Contest finds new ideas to recycle line and baits

After a yearlong search and over 120 submissions, the winners of the BoatUS Foundation Recast and Recycle Contest have been announced. Thanks to support from Berkley along with so many great submissions and an elite panel of judges including Mark Zona and Hank Parker, the contest was an overwhelming success. The goal of the contest was achieved – to solicit new and practical solutions to help keep fishing line and used plastic baits from being discarded in landfills and waterways. 

As we learned in a previous B.A.S.S.TIMES article: Recycling used fishing line and soft plastics | Bassmaster collecting and recycling old fishing line and soft baits is not easy to do. This hampers the ability to grow the volume of line and soft bait recycling in the U.S and Canada. However, three BoatUS Foundation and Berkley Recast and Recycle Contest winners aim to change that. The prizewinners – a recent college grad, an outdoorsman and 3D printing hobbyist, and a team of four college friends also took home a total of $30,000 in prize money donated by the 501(c)(3) non-profit and Berkley.

“Today’s fishing line and soft bait recycling remains labor-intensive and costly,” said BoatUS Foundation Director of Outreach Alanna Keating. “Working with Berkley, our Recast and Recycle Contest sought out new and innovative ideas to improve the recycling process, increase the amount of recycled material, or offer a technology breakthrough in the way line is recycled and reused. We believe these winning entries, which range from a concept to prototype, have the ability to give nearly every angler the opportunity to easily recycle.”

Below are the top three winners and their submissions. 

First Prize

Before she began designing her winning concept, recent Savannah College of Art and Design graduate Abigail Askew designed her own survey to query anglers on what prevented them from recycling line and baits. She then addressed those concerns with her contest concept, which doubled as her school’s senior year capstone project. She said, “Anglers want to do what’s best for the environment, but I found they don’t always know how to or have a way to recycle.” Askew is a keen bass angler who also competed on her school’s bass fishing team and admits it’s not practical for her to melt down used plastic baits. “There had to be a better way for myself and others!” she said.  With that in mind she focussed on recycling accessibility as her contest entry’s primary goal, and that idea netted her the $15,000 top prize.

Askew explained that her original concept was more of a service design product – where basically anglers would bring their used plastic baits in to a tackle shop and watch as a staff person there melts the plastic down in a standard injection molder and makes new baits for you out of the old ones. That idea evolved however into something much more hands-on and exciting for anglers, more cost effective for stores and provides unique branding opportunities for a potential manufacturer. Her new theoretical design repurposes an idea from vintage colorful, eye-catching 1960s-style plastic souvenir machines. 

She named the new concept unit “The Berkley Recycling Machine” which would highlight in a grand way an uber-cool approach to collecting old fishing line and recycling used plastic baits.  Currently discarded line can be brought into participating tackle retailers who collect the line in cardboard box displays. Unfortunately many are in poor shape, end up under the counter or hidden away instead of proudly displayed in a high profile area of the shop. “That’s a lost opportunity,” declared Askew. The self-serve injection- molding machine also has appeal for kids, who, while watching discarded soft baits get a second life, also learn the importance of keeping our waters clean. 

The young designer, who earned her B.F.A. in Industrial Design, hopes that Berkley will manufacture these machines and distribute them to retailers.  She would also like to see them create a small tackle box made from recycled fishing line to hold the recycled plastic baits. Additionally the Berkley Recycling Machines could be placed at popular shore fishing areas and launch sites, becoming not only a popular novelty but a step in the right direction to keep old line and plastics off the landscape.

Second Prize

Reeling in $10,000 in prize money, Eric Vaughn’s prototype “Integrated Line De-Spooler” has the potential to make recycling safer and more efficient, and better answers the question of what to do with old fishing line when respooling with new line. An active angler and bow hunter, Vaughn says it was his 3D printing hobby that brought the entry to life. Vaughn’s innovative engineering solution inserts a new, smaller spool, used to take up old line with hooks removed, into a standard line spool, essentially “nesting” the spools in the existing empty space found inside spools sold at retailers today.

This allows anglers to quickly and efficiently manage the despool/respool process. Once the old line is removed and stored on the small spool by way of a special chuck (included) and electric drill, it’s snapped neatly back into the standard size spool where the new line awaits easy spooling to your reel – functioning the same as it does normally.

Locking in the old line on the small spool also makes it easier and more efficient to recycle and reduces the chances of snagging wildlife. This recycling solution can also be incorporated into existing packaging and turned into pellets to create new spools, offering benefits to manufacturers.

Third Prize

A team of Product Design Innovation students from Western Michigan University, Laura Nicholas, Anna Hurst, Maxwell Downey, and Ross Malackowski, took third place and $5,000 in prize money with their “Hook Bait” app that encourages the use of sustainable alternatives. By scanning a QR code at recycling centers, the app records what you recycle and gives rewards − eco-friendly fishing supplies based on the individual fishing style − for reaching milestones. These incentives could include hip waders or water shoes made from the recycled fishing materials.

The app could also offer the ability to search for existing used fishing line and plastic bait depot stations, includes a map to see what friends are catching, offers a journal to save photos of fish caught and important fishing information such as lures and location, and makes it easy to post on social media.

The BoatUS Foundation and Berkley hope to raise awareness of these prizewinning concepts to help support further research and development. A video of the winning entries and more can be found at the Recast and Recycle website,

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