Saturday, January 7, 2012

Deconstructing Old Ads: hiSport / HI-SPORT? (With a Mystery Solved) 1957

hiSport / HI-SPORT? (With a Mystery Solved)

This ad from the March 1957 issue of Field & Stream features the hiSport made by Staley Marine Inc. of Fort Wayne, Indiana. There are many things that can be said about the hiSport. It is the only lure I can think of whose name begins with a lower case letter and has a capital letter in the middle. At least that is the case in their advertising but if one looks carefully at the side of the bait the name is molded in raised capital letters reading, "HI-SPORT". Its styling and paint jobs reek of the 1950's. I am immediately reminded of tail fins on cars and some runabout boats. I always felt that it had to be one of the homeliest plugs to ever hit the market. I noticed that Staley Marine Inc was in Ft Wayne Indiana, the same town as the Staley-Johnson company that made the famous Twin Min. These two lures are not that far apart in time and thinking there may be a connection asked around with meager results. Eventually I stumbled until on NFLCC member Pete Tagtmeyer's website I emailed Pete who gracious shared the following information:
"Paul R. Staley of Fort Wayne applied for a design patent for the Hi-Sporton 8 October 1956 and the patent was granted 4 February 1958. An advertisement for the Hi-Sport appeared in the June 1957 edition of the Pennsylvania Angler Volume 26 no.6 pg.22: 'A new medium diving float-at-rest lure. Featuring new design that gives it lively oscillating diving action. Available in two sizes - 1/2 oz. baitcasting and the 1/4 oz. spinning size. - The Staley Marine Inc.'

Raymond Staley, founding proprietor of Staley-Johnson Mfg.Co. was the father of Paul R. Staley. So, the Honey and Twin-Min are connected to the Hi- Sport by a Father-Son relationship. The connection between the two companies, Staley-Johnson, founded by Raymond Staley and Kenny Johnson, and Staley Marine, ostensibly run by Paul R. Staley, remains unknown to me. I do wonder if there's a Twin-Min pat".


Thank you Pete!

Many years ago I found two hiSports in a tackle box and figuring there was no collector's market for them, I put them along with many other lures on a "$5 board" at a lure show. At the end of the show most offerings were gone but the hiSports and a few others remained. Next show they went on a three dollar board along with many fish-able lures. There were only a half dozen baits left at the end of the show but among them were the two hiSports. OK--- now its time to get rid of this stuff once and for all. They went on a $1 board along with a couple of dozen other rejects. At the end of that show only two baits remained ---- you guessed it --- the same two hiSports. At this point they were thrown into a junk drawer and forgotten.

An appropriate use for these two baits came to mind years later when I came across them as I was cleaning out some drawers. Each year at that time we took an extended canoe camping/fishing trip in northern Ontario. One of our yearly entertainments was to have an "ugly lure contest" in which each contestant brought along a bait that was judged by the rest of the group to be sufficiently ugly. On a day when the fishing was really slow the contest was held with the person catching the most fish on their "ugly lure" being the winner. Sometimes this meant catching only one fish. My hiSport had no trouble passing the ugly test with the rest of the group. I was immediately surprised by how easily the hiSport cast and the way it dug down to a respectable depth and wiggled with unbridled enthusiasm. It quickly started catching walleyes and it hasn't stopped catching fish to this day. I guess this comes under the heading of "don't judge a book by its cover" If you get a chance give this "ugly sister" bait a trial and you too may get a pleasant surprise.

-- Bill Sonnett

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