It still amazes me what anglers were able to accomplish with very limited resources back in the 1930s and into the early 1970s. There were very few companies providing much in the way of needed tackle, lures or accessories, so many fishermen took it upon themselves to craft the very things they envisioned would help them.
Can you even begin to see yourself, given our current technology, crafting a special lure or building tackle with all the limitations faced in the past! Many of the best ideas we still use today came from this period of innovation by anglers who had to do it all themselves. I’m always humbled when I see what they’ve built, because it’s obvious they were good anglers trying to create something special. I’ve had lures and plugs handed down to me that I still marvel at when I look closely and see the detail that went into the creations. They may not have had the advantage of all the research and experience we can tie into today, but they had a deep knowledge of what worked and how fish reacted.
Building a workable lure out of wood that performed correctly had to be quite a feat, since they didn’t have the quality tools or materials we have today. If they built a workable blank, it was on to taking raw metal, then bending, machining and polishing it so that it actually fit the blank and could be screwed on. It’s amazing to see how they built a metal fitting that attached to the body with little screws and had a formed lip that was designed to make it wriggle seductively, just like our current lures. Bigger lips for divers, hollowed out lips for topwater walking plopping baits, and smaller lips for rip type baits are just a few examples.
For most applications, metal was the thing the craftsmen of that era used – especially for its strength and some malleability. They didn’t have plastics until later, and the early plastics were notorious for falling apart as well as melting all your worms and other plastics. If you wanted strength, you needed to include metal for the key parts. It’s incredible to think they worked so hard to create original models, even without advantages such as epoxy, plastics, molds or premade accessories.
We have the huge advantage of being able to buy a lure that’s usually been field tested and tuned and all we need to do is go fish it. Don’t like it? Replace it! In their case, they had to use the few lures on the market. Anything beyond that was up to you to build. Once they decided they needed something new that had a specific action, it was off to the drawing board – where an idea was drawn out and then they had to figure out how to carry it off. Now the real work began. What shape, how big and what did you want it to do? Every part usually had to be shaped and all the tackle custom made, hoping this single lure would work correctly. Can you imagine losing it all, this work of art, on your first cast?
These anglers were thinkers and doers, innovators and great craftsmen. I’ve got beautiful veneered tackle boxes with perfect little trays inside. It was built to last and be completely waterproof. Can you envision building your own tackle box these days? There are all kinds of Rube Goldberg-type ideas these anglers tried, ones that ran the fishing-related gamut, but they were willing to try anything.
I believe these early angling pioneers set the stage for the breakthroughs we’re now blessed with. Yes, they impress me! It took a lot to be a good fisherman during this period. It took so much more effort than it does today, as well as expert craftsmanship. They pointed the way. I think we’re a little spoiled; I know I am! Never give up.