Going bass fishing?
There’s an app for that
For a video of Mehlmann using the product:
If you’ve ever watched ABC’s Shark Tank, which features local investor, entrepreneur and billionaire Mark Cuban, you know one thing the investors (i.e. “sharks”) have to see in any of the entrepreneurs pitching their ideas on the show: passion. No passion, no investment. Pretty simple rule.
So when avid bass fisherman and self-proclaimed “bass science geek” Mike Mehlmann was discussing the paucity of weather apps to help bass aficionados like himself with a fellow enthusiast, he found himself on the entrepreneurial route. Months of research into fishery biologists’ data and reports led to the creation of a bass fishing algorithm and the BassForecast Rating (BFR), an app for bass fishermen.
Mehlmann, of Arlington, was not an app developer. A former employee at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and a co-founder and managing partner of In Store Media and On The Go Media Network, he was not exactly up to speed on developing apps.
But it was a product he wanted to use himself. “If you have a passion for the product, you’ll figure out a way,” he says. Passion, enthusiasm – two key words in any Shark Tank pitch.
Mehlmann began working on the product in the spring of 2015. Launched in April on Apple’s iPhone platform, the BassForecastRating will be available to download for free from the App Store with the Android version through Google Play in June. “The way the app world works now, you offer a basic package of features for free and then get people to pay for the advanced features,” he says.
He developed the app with AccuWeather, which helped develop the algorithms and provided the weather data. The engineering was done by Mutual Mobile in Austin – about 1,200 hours of engineering time, he estimates.
The app provides all searchable, location-specific, relevant data, in real time, to anyone planning a fishing trip. Based on in-depth research of largemouth bass feeding behavior by fishery biologists, and the environmental conditions that affect it, the BFR is a combination of location, the time-lag-effect of past air temperature on water temperature, barometric pressure changes, complete solunar data and other weather factors that have been scientifically proven to affect bass. The BFR is calculated for the location of choice for 10 days in advance and provides alerts when a good day is identified.
“If you want to take off work early and go bass fishing, this app will let you know whether you should bother,” Mehlmann says.
Mehlmann learned a few things in the process of developing the product. So I asked him for any advice he has for anyone wanting to be an entrepreneur and develop a product.
• “Be realistic,” he says. “Once you decide you’re going to do it, dig into it and do your homework.” Listen to feedback and find the sweet spot for your product, he says.
• Find a good partner. Mehlmann had a partner in AccuWeather, but he almost had another one that he now realizes probably wouldn’t have worked. “It’s tempting to go with the first person or company you meet, so do your research on the partners,” he says.
Mehlmann believes the BFR will be well-received and he’s already thinking about upgrades.
“It came from our passion for the sport and realizing a big unmet need,” he says. “I’m very pleased with it.”