BISMARCK — A Bismarck man whose invention in 1964 revolutionized walleye fishing is being inducted into the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame.
The bottom bouncer today is a staple of most anglers’ tackle boxes, for fishing lakes or rivers with weedy or rocky bottoms that can cause a lot of lost tackle and frustration.
They have the late Bob Meter to thank. Half a century ago, his own frustration led to the creation of what has become a classic piece of tackle.
“His spinner kept getting hung up on the bottom, so he thought, ‘there’s got to be a better way,’” said his son Alan Meter, of Bismarck. “He came up with the bottom bouncer to get the spinner up off the bottom. It was the necessity of a problem leading to an idea.”
A bottom bouncer is a live bait rig made with a piece of vertical weighted wire that keeps it skimming along the rough bottom of a lake or river, bouncing over obstructions, and a horizontal wire arm that suspends a spinner or plain hook just above the bottom and keeps it free of snags.
“It’s so simple, it’s ridiculous,” Alan Meter said. “But nobody had thought of it until then.”
Bob Meter never patented his Meter Bottom Bouncer invention and never got rich from it. He said in a 2010 interview with The Bismarck Tribune that “I didn’t know what I had.” Today, there are many variations of the bottom bouncer. And the inventor of the basic design isn’t widely known.
Meter was one of the North Dakotans who “put fishing on the map,” said Bill Mitzel, editor and former publisher of Dakota Country Magazine. But “younger people today don’t know who they are,” he said. “Whoever heard of Bob Meter? Ask anybody on the street.”
Mitzel, with the urging of others, decided it was time for Meter to get some recognition. He nominated Meter for the Fishing Hall of Fame in Garrison, and the hall’s board voted him in to recognize his contributions to fishing.
Hall President Keith Witt said the bottom bouncer “was a revolutionary development for certain areas. It really helps us fish areas where it would be really difficult to fish without snagging or other problems.
“They’re great on (Lake) Sakakawea,” he said. “That’s primarily the way we fish three-quarters of the time out here, personally.”
Meter, who died in 2014, 50 years after inventing the bottom bouncer, fished both as a hobby and competitively in tournaments, and he ran his own tackle companies for decades.
He also is being remembered for his advocacy of the sport and his efforts to get young people involved in it. He volunteered for fishing events, especially those involving boat safety and water safety and youth-related events. He was a founding member of the Bis-Man Reel & Rec club in 1979, and he organized the group’s Take-a-Kid-Fishing program.
Introducing kids to fishing was a joy for his father, Alan Meter said. Bob Meter especially liked hooking a fish without anyone knowing and nonchalantly handing his pole to an unsuspecting youngster in the boat under the guise of needing to check on the motor. Once the child realized there was a fish on the end of the line, “his eyes would light up,” Alan said.
“He did that trick I don’t know how many times, just to get a squeal out of a kid,” Alan said. “He gave the kid all the credit for catching the fish.”
Bob Meter will become the 38th member of the Hall of Fame during an induction ceremony on Thursday, July 18, at the City Auditorium in Garrison, prior to the rules meeting for the 44th annual North Dakota Governor's Walleye Cup fishing tournament Friday and Saturday on Lake Sakakawea.
The Hall of Fame is at North Country Marine & Motorsports in Garrison. A framed photo and summary of Meter’s contributions to the sport will go on display there. A plaque will go to his family.
“It means a lot,” Alan Meter said. “He’s a worthy candidate. He pretty much dedicated his life to fishing and promoting fishing, especially with the kids. He was big on that, and on manufacturing fishing tackle.”
One piece, in particular.
“The bottom bouncer is the mom’s apple pie of fishing today,” Mitzel said.