Wednesday, June 30, 2010

UPDATE: Louis Rhead Waga-Waga Found!

UPDATE: Louis Rhead Waga-Waga Found!

Joe Stagnitti just posted this on Joe's Board; since the posts on Joe's disappear very quickly I am copy this over to my blog so it chronicle this awesome lure! Joe writes:

Wow....sometimes, the lure gods smile on you.....

I bought this bait from Bill Kennedy, he got it from a large online auction lot with lots of nice old baits. We both thought at the time that although this bait was very well made, that it was just a cool piece of folk art.....imagine what I thought immediately after reading the blog!!!
Just couldn't believe when I scrolled down to Rhead's illustration of the bait, and couldn't dig this bait out of the folk art case fast enough!!!

Congrats, Joe! You've got an awesome, awesome old bait there and the only known Rhead Waga-Waga. What a rare New York lure!


Jerry Martin posts that Rhead may have made other wooden minnows. I don't consider his frog to be "truly" wooden, as according to his own instructions on how to make the lure in Fisherman's Lures and Game Fish Food much of the body was made of cork, but he did advertise several wooden minnows which we sadly do not have any pictures of yet. Also, Jerry noted that the Waga-Waga was once advertised with a metal tail--now that would be a heck of find!

-- Dr. Todd

Louis Rhead's Waga-Waga and Waga-Pup Fishing Lures

Louis Rhead's Waga-Waga and Waga-Pup Fishing Lures

I have always been fascinated by Louis John Rhead, the children's book illustrator-turned-fishing scribe. In particular, I recall about 15 years ago a wonderful article in the NFLCC Magazine about Rhead and his production lures, which he made and sold as '"Art Nature Lures" through William Mills in New York and from his home in Brooklyn. The article mentioned that he only made a few true casting plugs (the vast majority of his other baits being fly rod lures) and that there was only one wooden lure he ever made: the Waga-Waga. The author noted he had never seen one before.

This stuck in the back of my mind. Recently on an unrelated search I ran across an exciting tackle ad--pictured below.

Run in Forest & Stream for July 1917, it was interesting because not only did it list the Waga-Waga in two sizes (the smaller being referred to as the Waga-Pup) it also declared that the lure had a "carved wood propeller." Fascinating! This ad was the first I'd seen by Rhead aimed at the bass fishing (casting) market.

My excitement built as I saw that in that same issue, Rhead had written an article called "Bass as Gamy Fighters." Knowing Rhead from years of research, I knew he never passed up an opportunity to publicize his own lures. I turned to the second page of the article--and sure enough, there it was. The first image of Louis Rhead's only wooden fishing lure I had ever seen.

Although the picture shows the 2" Waga-Pup, we can be assured this is just a smaller version of the larger Waga-Waga.

So now that we know what Rhead's only wooden lure looks like, does anyone out there have a lure with a carved wooden tail marked as an "unknown?" You may just be holding a Louis Rhead Waga-Waga!

-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Voices from the Past: A Fishing Tackle Float (1910)

The following blurb came from the February 1910 Hardware Dealer's Magazine and features a novel way of advertising fishing tackle: a parade float. I've seen pics of other tackle company floats--most notably Montague City Rod & Reel Company--but this is the first "fish" shaped float I can recall seeing.

A Fishing Tackle Float

In a recent carnival the Bond & Bours Company had the handsome float shown herewith. It was designed by T.R. Cheney, and won two prizes. Both sporting goods and fishing tackle were displayed. The large fish was made of wood, covered with white cloth, and painted with a cold water paint. It was 21 feet long and 5 feet high. The framework was completely covered with all kinds of fishing tackle. The foundations were tent-shap, being 12 feet long and 6 feet wide, and on same were hunter's clothing. The four men on the float were dressed in hunting costume and they were provided with guns, fishing tackle, etc. The float was drawn by four mules, each being decorated with fishing nets of different sizes, with flags, etc. There were some 125 floats of all kinds in the carnival, which proved a great success.

And yes, those are fishing reels stuck to the side of that fish...

