Idea for ice fishing device born at Island Park Reservoir

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  • Matt Dungan

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    Photo by Matt Dungan Rigby inventor Matt Dungan’s JawJacker uses a bent pole as a spring to hook fish under the ice.

  • Matt Dungan

  • 1

    Photo by Matt Dungan Rigby inventor Matt Dungan’s JawJacker uses a bent pole as a spring to hook fish under the ice.

Matt Dungan’s ice fishing gear business started when he was a boy trapping possums in the woods of Tennessee.

“I was always figuring out trigger mechanisms,” Dungan said. “I would make live catch traps.”

What began as a curiosity and turned into a hobby has blossomed into Jawjackerfishing.com, an Idaho company that sells ice fishing gear that helps anglers catch fish.

Dungan’s fish catching devices have sold thousands and make him more money than his nursing profession.

While Dungan was a student at Ricks College, he ice fished for the first time at Island Park Reservoir.

“They were just looking at their rod tip and waiting for them to bounce when the fish bit,” he said. “I thought, there’s got to be a better way.”

He made up devices that used the bent rod as a spring with a trigger mechanism to hook a fish when they nibbled on the bait.

“I caught three or four fish with them,” he said about that outing.

The idea was put on a shelf while he studied nursing, got married, bought a house and began working. After a few years, he was living in Rigby and working as a nurse in Idaho Falls. He went ice fishing again with a friend.

“I made up a couple more of these devices, and I caught five or six of these nice cutthroats,” Dungan said.

No longer a poor college student, Dungan entertained ideas of making and selling a device that would give ice fishers the ability to set hooks without hovering over their holes. He called it the JawJacker.

“I thought it was kind of a catchy name,” he said.

Hook-setting devices have been around since the 1800s, but they were often huge and cumbersome, ill-suited for ice fishing.

“I wanted to make this thing light and compact,” he said.

An engineer neighbor who had CAD software helped him draw up designs and in 2007 Dungan obtained a patent on his trigger mechanism. But before the JawJacker could become reality, Dungan needed money.

“It cost me quite a bit of money. I basically took a second mortgage out on my house. I had $50,000. It was enough money to buy the injection molds that I needed,” he said.

The first year he made 1,000 JawJackers and sold about half online and the rest at Sportsman’s Warehouse. Each year afterward his business grew with new connections with Bass Pro Shops and other outdoors stores and word of mouth. The JawJacker retails for $45.

Ice fisherman Chris Dougan of Idaho Falls, who admits to having thousands of dollars worth of gear, says he uses the JawJacker because it’s like an extra pair of hands.

“If you have four or five poles out, and you’re watching the one that you’re jigging, the JawJacker comes in super handy,” Dougan said. “You hear the JawJacker go ‘bing’ and you’re good.”

Dungan’s latest product is called the Jigging JawJacker. It attaches to a motorized base that raises and lowers the rod, line and jig automatically to attract fish.

He also sells a selection of jigs and ice fishing rods on his website. The jigs are made for him by “a guy in Minnesota.”

With the success of his business, he’s been feeling the pressure of perhaps giving up nursing and pursue his JawJacker business full time. He’s had orders from as far away as Russia and Sweden.

“It’s getting to the point where it’s hard to manage both,” he said. “I’d rather put my time into the JawJacker.”

Although some of his products are manufactured and boxed in China, the products are all Dungan’s, and Idaho born.

“People learn I’m a one-man show and it encourages them to buy it to support me rather than their money going to some big company,” he said.

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