to one-quarter ounce) in silver, in a sort of blue/cream "fade" paint job, a red-orange fade and a chartreuse -- each with either bare trebles or feathered hooks -- priced like other spinners on the market. More sizes and colors will be added soon.
Success rate is low
Used in the right place in the right way, they will catch fish -- without line twist.
"People have the idea that they can come up with a lure idea and make a lot of money," Betters says.
"In fact it takes hard work, and success comes very slowly. The rule of thumb is that only 10 lure ideas of every 100 even get a chance, and of those, only one or two will be successful in the market place."
Sobieniak figures that Mepps sells 5 million lures every year. If Red Eye could sell 500,000 Turbo No-Twists annually, he would not get rich off royalties, but he would be able to enjoy somewhat more exotic fishing trips.
And, encouraged by the Turbo No-Twist, Sobieniak is tinkering again.
"I have an idea for a plug," he says.
"It's simple to manufacture, different from anything else on the lure market today -- that's important -- and has a built-in action that changes depending on where the line is attached."
And it won't twist your line, either.