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, June 28, 2010

News of the Week: 28 June 2010

Don't have time to read 50+ fishing and tackle collecting blogs and web sites? Well, let us do it for you! Follow all of the latest news, articles, and stories on our Whitefishpress Twitter account! Hint: You don't need to be a member...just bookmark the Twitter Feed Page or click on latest links to the right!

Platt and Wagaman make the big time! fishing is not as complicated as it seems?...repairing broken guides...rocket fishing rods...a Brazil (IN) fishing day in Provincetown...16 year old better angler then you...a pikeminnow derby?...many tarpon...Mako Mania...Buster's Bait & Tackle...a new record Kokanee...National Fishing Month in Britain?...a monster Halibut? must be the NEWS OF THE WEEK!

The Big Lead: Warren Platt and Brent Wagaman get an awesome write up for their Decker-Jamison exploits.

Fly fishing is not as complicated as it looks.

How to repair broken guides on a fishing rod.

Using a rocket fishing rod...

A Brazil (Indiana) fish story.

A kids fishing day on a Provincetown wharf.

A... pikeminnow derby ???

The great Ray Sasser reports on a 16 year old girl who is a much better angler than you, catches 70 pound catfish.

In Pinellas County, an unusual number of tarpon are being spotted.

Why the Manchester Guardian is hooked on fishing now, and not soccer.

It's Mako Mania..

USA Today reports on the extended drought in Northern Wisconsin.

My kind of guy: catching sunfish on the fly.

Getting your bass in gear.

How to Wacky-Worm reds.

Buster's Bait and Tackle is a cool place to hang out.

There may be a new record Kokanee from Wallowa Lake.

Chris Tarrant wants a National Fishing Month.

The best saltwater lures...

Finishing with a Flourish: A 380 pound halibut is really a monster!

-- Dr. Todd

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Research Report: 27 June 2010

This week's Research Report comes courtesy of Jim Garrett and Skip Brooks, noted tackle researchers. They are conducting research on the Montague Rod & Reel Company, and would like some help on the following research query:

We are doing research on reels made by the Montague Rod and Reel Co.  They made two versions of a high end four screw casting reel.  It is the classiest casting reel they ever made, and they made a bunch.  The second version, with flat skirted controls and a recessed jewel on the endcaps began appearing in the late teens and was sold for at least a decade.   It is the only Montague reel to ever use these endcaps to my knowledge.  It is pictured below and can be found advertised in a number of retail catalogs  with different names such as E. K. Tryon"s "Jay Harvey" model.

My question is this:  How many different names appeared on this reel during its career?  I have nine in my collection, and know of three additional.  The names are, Abbey & Imbrie Delux, Abbey & Imbrie Dolphin, Abercrombie & Fitch, Fox Lake, Habich, Jay Harvey, Jupiter, Marshal Field, President, Vee Bee, VL&A Expert No.3, and VL&A Ne-Pee-Nauk.  Does anyone out there have any others?

Anyone with any additional information on these reels are requested to email us at -- we'll post any information next week!

Thanks to everyone who submitted a research question. Please keep them coming! You can send any research queries to the above email address.

-- Dr. Todd

1000 Words

1000 Words

Sometimes old photographs fade, losing detail but becoming more artful than a regular picture. This is a great example; we lose the detail of the anglers' faces on this photo ca. 1910 of a canoe fishing trip across Lake Hopatcong, but instead we get a silhouette depiction that is very evocative. It's one of my favorite images from this era.

-- Dr. Todd

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett

An Under Appreciated “Old Timer”

This week's advertisement is from the April 1939 issue of Sports Afield. The remarkable thing about the ad is that it is 71 years old and yet calls the Johnson Silver Minnow an “Old Timer”. All evidence points to this spoon being first sold in 1920. If you go to most bait stores today, there it sits on the shelf, just as it has for the last 90 years. It is rare to find an older tackle box that does not have one or more examples of this familiar bait. This bait came by it's name honestly as it was plated with real silver and as the box proclaimed, the gold model was plated with 24ct gold! The ones I've seen lately in the stores look more cheaply made and appear to be plated with chrome. No matter, there are loads of originals around and they polish up very quickly. A strip of porkrind, a pork frog or a piece of white leather are the traditional tail attachments, although of late I've seen folks use a white rubber Twister Tail.

