Smart sensor for fishing rods provides key data each time on the water

“We needed a tool to make it easy to access your phone instead of taking your phone from your pocket.”

— Vitaly Pchelnikov


A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work, or so the classic bumper sticker says. However, it is no fun to spend a day at your favorite fishing spot and leave without the thrill of the catch.

Although technology such as fish finders have helped anglers find the right spots, they provide no analytics. Diehard anglers may take copious notes, but that is often impractical on the water when your hands have to hold the fishing rod.

Inventor Vitaly Pchelnikov—a seasoned angler who understands the frustration of fruitless days out fishing—has developed the Cyberfishing device to give anglers key insights about their fishing trips.

Cyberfishing is a smart sensor for fishing rods. It attaches to any fishing rod with heavy-duty elastic bands and collects data while you fish. At just 9 grams, it has little effect on the feel of the pole and can record data such as number of casts and put a time stamp on your catch.

It has an LCD screen for user feedback and Bluetooth connectivity to send back data to a smartphone for analysis. When a fish is caught, the user touches the face of the device to record the catch, the location and environmental data. The device is waterproof, and the app is free to download.

The essential workaround

Pchelnikov’s theory was that if anglers had detailed data of where, when, and the conditions when a fish was caught, it could help predict how to fish in future trips. However, counting casts, recording strikes and catches, and chronicling the conditions for every trip is cumbersome and takes away from the joy of fishing.

Using a smartphone could help with notes, but it’s not always convenient to use on the water.

“We needed a tool to make it easy to access your phone instead of taking your phone from your pocket. Sometimes your hands are dirty, it’s inconvenient and you could be fishing in water up to your chest,” Pchelnikov said.

To work around that problem, he decided to put sensors on the pole to monitor casts and send data to the smartphone so the angler could focus on the fishing.

The first prototype came together in a few months. The first iteration was not very refined and consisted of a few sensors that were banded to a fishing rod, and a GSM module to move the data to the cloud via the cellular network.

However, Pchelnikov found that the GSM chip was too much of a battery hog for the size of the device. That was omitted from future iterations, in favor of using the phone as the data transport mechanism and GPS sensor.

He found an app developer to create a functional app to receive the data. This allowed him to perform the crucial early testing. In the initial testing, it was difficult to accurately tell when a cast was made.

“Every fisherman has a different technique,” he said. “If you use a very light cast, the software cannot recognize (the cast). We never stop developing our software. The algorithm is very important for us”—a technical challenge that the team is continuing to refine.

Protection and processes

Pchelnikov and the Cyberfishing team filed all of their intellectual property in China. Because the product is a small electronic device, they felt that if it was infringed upon, it would likely be from someone in that region so it was important to have patents filed there. He conceded that his patents are a secondary strategy for IP; brand and market penetration are more important to the product’s commercial success.

Finding a manufacturing partner was not a difficult challenge. Pchelnikov spent many years working in the fishing supply industry and had many Asian factory contacts.

Through his network, he was able to find a factory that manufactures smart watches and had an interest in making the product. Cyberfishing has many of the same components and a similar structure to a smart watch, so it was a perfect fit. He was able to manufacture a beautiful device with a screen and the requisite waterproof specification at a price that was appropriate for his consumer base.

Cyberfishing was launched at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Pchelnikov feels that Cyberfishing is more of a technology company than a fishing company and wanted to launch there first; his faith in the strategy led to Cyberfishing winning a 2019 CES Innovation award.

He has followed that launch by exhibiting at 11 other shows around the globe in a big push for brand awareness and customers. The product started shipping early in the second quarter this year and has  sold thousands of units.

Pchelnikov is excited by the progress while continuing development work on the product. He is constantly refining and updating the sensing algorithm and plans to release a fly fishing mode in the app this year.