The art of the lure.Always lively and often odd, old wooden saltwater fishing lures have become sought-after pieces of folk art.
When Dad passed away, I got his fishing tackle. As his only son, it was mine by default, I guess. Since I prefer to do my fishing with a camera, it was quite some time, years in fact, before I looked into the old wooden box where he kept his saltwater gear. In the top tray were jigs, metal spoons and about a dozen lures. Beneath that were a pair of heavy, monofilament-laden spinning reels, some red and white plastic bobbers, and a small assortment of snap swivels, lead weights and Eagle Claw nickel-plated hooks, the usual stuff of fishing.
The lures were wooden, with blue, green and silver finishes. They were bigger and heavier than the freshwater bass plugs I fished with when I was a kid. And they were simpler, without all the metal propellers, hula skirts and wire weedguards. Some of them had "PIKIE" printed on the back in gold letters, indicating that they were made by one of the most prominent manufacturers, Creek Chub Chub, in the Bible
Chub (kŭb), in the Bible, an African people. This may be a textual error for Lub (i.e., Lubim).
chub, in zoology
chub: see minnow. Bait Co. of Garrett, Indiana. In the 1950s and '60s, Dad had been an avid and skillful fisherman, and I could imagine him in bait and tackle stores, picking up the little boxes one by one and examining the shapes and colors of the lures inside, pondering the relative fish-fooling potential of each.
The more I looked at the old lures, the more interesting they became. It wasn't just because they had belonged to my father. Each one seemed to have a personality of its own. Some were playful, unabashedly goofy. Some were odd, even a little unsettling un·set·tle
v. un·set·tled, un·set·tling, un·set·tles
1. To displace from a settled condition; disrupt.
2. To make uneasy; disturb.
v.intr. . Some had gold-painted eyes with black pupils, omniscient om·nis·cient
Having total knowledge; knowing everything: an omniscient deity; the omniscient narrator.
1. One having total knowledge.
2. Omniscient God. as the eyes of owls. Others had beady bead·y
adj. bead·i·er, bead·i·est
1. Small, round, and shiny: beady eyes.
2. Decorated or covered with beads. glass eyes, or no eyes at all. Some had red grinning mouths and red, comma-shaped gill slits. A few, like the Pikies, had a big metal lip designed to make them dart back and forth and wiggle around when you reeled them in.
Each lure was finely crafted and meticulously painted by hand. Like other forms of American folk art, their designs were unconventional, stylized styl·ize
tr.v. styl·ized, styl·iz·ing, styl·iz·es
1. To restrict or make conform to a particular style.
2. To represent conventionally; conventionalize. and naive. I decided to learn more about old lures. Maybe I thought that somehow, along the way, I'd learn a little more about Dad as well.
I began casting about for fishing lure aficionados. Within a few calls, I landed a couple of keepers: Randy Runey, owner of one of the best collections of sportsfishing memorabilia around, and Bill Stuart, director of the Museum of Fishing (recently relocated to the Polk County Courthouse Polk County Courthouse can refer to:
In Florida, the average tackle box is as likely to be stocked with bigmouth big·mouth
1. Slang A loudmouthed or gossipy person.
2. Any of various fishes having unusually large mouths. bass baits as it is with saltwater gear. Prior to June 2, 1932, the day George W. Perry landed a 22-pound, 4-ounce leviathan leviathan (lēvī`əthən), in the Bible, aquatic monster, presumably the crocodile, the whale, or a dragon. It was a symbol of evil to be ultimately defeated by the power of good. on Georgia's Altamaha River, the world's biggest largemouth hailed from a lake in tiny San Antonio, Florida San Antonio is a city in Pasco County, Florida, United States. The population was 655 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 913 . , just two hours north of Sarasota. Perry used a surface lure, a jointed Creek Chub Wiggle Fish. It was a typical shallow-running freshwater plug, designed to look and act like an injured shiner shiner: see minnow.
Any of several small freshwater fishes (genera Notemigonus and Notropis, family Cyprinidae). The common shiner (Notropis cornutus) is a blue and silver minnow up to 8 in. (20 cm) long. . Other bass baits are traditionally patterned after frogs or baby birds. By comparison, most saltwater lures are built to sink fast and run deep. They're equipped with heavy, rustproof rust·proof
Incapable of rusting.
rustproof v. hardware and usually painted to resemble baitfish bait·fish
n. Chiefly Chesapeake Bay & North Atlantic Coast
A small fish, such as a minnow, used for fishing bait. .
The national companies refer to the Big Five: Heddon, Shakespeare, South Bend, Pflueger and Creek Chub were all well-established by the 1930s and all produced lures of exceptional beauty and craftsmanship. Their wares graced the shelves of bait shops and hardware stores throughout the state. They competed with more than 400 homegrown lure makers, ranging from prominent entities such as the Eger Bait Company of Bartow and Barracuda barracuda, slender, elongated fish of tropical seas. Barracudas have long snouts and projecting lower jaws armed with large, sharp-edged teeth. They are ferocious, striking at anything that gleams, and are considered excellent game fishes. Brand Fishing Tackle of St. Petersburg to unassuming, independent fishermen such as Tampa's Henry Bunta, who whittled speckled trout lures out of mangrove mangrove, large tropical evergreen tree, genus Rhizophora, that grows on muddy tidal flats and along protected ocean shorelines. Mangroves are most abundant in tropical Asia, Africa, and the islands of the SW Pacific. splinters.
