2009 Invention Awards: IronClads

Popular Science:

Ben Hobbins didn’t set out to clean up his local lakes, but his IronClads baits do exactly that. The Wisconsin inventor’s idea – fishing lures that are extra-strong, eco-friendly and nontoxic – solves a serious, if little-known environmental problem.

Flexible and cheap soft plastics are the most popular type of lure among sport fishermen, but almost all of them eventually end up at the bottom of lakes and rivers because they easily detach from their hook when they’re cast or bitten.

Once there, the baits disintegrate over time, releasing harmful phthalates and other petrochemicals. According to one study, 25 million pounds of the lures are left in U.S. waters every year.

A former biotech strategist, he speculated that methods used in the industry for skin grafting–using an expandable mesh to ensure that a graft stays intact and in place–could also work for reinforcing lures.

The result was IronClads, which stay firmly on their hooks because of a microtube of polyester mesh that lends strength to the plastic, just as rebar gives tensile strength to concrete.

The lures can sustain 93 pounds of tensile strain, so only fish with serrated teeth and considerable heft could possibly bite through them.

Photo by Popular Science.

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