Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Voices from the Past: The Gephart Rod & the Shauffler Reel (1949)

Here's an interesting article from the 16 August 1949 Portland (Maine) Press Herald by outdoor writer Gene Letourneau. He describes a new all-steel big game fishing rod made by Gephart and the hand-made Shauffler reel.

Sportsmen Say
by Gene Letourneau

Experiment on All-Steel Rod

Although not listed on the program, an experiment conducted on the fishing grounds during the fourth annual Maine Tuna Tournament seems worthy of mention.

Bill Gephart of Chicago was trying out a new all-steel big game fishing rod. He was in a charter boat out of Portland skippered by Capt. George "Whiskers" Baker."

Steel on composition rods, for some reason, are frowned upon by a lot of anglers, but we like 'em. Matter of fact we use that type of rod for various fishing, both in fresh and salt water and can't understand why they aren't considered as sporty as bamboo or hickory.

Gephart makes several types of rods, but the one he had while off the Maine coast was something new. It is about ten times lighter lhan anything seen yet on the tuna grounds and has a cable inside the hollow metal tube in the event It breaks. Thus the danger of an angler being struck by flying metal is practically nil.

Baker's mooring wann't too far from that of Sea-Shore Warden Elmore Wallace with whom we were covering the tourney. As a matter of fact it wouldn't surprise us at all if Baker took over Wallace's mooring for the rod test. We had to drop a hook overboard and the delay may have meant the difference of a strike, or a fish, as things turned out.

Baker and Wallace are probably two of the best known individuals along the Maine coast. They've been partners for several years although you would never believe it the way they exchange the verbal fireworks.

We watched Gcphart hook a tuna, watched Baker get out of the fleet. In 29 minutes, according to our watch, they had the fish boated "Whiskers" stopped at several other boats on the way back to his mooring, obviously to talk over the battle: but he never gave us a tumble.

Once back at the mooring, he raised a tuna flag, undoubtedly for our benefit. "Look at that so and so," Wallace commented, "he tells every body in the fleet about it, but he won't even come near us."

The following morning Wallace, however, had the story, and the new steel rod as well. It was eviddent he and Baker has gone over the previous day's activities.

"George claimed that rod really can take It," said Wallace. "The tuna weighed 548 pounds and at no time was out of Gephart's control."

The new rod was one of two we had over the side during the final session of the tourney, but since no fish struck, we couldn't try it out.

The steel rod has roller bearing guides, can handle a fairly large reel and will pay out either 39 or 54 thread line. It appears ideal for the 39. The rod will get the acld test before the tuna season is over. Wallace Informed that Gephart is willing to "replace 'em as fast as we break 'em" which indicates he's prettv sure it will hold up.

The steel rods have been barred in tuna tournaments but there are indications that they will have a lot of support before next year. The Gephart rod is whippy and light and deserves to be recognized as sporty. And its first test revealed it can take it.

Col William Shauffler, who is stationed at Dow Field in Bangor, and who served as chief judge at the Maine Tuna Tournament, is among the most ardent anglers we've ever met. He was a tuna fishing pioneer along the Maine coast and developed the hand-made Shauffler reel. He feels that handllnlng the big fish is more difficult than playing them on rod and reel and would like to see free-for-all competition on one day of future tournaments. Might even include the harpooners....Shauffler spends his days off either at the tuna grounds or bass fishing at Sebasticook Lake in Newport.

-- Dr. Todd

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