"You can catch fish without spilling your drink."
DESTIN – Jacob Rutledge doesn’t intend to spill a drop of his drink while fishing in Destin – not anymore.
With his new invention, he will chill and reel.
The Tulsa, Oklahoma, firefighter came up with the idea for the Chill-N-Reel, a drink insulator with its own handline fishing reel, while on his annual Destin vacation in 2015.
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"You can catch fish without spilling your drink," Rutledge said. "It’s a novelty that works. We’ve had a ton of fun with it."
The product is now patent pending and Rutledge is only 800 shy of selling his goal of 5,000 for the year. He sells the Chill-N-Reel for $12 at chillnreel.com.
Rutledge’s idea sprang from a need.
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While the high school baseball coach was enjoying the beach with his baseball buddies, he saw tons of little fish surrounding him in the clear water. He had only one thought: "I gotta catch those fish."
"I tied some line around the bottom of my drink insulator and immediately started casting out and catching the fish around me," Rutledge said. "I’m catching them and I’m wrapping it around the can. I keep spilling my drink as I’m wrapping it around. I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome. This is great, but I don’t want to waste all my drink. I’m out here to drink.’"
Once Rutledge snagged a few fish, his makeshift fishing rod/koozie drew a crowd. He later gave the same performance with his father and it garnered a similar reaction.
"He was like, ‘Man, you need to figure something out, make it where it’s a patent-able thing,’" Rutledge said. "I was like, ‘Well, it’s fun for me right now, but it takes money to make money and I’m not a wealthy guy.’"
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His father kept hounding him about it though – until Rutledge took action in 2017. It didn’t take long to conjure up with a name.
"We started to ramble names and I told my boys, ‘Whoever comes up with the name, I’ll give them 100 bucks,’" Rutledge said. "They thought I was joking, so no one came up with anything. Then I was thinking, well you’re chilling and reeling fish in, Chill-N-Reel."
The Chill-N-Reel isn’t for tournament caliber fishing, but it will catch fish. Rutledge has reeled in a 15-pound blue catfish with it.
Rutledge returned to Destin with a prototype in 2018.
"I probably had 50 people come up and try to buy my prototype for me," Rutledge said. "That’s when I knew I had something."
He started selling his invention July 20 of 2019 with the help of his sons Wyatt, 14; Brody, 16; and Chase, 26. His wife, Trinity, has been really supportive, he said.
"They all chip in," Rutledge said. "My oldest boy is 26 and he does all of my online stuff for the most part. I do some stuff and then he makes fun of me for the way I word stuff. He says, ‘You’re so out of date.’ Then my wife joins in with him about the way I write stuff."
Chase is his main salesperson at shows. Trinity helps assemble everything and manages all of the Chill-N-Reel clothing. She wants to expand the brand.
His fellow firefighters at the Tulsa fire station have bought 52 Chill-N-Reels so far.
The 20-year firefighter will visit Destin in June with a Chill-N-Reel on-hand, but plans to return for a longer stay in five or six years.
"The Emerald Coast is where we eventually want to call home," Rutledge said. "Once I retire, we’re down there."