The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 17, 2013

Madison company brings science to fishing

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A technology-focused start-up company in Madison traces its roots to a really bad fishing trip.

Strategic Fishing Systems LLC was formed in 2007 by three guys who describe themselves as "avid outdoorsmen who are passionate about technology." Strategic Fishing Systems won the 2012 Governor's Business Plan Contest in the information technology category.

The lousy fishing ended up being a great motivator for company founders Brian Haymart, Dan Reed and Ryan Rist.

"We're good friends and we were out fishing on a lake that we had never been to, Lake Leelanau in Michigan," Rist said. "The wind was a little bit tricky. We fished the whole weekend and it was miserable. Maybe we caught a couple. It was just terrible.

"After that trip, we said there's got to be a better way to find where the fish are."

The answer they settled on: Algorithms.

"Our goal is to help recreational anglers catch more fish by providing them with cutting-edge technologies normally reserved for the government and scientific communities," the company says on its website.

Rist said he considers Haymart an expert fisherman.

"We call him the fish whisperer," Rist said. "He basically took on the task of building an algorithm that predicts where the fish are going to be."

Algorithms are often-complex computations that derive from a fairly simple concept, said Jordan Ellenberg, mathematics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"An algorithm is a set of instructions for doing something. It's instructions for carrying out a task," Ellenberg said. "It has a fancy name, but that's what it is.

"Even in 2013, computers are much, much stupider than people," Ellenberg added. "So, the instructions that computers require have to be spelled out in a very formal way. That's what an algorithm is. It's instructions that are so clearly specified that even a stupid computer can understand them."

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