MADISON, Wis. -- Before Brian Jensen's mobile app showed up in the sporting goods sections of hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, the Sun Prairie native got all but skunked on a fishing trip to northern Minnesota.
The fishing on Rainy Lake, near International Falls, was bad all week, and during what he called his "nine-hour drive of shame" back to Madison, he did some serious second-guessing. Should he have tried different locations? Different times? Different bait?
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His idea was a mobile app that would tell anglers where the fish are biting ... now.
So he teamed up with some software developers and geography consultant Geo Decisions, the Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1a4iYKT). They created Fishidy, a website and mobile application that anglers can use to chart their own fishing successes and failures and to pass the word along, but only to those they want to know. They can also talk to other fishing enthusiasts through Fishidy's social media website and post photos of their catch on the "Braggin' Board."
Fishidy is free to download and makes money on premium content that some users pay for.
"We have proprietary maps of over 8,000 bodies of water nationwide," Jensen said. "The Google map ends at the boat launch -- that's where we start up."
Now, Fishidy has hooked a major retailer to spread the word. Wal-Mart is promoting the app in about 2,500 of its stores nationwide.
"We give them access to some of our information and in return, they're promoting it in some of their stores," Jensen said.
No money was exchanged in the Wal-Mart deal, Jensen said. He said the retailer wants to sell anglers fishing gear, and Fishidy gets more users, some of whom may pay for the premium content.
On a recent Friday afternoon, a placard touting Fishidy was displayed among fishing lures at the Wal-Mart on Watts Road. There, Sonya Johnston of Middleton was shopping for a gift for her father and a fishing pole for herself as she plans for a weekend of fishing on the lakes in and around Madison. She had looked online and planned to fish Lake Mendota but said Fishidy would be great to help her find the hot spots once she's out on the water.
"This is especially helpful for someone who hasn't been fishing in years, like myself," Johnston said.
Mike Mellon of Cross Plains said he and his sons typically share fishing hot spots only with each other and close friends. He said his sons often use Lake-Link, a website where anglers can post fishing activity, and he could see them using Fishidy at some point.
"You know your buddies and you have your secret spots that we like to keep to ourselves," Mellon said.
Jensen said that a few times a month, he pulls out his heavy-duty rods and reels and heads to Lake Monona around daybreak, getting in a couple of hours of angling before work. Musky are his favorite, and he says he's landed one as big as 40 inches.
He founded Fishidy in 2010, and the app launched late last year. Jensen said it has attracted about 50,000 users so far.
The company has four employees in the office and three in other states who work remotely, Jensen said. Fishidy already has received more than $1 million from angel investors and is trying to raise another $1 million to $2 million by the end of the summer.
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj