Tucked away in a remote corner of the worldwide web is a place called Fishing for History, and what happens there is special to a select group of angling enthusiasts. For them, it's a frequent stop in their weekly browsing routine.
Created by Dr. Todd Larson, Fishing for History is custom tailored to vintage tackle collectors and/or anyone interested in the lore of our great sport. Among the site's more popular attractions are its regular features, "Deconstructing Old Ads," "Things I Would Buy If Only I Could Afford Them" and "Video of the Week." You'll also find book and film reviews, updates on other collector sites, previews to upcoming auctions and shows and a whole lot more.
Unlike the more heavily trafficked mega-sites, Fishing for History isn't about the latest tackle trends or who's leading the Angler of the Year race. This site is simply a place to find information on the more historical events as they relate to fishing.
In sharp contrast to so many in this game, Dr. Todd isn't a shameless self-promoter — nor is he trying to monetize his website with banner ads or access fees. He's merely a man with a passion and desire to create a special place for others who share his interests. And he's perfect for the part.
Introduced to the hobby through his father at age 13, young Todd quickly became fascinated with old fishing tackle. His curiosity soon led to an incurable obsession — a need to know how things were made, the materials used to make them, and their origins ... even patent information. At this early age, he spent countless hours researching the lures in his father's vast collection.
Raised in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Todd, along with his father and brother, would scour the countryside in search of old tackle boxes, rods and reels. He was interested in anything old pertaining to fishing.
They frequented flea markets, yard sales, estate auctions — you name it, they hit them all. But it wasn't all about the chase for Todd. When rare items were acquired, he couldn't wait to begin researching their origins, then sharing those findings with his father and brother.
As time wore on, Todd's interests in historical things increased, ultimately leading him to focus his academics on the subject. Eventually he earned a degree in history from the University of Minnesota, then his doctorate at the University of Illinois. Today, he's a professor of history at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Todd's also a prolific writer. He's authored countless articles on various topics related to fishing and tackle collecting. With so much information to share, he decided his best platform would be a website, making it available to anyone interested in the subject. And so, Fishing For History was born.
Although his site is targeted at a narrow slice of the overall angling community, Todd believes his work is worthwhile and important to those seeking the information. And you can't deny his numbers.
Although not of Bassmaster.com caliber, his modest site draws an impressive 12,000 to 15,000 unique visitors per week, with the average user spending between 7-10 minutes each visit. And those numbers are on the rise.
Why so much interest? According to Todd, tackle collectors and historians are passionate about their interests, and they evidently can’t get enough of the subject elsewhere. Whatever brings the need, they do visit his site ... often.
Like most of his followers, I look forward to each week's new entry. A personal favorite is "Video of the Week," which sometimes features film clips from the IGFA's archives. For anyone who appreciates the beginnings of sportfishing, these films are priceless. They document fishing at a simpler time, when self-taught anglers fished from vintage mahogany skiffs using knuckle-busting reels fastened to split-cane rods.
Another favorite is "Deconstructing Old Ads" with Bill Sonnett. Recognized as one of the most knowledgeable collectors in the hobby, Sonnett's research provides clues and valuable information on early advertisements and other forms of fishing ephemera.
Perhaps the most popular feature on the site is "Things I Would Buy If Only I Could Afford Them." Basically, this represents Todd's weekly picks of the more coveted angling collectibles on eBay. They appear as snapshots with live links to the actual listings, and they draw considerable traffic.
Although he tries to spread his selection so that there's something for everyone, there's no denying his obvious preference for vintage fly tackle. Dr. Todd is a fly fisherman at heart.
After launching his site in 2007, Todd has since become a publisher. His company, Whitefish Press, has printed scores of books on the history of fishing and its most influential people — characters like Dr. James Henshall, who is recognized by many as the father of modern bass fishing. His list also includes books on collecting vintage tackle, some of which offer important historical accounts of smaller, more obscure tackle manufacturers. If not for Todd's services, these books might never have found their way to the public.
So, if you're a collector of old fishing tackle or simply interested in the lore of our sport, visit Fishing For History. The site is easy to navigate, and I'll bet, in a glance, you'll find something that draws you in.