Thursday, Mar 22, 2018
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Matt Markey

Tyepro tool a welcome sight for many anglers

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    Tom Vandewalle, owner of Columbus-based Topnotch Innovations, LLC, and inventor of the TYEPRO tying tools. These fishing tools help when aging or decreased vision had previously made fishing nearly impossible.

    Topnotch Innovations

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    Inventor Tom Vandewalle of Columbus demonstrates the Tyepro tool, which uses a spring to hold the eye of the hook in place, and a funnel opening to guide the fishing line through the eye. The tool is easy to spin while the angler ties a knot, and has a built-in cutter to clip away the excess line.

    Topnotch Innovations, LLC

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BLOOMDALE, Ohio — In the final years of my father’s life, he maintained his love of fishing even as his health was steadily deteriorating. As he had for more than four decades, dad found a wealth of solace and comfort in spending a couple of evening hours fishing at Ziegler’s quarry here in rural Wood County.

We could park close to the water’s edge so the walk wasn’t very difficult, and a flat rock as big as a deck provided a level surface for a folding patio chair. And even into his mid 70s, Doc Markey could still catch them and still clean fish with the surgical skills that had served him throughout his career.

TyePro Instructional Video from Topnotch Innovations, LLC on Vimeo.

But where he struggled the most was threading the line through those tiny eyelets on fishing hooks or lures. Bifocals or trifocals — it didn’t matter — there was no easy way to follow that wispy angel-hair line and coax it through that narrow opening.

Holding the hook while tying the knot presented another set of challenges for those stove pipe fingers that probably were more arthritic than he let on.

A proud, dignified, self-made man who rose from the dust of a Depression-era farm to be an officer in the U.S. Army during World War II, then go on to medical school and operate a busy family practice for 45 years, my father wasn’t cut from the cloth where you ask for a lot of help. Occasionally, in his 11th hour, I tied his fishing line for him, closing the circle with the man who had taught me the knots I still use today.

I wish Tyepro had come along at the time my dad was in the home stretch of his life.

This fishing tool, which has that elusive mythical combination of simplicity and genius that so few inventions can support, would have made a big difference in his final fishing days.

This is an extra set of hands and/​or a new set of eyes for any fisherman, disguised as an earth-toned clothespin you wear on a lanyard.

The angling world is full of gadgets and gizmos of suspect value.

The application of these thingamabobs rarely matches the hype. The opposite is true with Tyepro. With precious little fanfare, it can extend the fishing days of many a septuagenarian or octogenarian — or make those outings more enjoyable for anyone who has dropped a jig into the water, or stuck the hook into the soft tissue of a digit while trying to tie on a lure in a rocking boat.

“It has been helpful to a lot of people,” said Tyepro inventor Tom Vandewalle, the Columbus man who was first motivated to create a tool of this nature about 10 years ago.

“While fishing the streams, I could feel my eyes starting to fade, especially in low light, and I hate wearing glasses out in the elements, so I was determined to find a better solution,” said Vandewalle, who retired in 2014 after a long career at Abbott Laboratories, where he worked in management and led plastic packaging and sustainable packaging initiatives and ultimately was responsible for those operations at 17 company plants across the globe.

“I had a good understanding of plastics from my design and development work in my prior job,” added Vandewalle, who received a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue and was awarded three U.S. patents while working at Abbott.

He first sought to create a do-it-all device that would tie the knot as well, and he went through a lot of different mockups in the initial design process before determining that simplicity was the route to success.

“The ‘light bulb’ moment for me was when I decided I shouldn’t try to conquer the world, since the best designs are often the simple ones,” he said. “The clothespin concept came from me just stepping back and realizing this was not going to be as hard as I was making it.”

What Vandewalle hatched is a tool that holds the eye of the hook in the ideal position, then uses a funnel to feed the line through the eye with ease. A stainless steel spring and a soft tip grip the eye securely while you execute the preferred knot. A line clipper on the handle removes the excess, and a lanyard and lockdown bead keep the tool at the ready.

There is the standard model that works with most jigs and hooks, plus an alternative Tyepro Fly & Ice model for smaller eyelets and fine tippets.

Once he had the basic design for Tyepro established, Vandewalle worked with a Columbus company to fine tune the concept, made prototypes, then went to an injection molding company in nearby Blacklick to produce the tool.

“I’ve had a lot of help, and it was important to me to keep everything here, close by,” said Vandewalle, who enjoys fishing the streams around Ohio’s capital city for smallmouth bass.

“I’m old school, so I prefer to look people in the eye rather than doing all of this from a distance.”

He has sold tens of thousands of the Tyepro tools at, and he enlists the help of his wife, son, and daughter-in-law with handling all of the orders. Vandewalle desires to keep his Topnotch Innovations small to avoid the burden of regulations and excessive paperwork.

“This was supposed to be a hobby, so I didn’t quite expect what we have here,” he said. “Sometimes it seems like everyone else is fishing but me, but it’s gratifying to know there are a lot of fishermen out there who have found Tyepro to be very helpful.”

And my father’s son is one of them.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: or 419-724-6068. 

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