STAPLES -- "Bring on the ice," says a sportsman whose last name fits the season he's counting on to help launch a dream come true -- his invention.
Dwaine Winter Sr., 69, Staples, is not an engineer. He never finished high school.
He didn't let that stop him.
The retired peace officer/restaurateur has invented an ice fishing alarm called "Dewey's De-Lite."
Winter designed it after years of winter angling on Gull and other lakes in north central Minnesota.
The alarm provides a red light and/or a siren akin to home security systems when a fish takes the bait.
With his son, Dwaine Jr., wife Carole and their neighbor, Gordon Greenwaldt, the elder Winter has developed a unique alarm that harnesses simple theory with existing materials and the power of a nine-volt battery to send even the most mellow winter fishing enthusiast an unmistakable wake-up call.
The 104-decibel audible alarm is intended to get you to the lunker that has taken your line, even when you're dozing in the warmth of a nearby vehicle or the portable house on the lake.
A clip allows attachment to one's belt. A swiveling flashlight descends from the bottom of the unit. The whole thing isn't much bigger than a portable cassette recorder or radio.
Winter and a few friends do the final assembly and package the visual and audible alarm system in his basement.
The alarm sells for around $30. For about $5 more, a tip-up option is included.
Central Lakes College students and other local resources have teamed up in the development of this homegrown product that could eventually be found in stores coast-to-coast and across Canada.
Vicki Olson of New York Mills, a communication art and design student, won $50 for creating the label on the product package. Winter had approached instructor Leon Dahlvang and offered 15 top students an opportunity to produce a package design.
"I probably spent about 10 hours working on it," said Olson, who is self-employed as a designer producing banners, posters and signage. She also is employed in the graphics department of C & L Distributing in Brainerd.
Locally created package design is one of several project needs resolved by hometown talent. Operational and packaging problems were solved through various means, including effort from CLC graduates now in business for themselves in the Staples area.
Al Benson, Dean Zimmerman, Arnie Boie and Steve Mumm supplied precision molding and tooling expertise on their own time to help out the well-liked Winter.
Pete Card III of Walker came through with the original company logo design based on the Dewey's De-Lite trademark. The name "Dewey" comes from the early days when little Dwaine Jr. preferred to call dad "Dewey." The nickname stuck.
So did the inventor's dilemma.
"I've come a long way since 1960, when I would have ideas for products but couldn't afford to follow through," said the widower who helped raise seven children and is now a proud great-great-grandpa.
Winter retired five years ago after 20 years of ownership and operation of The Spot Caf in Staples. His first wife died a few years later, but his children, now ages 30-48, and dozens of other middle-agers who found a friend and father figure in Winter during troubled times, may serve as an army of production workers if the orders come flooding in.
Winter said he has poured all his financial resources into retaining a patent lawyer, contracting for circuit board purchase and assembly, packaging material and research.
"We have 500 on hand and could make 1,000 week," he said. "With 30-day credit and all the money to start with going out the door, it'll be good to get it coming in.
"We are working on a similar security alarm for camping, hotel guests," said Winter, who is preparing for sports shows to "peddle" his signature product. "This is just a start, and we're encouraged by interest from some big retailers."
Regional bait stores such as Reed's of Walker, S & W Bait near Brainerd, and Junction Bait of Motley were the first retailers to carry the product. Winter said executives from some high-profile operations have also called to discuss marketing options. "We have a meeting set up with In-Fisherman," he said.
Tony Capra Sporting Goods in the Twin Cities and Fishing Emporiums of Canada are already selling Dewey's De-Lite.
All that's needed is a frozen lake.
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