Monday, July 12, 2010

Forget the hot tub, I want a "Tackle Store Time Machine."

No, I haven't seen the movie, but in keeping with the theme of the last blog, Joe Cermele over at F&S had an interesting blog post last week about a late-seventies, early-eighties era striper decal he found at a local hardware store. It got me to thinking about my own interest in fishing tackle and sporting memorabilia from that time, the era in which I came of age.

In no way can the ads and items from the seventies and eighties be considered the kind of classic, stylized art deco objets d'art that the earlier stuff has become, but it has its own unique charms, even if those charms ooze schlock.

And such it is with fishing tackle. I have a special interest in vintage tackle and ads from the seventies and eighties because well, that's when I came of age. I'm constantly cruising the pawn shops and little small-town hardware stores for the tackle that time forgot. Old rods, reels, tackle and tackle boxes: it's amazing what's still out there sitting on store shelves. Whether it's pawn shops or some old ramshackle small-town bait store, I'm always on the prowl.

I've also got a bunch of baits from the same period. There's nothing better than walking into an old hardware or small-town general store and finding that stuff still on the shelf; old, sun-bleached, utterly forgotten. It really is a "Tackle Store Time Machine."

The funny thing is, although (as I mentioned it the last blog) I absolutely love the ads and commercial art from the early golden period of hunting and fishing commercial art (I'm currently reading a biography of the great Lynn Bogue Hunt) I don’t really care for that earlier (and much more expensive and collectable) fishing tackle. I guess it just doesn't resonate as much for me because I wasn't around then.

But old tackle from the seventies is like drinking an ice-cold coke made with real sugar out of a glass bottle with a bunch of salty peanuts in it, a delicious and fleeting evocation of a time and place you can't get back to.

Oh, I know the Mann's Jelly Worm is still being produced, but it's a pretty safe bet the package they come in no longer proclaims it as the bait that won the 1973 Miller High Life Bassmasters Classic. And the Bill Norman Snatrix is long gone (as is its creator, Dr. Loren Hill, the undisputed dean of late seventies-early eighties bass fishing research-related gimmickry. I took a fishing class with Loren Hill at the OU Biological Station at Lake Texoma my senior year of college. It was interesting. I'l blog about it sometime...). The Hustler-T (which I believe is actually still around and has since morphed into the Lil Hustler Bait Company) was a popular locally-made soft bait from the time when small regional tackle and bait companies could survive by selling their products to the thousands of small, independent tackle shops that pre-dated the coming of the big mega-chains and big-box stores.

From a collector or value standpoint none of this stuff  or any other tackle from that era will really ever be worth much (although prices on some of those early Shimano, Daiwa and Lew's baitcasters are starting to take off), but from where I stand, they're priceless.

In fact, look for an all-retro bass fishing pictorial sometime in the future. No tackle made after the first break-up of Van Halen allowed...


  1. Chad
    Next time you're over its worth checking out Robert Opie's Museum of Brands. I met him once and basically he's made a good living out of collecting the crap everyone else chucked years ago. some great pubs within easy staggering distance of the museum too.

  2. Ah, love that stuff. I remember riding my Schwinn to Allen's True Value Hardware and agonizing over whether to purchase a new Arbogast Hula Popper or a Sgt. Rock comic book. The tackle aisle even had its own smell, a combination of oily plastic worms and slowly decaying stink bait.

  3. Jitterbug- caught my first bass on one, either that or a "pig boat" (H&H Spinner) but definitely the first bass I really remember. I recall that tackle aisle smell.

    Looking forward to the retro tackle pictorials.

  4. SBW, "within easy staggering distance" is the main criteria for pretty much everything next time I'm over (whenever the hell next time may be).

    Scampwalker, I know exactly what you mean about that glorious, nostalgia-inducing (and probably carcinogenic...)tackle aisle smell. For me it was TG&Y. Loved that place. Bought my very first Ambassadeur there in 1979, when I was...nine.

    Mdmnm, the H&H spinner, now that's a classic. No matter where you were you could always count on some little store having a few cards of H&H spinners hanging there. Cheap, too. Damn I caught a lot of bass on those things...

  5. Not TY&G, but Gibson's, in my case (re: tackle aisle). Haven't caught a bass in years but I still like the H&H with the yellow and black skirt.

  6. Anybody remember Quong Wo Sing? Probably not... it was my first "tackle" shop, in Isleton, owned by a family friend. It was really a hardware store, but he fished, and so he had some great products there for that, too. The whole store was maybe 600 sq. ft.

    This post immediately reminded me of that amazing place. Thanks, man.