What started out as the simple pilfering of several wooden lures from my fathers tackle box has turned into a fairly impressive collection of sport fishing artifacts.
Not that I purloined those plugs for the sake of posterity. I just thought they looked neat.
I was also quite taken with the illustrations and artwork on the boxes they came in. I still have most of those old lures and dozens of others accumulated over the years, not to mention all sorts of steel and cane rods. I like to think that by collecting such artifacts I am, in a way, helping to preserve sport fishing history.
Fishing tackle has certainly changed over the years. Cane rods have been replaced by ultra high modulous graphite rods and hand-crafted, machined aluminum reels that cost more than many of the vehicles I have owned.
Gone are the wooden plugs with their glass eyes. Gone too are plugs and lures with names like Chubb Creek Minnow, Lazy Ike, Moonlight Floater and Surface Dingbat. We now have Killer Crank Baits, Buzz Bombs and Hawg-busters. Maybe it’s just me, but somehow, there doesn’t seem to be very much of the old romantic tradition left in catching a bright shiny rainbow trout on a piece of muti-coloured fluorescent painted plastic with a name like Trout Killer stamped on the side of it. To me, the old lures are not simply artifacts, they are more like art works whose beauty and craftsmanship have stood the test of time and will, hopefully, continue to be admired by generations of anglers to come.
There are still a few companies that make wooden lures. One such company is Lyman Lures, which was started back in 1946 in Kelowna, BC. Lyman Dooley was a one-third partner in a local fishing tackle store and began designing and producing fishing plugs made of yellow cedar. He labelled them Lyman Lures and sold them out of the store. What started out as a hobby would become a family business that expanded, sold and resold several times over the years. Lyman Lures have caught a lot of fish for more than 70 years and continue to be a staple in a lot of angler’s tackle boxes.
The Best Lure Company, also out of Kelowna, makes wooden lures that, according to their website, are “designed to imitate the erratic action of an injured fish … this is due to the buoyancy of the wood and the weight distribution which creates a darting action that has yet to be achieved in other fishing lures in today’s market. Additionally, the design and colours produce a realistic and alluring action that fish just can’t resist.”
Most recent on the scene is a company called Fishinator Lures out of Blind Bay. Owner Terry Fischer also started making plugs as a hobby when he was living in Revelstoke. After years of honing his craft and perfecting small two and three-inch wood plugs with specific colour combinations that just seemed to work, Fischer moved to Blind Bay where he has set up shop to manufacture his plugs on a larger scale. All his wood plugs are handmade, painted and signed by Terry himself. I’ve been acquiring a fair number of Fishinator plugs designed specifically for kokanee. I can’t wait to try them out come next spring.
Sometimes, when I am going through some of the old piscatory paraphernalia I’ve collected, I cannot help but simply admire the craftsmanship and attention to detail. All I know is that I am glad there are still craftsmen out there like Terry Fischer who take pride in their work, and who are carrying on the tradition of making quality wooden plugs.
A famous artist supposedly once said they knew they had achieved fame when a professional art thief tried to steal one of their works. I don’t know about that but I do know I’m glad I still have those old wooden lures that I pilfered so long ago.
They truly are little works of art. They are also probably the closest thing I will ever have to owning an art collection.
One thing I do know for sure is that our local fishing tackle store has a pretty good selection of quality wooden plugs that would make really nice stocking-stuffers for just about any angler. Just a thought.