Snook snook: see bass, fish.
Any of about eight species (genus Centropomus) of tropical marine fishes that are long and silvery and have two dorsal fins, a long head, and a large mouth with a projecting lower jaw. Pies and Kingfish kingfish, common name for several fishes, among them the croaker and pompano.
Any of various fishes, among them certain species of mackerel and a drum. Wobblers. Zara Spooks, Tarp-Orenos and Torpecudas. Even the names are peculiar. Only obliquely - if at all - do they refer to what the lures do in the water, or what fish they're meant to attract. Sometimes they're named after movie stars or cultural icons, like Mae West, Dillinger, Barnacle barnacle, common name of the sedentary crustacean animals constituting the subclass Cirripedia. Barnacles are exclusively marine and are quite unlike any other crustacean because of the permanently attached, or sessile, mode of existence for which they are highly Bill. Other times they're inside jokes that only the manufacturer and a few fishermen understand. (For instance, Heddon's "Zaragossa" was supposedly named for an infamous street in the red light district of Pensacola. It was said that fish found the lure's wriggling action so irresistible that the fisherman who used one always got lucky.)
While no Florida manufacturer ever rivaled the Big Five in terms of national prominence, many produced lures of peerless quality. Here are a few of the most significant. For the sake of symmetry, we'll call them the Florida Five.
1. PORTER BAIT CO. (Daytona Beach). In the 1920s, Richard Owen Porter began making saltwater lures from wooden clothespins. As demand for his products grew, he designed and marketed a variety of baits, including the spectacularly successful Porter Sea Hawk, said to have caught more saltwater fish than any other lure. Porter lures usually have painted eyes with three concentric rings and a small painted bull's-eye on the belly.
2. PFEFFER LURES (Orlando). Jim pfeffer began marketing his hand-carved lures in 1927. Although his designs were copied by other manufacturers, including South Bend, none could match the exquisite paint patterns his wife applied to the lure bodies, with matchsticks and a stencil made from window screen.
3. EARL GRESH'S WOOD PARADE. St. Petersburg's Earl Parker Gresh was a renowned angler and a master craftsman. He made elegant wooden purses for the Fifth Avenue fashion elite and wooden tackle boxes for presidents Hoover and Eisenhower. Beginning in the 1950s, Gresh sold his finely crafted lures in custom presentation cases, six to a case. A number of these gift sets are still floating around, as recipients often found them too attractive to use. All Gresh lures are eagerly sought by collectors.
4. EGER BIT CO. (Bartow). In the 1930s, William F. Eger designed a number of highly innovative fishing lures, including some that were covered with frogskin. Another Eger bait, the Florida Special, proved so deadly to both freshwater and saltwater gamefish that it was nicknamed "The Dillinger."
5. BARRACUDA BRAND FISHING TACKLE (also known as the Florida Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company). Barracuda produced many successful lures, including, after 1949, the Dalton Special, said to be the most popular and effective largemouth bass largemouth bass
see micropterus salmoides. plug ever made. The St. Petersburg-based company is probably best remembered for its logo, which features the word "Barracuda" in bright red letters on a pale green background.
The era of the hand-carved fishing lure ended in the 1960s, when most manufacturers switched from wood to injection-molded plastics. Though some plastic lures are extremely rare, few collectors find them interesting. There is something offputting about them; even familiar designs seem cool and impersonal. They may be no less attractive to fish, but they're certainly less inviting to the hand and less appealing to the heart.
As it turned out, none of Dad's old wooden lures was particularly rare or valuable. But I wouldn't part with them even if they were. They remind me of those times when he'd disappear for part of the day, then show up later, relaxed, cheerful and sunburned sun·burn
Inflammation or blistering of the skin caused by overexposure to direct sunlight.
tr. & intr.v. sun·burned or sun·burnt , sun·burn·ing, sun·burns
To affect or be affected with sunburn. . They may not be worth much to collectors, but those memories make them precious to me.
Help for the novice collector
Michael Echols Antiquelures (www.antiquelures.com/) Joe's Old Lures (220.127.116.11/) Ron Gast Antique Fishing Lures & Tackle (www.geocities.com/yosemite/6310/)
National Fishing Lure Collectors Club (NFLCC NFLCC National Fishing Lure Collectors Club ) P.O. Box 1791 Dearborn, MI 48121
Florida Fishing Tackle Collectors Inc. P.O. Box 420703 Kissimmee, FL 34742
Florida Lure Makers and Their Lures. Douglas J. Brace, Russell D. Riddle Jr. and Bill Stuart. The Museum of Fishing, Bartow, Florida 1997
Old Fishing Lures and Tackle. Carl F. Lucky, Books American, 1996