A fishing tournament might seem an unlikely place to find a product ideally suited for the well business, but that's just where Ray Roerick made such a discovery.

The owner of Pumps Plus Inc., Broadus, MT, Roerick said he was attending a tournament when something other than fish caught his eye. That something was the Aqua-Vu underwater camera system.

"My second love after the water well business is fishing," he said. "I was in Minnesota for a fishing tournament and I saw the Aqua-Vu being used under ice to find fish. I saw the quality of the lens and the quality of the image and I said if it could look down instead of sideways, I could use it in my well business," Roerick said.

"I asked the manufacturer if they had any interest in diversifying from fishing to water wells and they said they had the technology, but didn't know about the industry," he added.

A veteran of 25 years in the water well business, including time as a well drilling and pump installation business owner, manufacturer's representative, salesman and wholesale supply house owner, Roerick offered to assist the manufacturer, Nature Vision Inc., Baxter, MN, in adapting the camera for water well use.

"I had used down-the-hole cameras before and I found them extremely useful," he said. "In the drilling business you try to have one eye in the hole and one on the drilling equipment."

Following Nature Vision's development of a prototype down-the-hole camera, Roerick said he used the unit to examine a dozen wells with excellent results. "We ended up having to drill a half dozen new wells and we saved those customers a lot of money from trying to save old wells that weren't worth saving," he said.

He added the new Well-Vu camera can help well contractors, pump installers, and well owners save time and money in locating problems. "Often we have calls from homeowners who have dropped their pump in their well. Now we can take a camera that costs less than half the price of a pump and lower it down and see the pump as bold as can be on the screen," Roerick said. "You can also use the camera to locate things and then go into the well with your fishing devices and reduce hours of work trying to find things to an hour or less."

Roerick said the camera is an important tool because it gives credibility to a well driller or pump installer by allowing the customer to see that they are being truthful about their well.

"This is something the industry has needed very badly, and I think every contractor will want one when they find out how inexpensive it is," he said. "I'm convinced this camera is more important to me than a good set of pipe wrenches. I'd be lost without it."

Nature Vision has been making underwater cameras for several years for the fishing industry and adapted the camera for water well use, said Gary McEnelly, the company's chief executive officer..

He said the new Well-Vu is a modified and improved version of the original camera with the lens mounted to view downward instead of the side view offered by the Aqua-Vu camera.

"This camera is specifically for the well industry and for inspecting wells and well casements," McEnelly said. "With this unit you can show things in the well to your customer right there on site or you can make a video of the well to show them."

The Nature Vision chief executive said the new Well-Vu camera is only two inches in diameter and four inches long and has a self-contained light source. It will be offered in color and black and white models with 120-foot or 300-foot cables.

The cameras can be purchased individually or as complete video systems. The black and white systems include monitors for viewing the camera's images, while color camera systems do not include a monitor. McEnelly said the black and white system's monitor is very compact, with a footprint measuring about 14 inches by 8 inches.

In addition to the Well-Vu system, Nature Vision Inc. manufactures a Bird-Vu system which features a small video camera that allows nature lovers to use a TV set to see close up images of birds at a feeder; and Game-Vu camera which sportsmen can use to determine what types of animals have passed by the camera.

More information about the Well -Vu and other Aqua-Vu products can be found on Nature Vision Inc.'s Web site at www.aquavu.com.