The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 17, 2013

Madison company brings science to fishing

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An algorithm, though, is only as good as the data that it is crunching.

That meant the founders of Strategic Fishing Systems needed to gather information on thousands of lakes. The company's founders decided to start with Minnesota and Wisconsin.

They needed information about each lake. How deep is it? What does the underwater terrain look like? What part of the lake has the most sunlight exposure? What about weeds? Is the lake bottom made up of sand, rocks, muck or a combination of the three?

Haymart, Reed and Rist decided they needed a partner to produce some of the data they needed.

They partnered with LakeMaster, a company based in Little Falls, Minn., for the lake data, Rist said.

"We ended up using their data and using our research and background building algorithms to find where the fish are likely to be."

"Our science side has built these algorithms based on the species of fish," Rist added. "We know that walleye for example prefer deep water and they will move into more shallow water at night. So, looking for walleye in the evening in the summer is going to be a lot different formula than looking for bass in the spring."

The product that resulted goes by the brand name Contour Elite. It now covers more than 1,000 lakes across more than 20 states. The software is sold by state and by region.

Strategic Fishing Systems licenses its software to LakeMaster, which in 2011 became a part of Johnson Outdoors Inc., the Racine-based global outdoor recreation equipment company.

The three founders still own 100% of Strategic Fishing Systems. Contour Elite retails for $149.

Developing software that handles so much information and presenting it in an easy-to-use package was not easy, Rist said.

"We had a couple technical issues, and we had to come up with a way to compress all the data because we were dealing with such a large amount of data."

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