A blast from the past

This past week I attended the Florida International Tackle Show, which was sanctioned by the Florida Antique Tackle Collectors (FATC). The show is held each year in Daytona at the Plaza Resort & Spa, a large and majestic beachside hotel with lots of charm and historical significance — the perfect venue for a vintage tackle show.

As usual, many outstanding collections were on display — all of which were focused on specific categories. Included were early lures, rods, reels, tackleboxes, advertising ephemera and countless other artifacts of angling.

Some of the lures exhibited date back to pre-historic times, while others (far more modern) represented the first wooden lures ever developed in this country. Also featured were many rare reels, including those handmade by 1800s watchmakers, and big game reels owned and fished by literary icons, Ernest Hemingway and Zane Grey. Even Chuck Heddon brought a collection of tackle left to him by his great-grandfather.

Although I've attended this show many times in the past, this one seemed particularly special.

Busman's Holiday

Each year, show host Larry Lucas asks me to help promote the event, and part of that includes attracting media and various sports celebrities. This year we hit it out of the park!

Not only did B.A.S.S. Senior Editor Ken Duke and his wife show up, famed PGA golfer Andy Bean was there, too!

Ken came because he has a true passion for our sport, and he's consumed with its history. He also wanted to cover the event for Bassmaster.com (be sure to watch for his upcoming gallery special on vintage tackle).

Andy Bean was there to show off some of his Jim Bagley (Bagley Bait Company) lures — a collection of saltwater prototypes he and Jim collaborated on years ago.

Both Bean and Bagley were avid saltwater fishermen, and the two would frequent the Ten Thousand Islands region on Florida's west coast in pursuit of trophy snook. Like all lure makers, Bagley was adamant about using his own creations. And in an effort to prove his wooden lures would perform in saltwater as well as any plastic plug, he enlisted Bean's help. Their combined efforts resulted in beautifully shaped, hand-finished lure bodies, each painted in brilliant color patterns.

That's me holding a special gift from PGA pro Andy Bean (right).

Years ago, I met Andy at a celebrity golf and fishing event and we hit it off from the start. As we got to know each other better, we began making trips to the Everglades to fish for snook and bass (there they swim together in brackish water). Those trips were memorable. In fact, it seemed each time we went, at least one of us would catch a trophy-sized specimen.

We fished in extreme shallow bays and backwaters, usually in less than 2 feet of water. And we only used plugs.

Right from the start I realized Andy was a great caster — the most accurate long-distance caster I've ever been in a boat with. Part of that is due to his size (he's a big man). The rest is because of his superior depth-of-field vision — something every great golfer seems to be born with.

Anyway, on one of those trips, Bagley met us for lunch at a remote area called "Lostman's Slough." It was there that he gave me one of his "special" snook lures, which remains in my collection to this day.

Back to the Present

During the Daytona show, Andy and I reminisced about the times we shared fishing for snook, and how Bagley was such an influence on Florida angling — both in fresh and saltwater. When the conversation wound down, Andy presented me with a keepsake from his personal collection of prototypes — a "Balsa Saltwater Shad." The gesture caught me off guard, and I was suddenly the envy of every Bagley collector in the room — including Johnnie Garland and Craig Comjean, both noted experts and published authors on the history of Bagley's Bait Company.

Rapala Minnows featuring the "Star Pattern" foil finish.

As Andy began to move around the showroom, sharing his time with others, I refocused my efforts with Ken Duke — introducing him to some advanced collectors so that he could interview them and take a few photos.

We visited with experts on Foss, Creek Chub, Heddon, Pflueger, Meek & Milam and Rapala. Find an early Rapala minnow featuring the "star pattern" foil finish, and it's money in the bank! The company has a rich history and a very strong appeal among collectors.

The Daytona show attracts many of the hobby's biggest names, including Bill Roberts (co-author of The Heddon Legacy), Ed Pritchard (author and historian for the IGFA) and Joe Stagnitti (acknowledged authority on anything and everything related to vintage lures). Also present were Don and Joan Lyons (founders of the Heddon Museum), Bill Stuart and Doug Brace (co-authors of Florida Lure Makers & Their Lures), and many other notables.

In all, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable time — just what I needed after a flurry of tackle and boat show appearances. But now it's time to concentrate on the Elite Series, which should be well underway by the time you read this.

So, till next time, you may want to check your attic or basement for any old fishing gear. There are people out there looking for the stuff … famous people, too!

Bill Roberts with his vintage "Heddon Top 25" display.

Check out these clubs!

Florida Antique Tackle Collectors

National Fishing Lure Collectors Club

Old Reel Collectors Association

Carolina Antique Tackle Collectors

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