This week, more than 1,000 members of the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club (NFLCC) will gather in Springfield, Mo., for the annual "National" show — each one hoping to buy, sell, trade or display their angling artifacts.
Although the club's name might suggest this is purely a lure show, that's hardly the case. Rods, reels, creels, pork rind jars, minnow buckets, advertising, ephemera and anything else imaginable related to fishing will be on display. It's the biggest event of its kind, and collectors from all around the globe come to participate. See photos.
From the beginning
The NFLCC was founded in 1976 and, to this day, it remains a tightly run nonprofit organization.
Its mission is "to foster an awareness of fishing tackle collecting as a hobby and to assist members in the location, identification, and trading of vintage fishing-related equipment."
The club's purpose goes far beyond that, however. It's also charged with the task of educating the general public on the historical significance of vintage fishing tackle. Part of that involves hosting regional meets to encourage recruitment. The club also publishes two periodicals — the NFLCC Magazine and Gazette. Both offer insights on collecting with profiles of key members and feature stories of vintage tackle makers and their creations. They also provide news related to the hobby.
In all, the NFLCC has 3,500 members worldwide, including some from Canada, Japan, South Africa and various parts of Europe. It's a very diverse group, but one with a common passion for collecting anything old that relates to fishing.
This year's event will be held at the University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in downtown Springfield. Doors open at 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 9, and close at 5 p.m. The show spans three days, closing at 1 p.m. on the 11th.
The National is not for the general public, however. To gain access, you'll need to join the NFLCC (annual dues are $35 for US citizens, $60 for residents of Canada and $85 for all others), and there's a $25 registration fee. It may not seem inexpensive, but for those with a passion for it, it's a small price to pay.
As many as 2,000 patrons are expected to attend.
Rooms with a view
Many will arrive in advance of the show to participate in what's referred to as "room trading" — where collectors go from room to room in the host hotel, actively buying, selling and trading. And this can go on for several days. In fact, it's not uncommon for the number of room trading transactions to far outnumber those made during the actual show.
I love room trading. It's casual, and you can visit as many rooms as you like — there are usually more than 100 open at any given time. Hours run from early morning to … well, early morning.
I've acquired countless items for my collection through room trading — some of my best pieces, in fact. It's like a treasure hunt for angling artifacts, and it can get very competitive. Those who are serious go early and stay late. (Sound familiar?)
When room trading winds down, it's time to think about the show. Each year brings new exhibits, all of which are thoughtfully arranged to educate and share with others. Sort of like an angler showing off his trophy catch at weigh-in, many of these exhibitors are all about the recognition. And it's well deserved. Lots of hard work goes into finding the stuff.
Getting their displays to the showroom requires considerable effort. Droves of dollies and handcarts line the hallway into the show, each stacked with containers full of vintage tackle.
Exhibitors are given access well in advance of show time so they can set up. Then the general membership is allowed in. For those who missed room trading, it can be an anxious time, as it's their first opportunity to make a deal. And they can't wait to get inside!
The scene can sometimes be frantic — almost like Black Friday at a discount electronics store. If you're not careful, you might get trampled!
Vintage tackle junkies
I've met some interesting characters at the National … people from all walks of life, including doctors, lawyers, preachers, politicians, sports figures, you name it. I've even seen a few bass pros there.
David Walker, Scott Rook, Fish Fishburne and Ricky Green have all visited these shows at some point. And whether they're there looking for something to add to a collection or something to fish with, who's to say?
I'm there for both. I'm always on the lookout for what's referred to as "new old stock" — out of production lures that are hard to find. Even though they're not made anymore, that doesn't make them any less effective at catching fish.
Whether or not I'll make it to this year's show is still up in the air. I just got back from pre-fishing the St. Lawrence and Chesapeake Bay, and ICAST is just around the corner. But who knows? Maybe I'll see you there.
For more information on the NFLCC and its shows, visit the organization's website.