In 1978, a Washington state lure collector and bass angler by the name of Dick Streater self-published a book that would change fishing lure collecting forever. Dubbed "The Fishing Lure Bible," Streater's Reference Catalog of Old Fishing Lures was painstakingly compiled over a period of ten years from the pages of countless magazines and newspapers, many mouldering from years of disuse.
When it first came out The Bible was in loose-leaf format, designed from the beginning to accommodate numerous updates promised (and delivered) in the coming years. At the time, collecting vintage fishing tackle was in its infancy. The National Fishing Lure Collector's Club had just recently been founded, putting many like-minded individuals into contact, many for the first time ever.
But what the hobby lacked was a flagstone--a book that would help collectors near and far begin to identify what exactly they found in the tackle boxes that were purchased so readily at garage sales and flea markets. Streater's Bible seamlessly filled this gap. Along with Clyde Harbin Sr.'s work on Heddon, it gave the fledgling hobby twin pillars on which to build.
If Clyde gave us a company history that could be used as a model for ferreting out the backgrounds of the untold number of tackle firms, it was Streater who gave the vast majority of collectors their first glimpse at just how much fishing tackle was actually available. From the earliest Flying Helgrammite to the proliferation of salmon spoons in the 1950s, if a company advertised, Dick copied it and included it in The Bible.
By the time I started collecting with my brother and dad in junior high school, The Bible was already a decade old and already through at least two updates. I remember paging in blank amazement at a copy loaned to us by Peter Haupt, legendary Hayward musky fisherman and NFLCC member. Our collecting partner Jack Banks bought a copy which I dogeared from repeated use. He had to buy those round hole reinforcements as many pages got ripped out from repeated use.
I didn't get my own copy until 1989 or 1990, when I wrote Dick a series of letters from the University of Minnesota campus. Dick graciously responded to one ludicrous question after another, and I discovered that he was a Golden Gopher--and a band member at that! So Rah Rah for Ski-U--Mah is how we have ended communications for going on two decades now.
One of the things I have always admired about Dick's book is that he makes no distinction between "expensive" lures and "cheap" lures. As Dick himself noted in an interview in Lure Collector magazine in 1985:
One thing I've neglected to do...is to try and put out a book or value guide on lures. My answer to that is that, I don't want to be the Lure God.
To him, if they advertised, he'd help you identify it. It was all about knowledge, not value. Don't get me wrong. Everyone wants an expensive lure, but those accustomed to a shelf full of reference books (some of which I'm proud to have been a part of bringing to life) and the internet can never know the sheer delight in finding one of your "unknowns" pictured in one of the ads in The Bible. The book grew so large people jokingly referenced it by its weight (seven pounds if I remember right).
Many authors followed in Dick's wake--Larry Smith, Carl Luckey, Jim Lone, Art & Scott Kimball, and Karl White, to name just a few. But there will only ever be one Bible. Several years ago a perfect bound copy of Dick's book was published by a big collectables house, introducing the work to a new generation. But I must say it lost a little bit of charm when it ditched the enormous white three ring binder.
For those who don't own it, it is still a remarkable reference tool, showing a large number of lures not pictured in any other reference book. It is a must have for the tackle collector's book shelf. As for Dick, he is still plugging away in the Pacific Northwest, ready with an email, a joke, and someday soon a manuscript on Mosquito repellant bottles.
So this year, the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the first Lure Bible, we celebrate a collecting institution and its venerable author, Dick Streater. Long live The Bible!
-- Dr. Todd