A pioneer and huge name in the fishing tackle industry, Berkley “Berk” Warren Bedell passed away on Dec. 7, three days after suffering a stroke in Naples, Fla. Bedell was 98.
“It’s a wonderful industry in that we can make a job out of what most of us would like to do even if we didn’t get paid for it. I’m one of those lucky people who’ve done that,” Bedell said at his 2018 induction into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mo.
Born in Spirit Lake, Iowa, in 1921, Bedell was an entrepreneur from the get-go. With an early love of the outdoors from running with the like-minded South Side Gang, he had an interesting start in the fishing world. As a high schooler during the Depression, he sold trout flies to a local shop. He used fur from the family dog, Tippy, a “Heinz 57” breed, and chicken feathers he obtained from the town processing plant and died with Rid.
Berkley and Co. was established before Bedell attended Iowa State University, where he met Elinor, his wife of 73 years. He then served in the Army Air Corps as a flight instructor from 1942-45 during World War II. He returned home and began producing cable wire leaders. His Steelon nylon-coated leaders led him to experiment with extruding nylon monofilament fishing line. In 1959, he introduced Trilene fishing line.
Rods were next as well and expanding to international markets soon followed. Berkley kept inventing new products and employed hundreds in the town of around 5,000 that became a hotbed of tackle manufacturing.
Bedell, who was active in his church and community affairs, was honored in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson as the country’s first Small Businessman of the Year. In 1974, Bedell was elected as a U.S. Representative from his Iowa district and served five terms in Congress.
While in Washington, his son, Tom, oversaw expansion of Berkley and Co., adding products like Power Baits soft plastics and FireLine. In 1988, the company was renamed Outdoor Technologies Group and then became Pure Fishing in 2000.