At the lake where I spend my Summers, my 91 year old neighbor is still seen occasionally rowing out to distant weed beds to cast live frogs or a Johnson Silver Minnow for bass. (I would be thrilled beyond description to know that I would still be able to fish at 91!) I don't seem to use this bait as much as I used to unless the weeds are bad and they aren't biting on top water. When I do use it, it seems I always catch one right off the bat. About 15 years ago I was fishing with my long-time “fishing apprentice” Warren Platt. We were fishing top water with all vintage tackle and the bite had faded as the sun moved over head. Then for the first and only time since I met Warren, he pulled, from under the boat seat, a well hidden, graphite spinning rod, rigged with a plastic worm. I was a bit speechless at this transgression and asked him what the heck he was doing. He cackled something about being “prepared” and stated that this was the “only way we were going to catch any bass with the sun on the water.” After a period of hesitation to get over the shock, I said, “If I catch a bass on a pre-1940 lure, will you put that thing away?”. Self assured, he said he certainly would but there was no chance that was going to happen. You guessed it; I put on a Johnson Silver Minnow and caught a decent bass on the first cast. Warren said something I cannot print on this site and put the spinning rod back under the seat. Love that Johnson Silver Minnow.

(he he he he)

-- Bill Sonnett

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Funhouse


Video of the Week

This is a video of a shark smoking a 16/0 Penn reel.

Things I Would Buy If Only I Could Afford Them

This is one gorgeous Talbot Meteor made for Schmelzer Arms.

This Tycoon Tackle Bimini King is awfully nice.

The Edward vom Hofe "Commander Ross" 14/0 is one of the greatest reels ever made.

These Browning Lew's Speed Spools are quietly rising in price.

Mitchell Match Autobails are always tough, but especially Left Handers.

A Clinton Wilt is a beautiful "Barber Pole" bait.

Wow! This Heddon Chugger is in a REALLY rare color!

Ice Decoys are wonderful, especially vintage ones like this.

An original 1924 Joe Coxe is an AMAZING find and much rarer than any Bronson Coxe reel.

This Coxe Bronson 2/0 is a nice find though.

A Winchester Multi-Wobbler is a great lure.

A nice CCBC 818 Deluxe Wagtail Chub would look great in a display case.

K&K Minnows are tough in any condition.

But especially new in the box.

As always, have a good and safe weekend, and be good to each other, and yourself.

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday Review: NFLCC Gazette, Summer 2010

Thursday Review: NFLCC Gazette, Summer 2010

Another great NFLCC publication arrived while I was on vacation. The NFLCC Gazette for June 2010. It was an issue chock full of excellent articles.

We begin with a nifty piece by Terry McBurney, noted Michigan author. "Gene's Gem" details a fascinating Flint, MI and Cloquet, MN lure of the same name. It was made by the G.G. Bait Co. in both locales. A nice overview of a heretofore obscure lure.

Kenny Bryan gives us next a really good article on Creek Chub Darters, which gives us a detailed look at one of CCBC's most ppopular baits. Phenomenal stuff.

Fred Sweeney concludes his great analysis of the CCBC Original Series and their Catalog Colors. I am very happy the Gazette published this pure and informative piece of research.

My own contribution was an interview with Bill Sonnett. Bill's a hugely knowledgeable collector and loves fishing with vintage gear. It was great to chat with him for a couple hours and to relate his story.

Colby Sorrells is one of the best writers going and he does not disappoint with his "Presto Chango" article about a relatively unknown lure maker from Bradford, Illinois, who is perhaps the only tackle inventor to have also patented a smoking pipe.

