Reel-World Engineering

Pequot Lakes High School students design, build, and sell ice fishing rattle reels in popular outdoor engineering course

WRITTEN BY JODIE TWEED | PHOTOGRAPHED BY NELS NORQUIST

THERE’S LITTLE DOUBT THAT ICE FISHING IS A POPULAR WINTER PASTIME FOR MANY PEQUOT LAKES HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. “That’s pretty much all I do,” Anthony Sullivan, a PLHS senior, admits with a laugh. “Along with most of these kids.”

Pequot Lakes High School seniors Anthony Sullivan (left), Jacob Faacks, and Josh Pettit show examples of the rattle reels they make in Keith Lumley’s outdoor engineering class.

Sullivan had been trying to get into technology education instructor Keith Lumley’s outdoor engineering course since he was a freshman. He was able to enroll in the popular hands-on class this fall. Lumley teaches three sections of the class to seventy students each year. 

“Anything Mr. Lumley teaches is fun, but I thought this was an interesting subject. We know we’re going to make rattle reels,” says Sullivan. 

Jacob Faacks, a PLHS senior, adjusts a rattle reel that will be sold to raise funds for the outdoor engineering course he’s enrolled in.

What’s a rattle reel, you may ask? Rattle reels are an alternative to using ice fishing rods in fish houses. Fishing line is wrapped around the wheel and “rattles” when a fish grabs the attached hook and bait, notifying the angler that a fish is on the line. It’s a hands-free way of ice fishing. 

Lumley’s outdoor engineering course employs a variety of technology and hands-on skills, including computer-aided design and drafting, graphic arts, woodworking, and advanced manufacturing. By the end of the course, students will have built two wooden rattle reels, one to keep and one that will be sold at two Nisswa stores. All proceeds go back into the program to help pay for the cost of materials for the rattle reels, along with a fishing pole and an ice fishing rod that each student will also make and keep during the class. 

Students use a variety of woodworking tools and equipment to build rattle reels, including CNC routers, table saws, miter saws, band saws, and drum sanders. They walk through the entire design process, starting with the basics of drawing plans by hand to using 3D software and, in the end, being able to hold the finished product. 

Keith Lumley (left), a technical education instructor, inspects a few rattle reels with Josh Pettit, a senior, at Pequot Lakes High School.

“A lot of our students have a passion for outdoors and fishing,” says Lumley, which is why he came up with the idea for the course. He’s been teaching at PLHS for ten years. “It’s a natural fit for kids who go to school here.” 

“Our school is really good at pushing trades programs,” says Josh Pettit, a PLHS senior, who serves as a student assistant in the course. “I have these rattle reels in my fishhouse.”

“These are skills we can take with us the rest of our lives,” adds Sullivan. 

“I really love fishing on weekends with my buddies, and this is a fun class to take,” explains Jacob Faacks, also a senior. “I like hands-on stuff.”

Lumley says the rattle reels are available locally by early December, but they sell out fast. 

“It’s awesome what they are doing in Pequot, and I want to support them in every way I can,” explains Greg Carlson, owner of Carlson Hardware in Nisswa, which carries the student-made rattle reels. “I’ve got people coming back for them because of the quality.”  

PLHS Rattle Reels

Available at Carlson Hardware and Boomer’s Bait and Tackle, both in Nisswa.