Springfield, Mo.—Bass fishing fans, pro anglers and local dignitaries gathered May 19 to view the memorabilia of a bass tackle innovator and a local legendary guide during the grand opening of the Lew’s Ozarks Fishing Museum.
The museum incorporated into the new Lew’s complex in Springfield houses a collection of rods, reels, accessories and other mementos dedicated to the history of Lew’s and the company founder, Lew Childre. The museum also contains a variety of other historical items significant to the region, including the collection of legendary White River and Table Rock Lake guide J.D. Fletcher.
Many of the Lew’s items came from the personal collection of Lew’s CEO Lynn Reeves, while the rest came from company purchases or donations by individuals. “From the time I acquired Lew’s it was my idea to be able to show the history of the company and its heritage and give it the respect it deserves as a long term brand,” Reeves said.
“Lew Childre introduced a lot of industry ’firsts’ from the 1950s to the 1980s, many of which are still used in today’s fishing gear,” Reeves said. “The man and his innovations deserve a place of preservation in fishing’s history. We have the BB1 series #2 Speed Spool reel here, along with many of Childre’s earliest prototypes that I believe folks will find highly interesting whether they fish or don’t.”
The J.D. Fletcher White River collection consists of more than 5,000 lures, a variety of other antique fishing items and scores of old photos relevant to the late Fletcher’s long history of guiding at Table Rock and in the White River region.
“We had the opportunity to buy the J.D. Fletcher collection and we just felt that being here in the Ozarks it would be good to show some of the history of the Ozarks and some of the companies that did business in Missouri,” Reeves said. The museum also displays lure collections from Springfield area companies including Blakemore (Roadrunners), C.A. Clark Manufacturing (Clark’s Water Scout baits) and 3 J Bait Company (spinnerbaits).
Former Bassmaster Classic qualifier Jeff Fletcher was glad to see his dad’s White River collection wind up in the museum. “Dad had always told me if I couldn’t display it he wanted me to sell that stuff and put it towards my kids’ education,” Fletcher said. “(The museum display) is exactly what Dad would have wanted. He would have wanted for all that stuff to stay together and not get split up. Now everybody can go there and see all that stuff and look at the pictures and remember all the memories they had with Dad.”
Attending the grand opening ceremonies were Casey Childre, son of the late Lew Childre, former Bassmaster Classic champion David Fritts, former Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin Short, “Mr. Crappie” Wally Marshall and Springfield civic leaders.
The Lew’s Ozarks Fishing Museum is accessed through the adjacent Sportsman’s Factory Outlet Store and admission is free. For more information on the history of Lew’s, visit www.lews.com.
See photos from the event below.