The fishing industry lost a giant of innovation whose ingenuity continues to help countless anglers and whose company was the first, more than 50 years ago, to sponsor the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society.
Darrell Lowrance, 80, pilot, inventor and the founder of Lowrance Electronics, died early Saturday after suffering a stroke. A moment of silence is planned in his honor during the final weigh-in at the Bassmaster Classic Sunday.
“It’s fitting here to be remembering Darrell Lowrance during the Bassmaster Classic with Lowrance being the first sponsor of B.A.S.S.,” said Gordon Sprouse, marketing director for Navico. The company issued the following statement.
“Not only was Darrell instrumental in developing, manufacturing and marketing the world’s first recreational sonar, the Fish-Lo-K-Tor (commonly referred to as the “Little Green Box”), Darrell was also responsible for hundreds of fish finding and navigational innovations that have influenced and helped millions of anglers around the world for more than 60 years.
“His dedication, love and contributions to the marine industry, the fishing world and most of all his fellow employees will forever be remembered.
“Please continue to remember his wife, Kathleen, and the entire Lowrance family in your prayers for peace and comfort.”
A pilot, Lowrance told people he conceived of the idea for fish finders after flying an airplane over Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma in the 1950s. The water was clear and he could see the schools of fish and he wondered if sonar developed to locate submarines could be used to locate those schools.
He developed the famous “little green box” device along with his father, Carl, and his brother, Arlen, to help fishermen and boaters monitor water depth and find fish. The product was introduced in 1959 and it revolutionized fishing.
First in Joplin, Mo. and later based in Tulsa, Okla. the company once employed more than 3,000 people and produced more than 1 million devices per year. In addition to locators, Lowrance also produced a variety of electronics for the U.S. military. In retirement he lived in Plano Texas and also had a home in Port Orange, Fla.
“To his credit there are more anglers fishing with Lowrance in the Classic than all other brands combined so that’s certainly reflects his commitment,” Sprouse said.
Tennessee angler Bill Dance said Darrell Lowrance and his father Carl both hold special places in his memory bank.
“We had some good times together and I learned a lot about electronics from Darrell and I was shocked and very saddened to hear what happened. The industry lost a real keeper I can tell you that. He did a lot for the industry, he really did. He helped fishermen in those days not only with finding places to fish but to return to that same spot and catch them again.”
Special among them is a trip to catch striped bass in eastern Tennessee when the weather turned cold. “He had on so many clothes you couldn’t recognize him,” Dance laughed. “He had on a ski mask and big hood and these Arctic boots. He could hardly walk and you couldn’t hear him when he talked it was just mumble, mumble mumble.”
Dance remembered his friend as a good and versatile angler and “super intelligent.”
“Sometimes he would get to talking about something and get so in depth I’d have to stop him and say, ‘Darrell, I don’t know what you’re talking about, you have to remember I only know two big words, Chevrolet and mayonnaise and I don’t know how to spell either one,’ and he’d giggle, he’d get so tickled, but he was a very intelligent guy I can tell you that.”
Longtime employee and family friend Linda Colt of Tulsa described Lowrance as an employer dedicated to his staff and as a religious man.
“Heaven certainly received a good man,” she said. “He was truly a man of love and respect for his employees. Every year we would have an employee company picnic and fishing tournament and I would reserve a shelter and camp spaces and we had a great time.”
Colt said she still plans luncheons twice a year for former employees and that Darrell and his wife recently joined them.
“He was truly a great man of faith, knowledge, integrity, and caring, who gave so much to the wonderful world of fishing and the marine industry. His dad Carl was as well. Darrell used to swim under the boat while they were testing the old Green and Red Box sonars to test them. He always shared so many of those stories with us, and about learning how to use Sonar correctly. He gave me the paper graph he used to look for the Loch Ness monster in Operation Deep Scan, along with an autographed Green Box, and an old flasher I will forever treasure.”
Lowrance was inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame in 2013 and Colt was his honored guest. He was ill the night of the event but pressed on without anyone realizing it to give a great acceptance speech, she said.
Lowrance, in his address, offered some fitting words.
“Fact of the matter is there is just no security here on Earth,” Lowrance said. “There is an eternal security at it’s the only security that counts because, stop and think about it, there isn’t one of us in this room this isn’t going to die, so where’s the security? I’m not going to preach to you, as I used to tell ‘em, ‘read your bible and you can figure it out,’ because it’s the only thing worth living for.”