There were some neat small stories, too. Gregg Stockey gave us "Dells Room Show Trading" about, naturally, room trading at the Wisconsin Dells. Includes a neat little vignette about "Grouch" Klawitter who is anything but. Ron Matthews gives us a nice piece on CCBC Dingbat Lures, and John Cole gave us a look at his fully functional Heddon Jenny. Rob Pavey relates a great "Field Find" story.

A fine issue with something for everyone. The NFLCC Gazette is edited by Jim Fleming. Anyone interested in joining the NFLCC can learn more by clicking here.

-- Dr. Todd

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A New Weekly Feature: The Research Report!

A New Weekly Feature: The Research Report!

A new feature is being added to the Fishing For History Blog.  The feature, to run every Sunday, is dedicated to those readers and collectors who research antique tackle of all varieties and could use the help and comments of all those readers whose collections and life experiences might provide a missing bit of needed data. 
Each week a question on some aspect of tackle related research will be entered on the Blog in hopes that someone out there can provide the answer.  If a helpful reply is received it will be entered the following week so all can follow the resulting dialog.
So all you researchers out there who are stumped by some obscure aspect of the hobby, send in your questions and a picture or two of the subject rod, reel, lure, bobber, or other tackle related item.  Send in your queries about a long expired tackle manufacturer or tackle retailer and we will see what answers await!

Additionally, aspiring researchers and authors can send in a short blurb about their project, which will publish in The Research Report every Sunday. The rationale for this is that it is always good to let people know what you are doing research on, so that if they run across something of use they can contact you. Please include a brief description of your research project, the nature of your research, any lingering questions you would like help with, and contact information.

Email and make sure to put "RESEARCH REPORT" in the email header.

-- Dr. Todd

Fishing Northern Wisconsin -- A Photo Essay

Fishing Northern Wisconsin -- A Photo Essay

Wherein your Intrepid Blogger, After Running and Hiding from Bad Weather in Northern Wisconsin to take Refuge with his In-Laws on Lake Otter Tail, Minnesota, Comes Back Triumphantly To Northern Wisconsin

Once I heard that the weather had turned from 39 degrees and windy with rain back to the balmy 64 degrees and partly cloudy we've come to expect from this part of the country, I beat a hasty retreat back to the Northern Wisconsin waters that I know so well.

The first morning back, I hit the St. Croix river below the Gordon dam -- a really pretty site and full of lots of river smallies. Additionally, the river is also full of St. Croix River Snakes, as the following picture can attest:

Snakes abound.

I have been working on a series of hand-made wooden bass bugs and they've proven to be very, very successful as they not only hooked and landed the pike above, but also a ton of bass (both large and smallmouth) and even large panfish.

Here's a big, fat sunfish that hit on a wooden feather minnow. I was using an 8.5 foot Heddon Pal I fiberglass fly rod with 4/5 weight line and a 4 pound tippet.

The daughter liked the balmy 75 degree weather and even took some time out to do a little fishing herself. Here she is fishing a #0 Marathon Spinner with a hand-tied #16 bucktail treble.

No fish is too small for the intrepid girl angler.

We spent some time fishing vintage gear (see my Father's Day post). Here I am casting a vintage Pflueger Supreme and True Temper rod. I was casting a jointed Paw Paw Pikie and a Heddon Zig Wag.

Bill Sonnett please take note: perfect casting form.

Liking the feel of this particular rig!

But even if the fishing wasn't great (not a lot of big fish, to be honest) there is always the gorgeous vista. This was how it looked when I first got to Northern Wisconsin:

40 degrees and rainy.

A week later, it was 75 and gorgeous. Go figure.

Our last night there, it was finally warm enough to try some night trolling for walleyes. After a week of bad weather, the walleyes were hitting. The daughter and her Uncle Marc got into some nice fish! Here's a pic from the next morning:

Fantastic walleyes--the only fish we ever keep.

There's an addendum to this little photo essay. We were traveling through a very small town in Northern Wisconsin when I spied this site out front of a tattered building:

The outboard graveyard: where old motors go to die.

What are the chances the barn inside is filled with old fishing tackle? Pretty good, as it turns out. Not a lot of great stuff but some nice baits, but after digging around a few minutes I spy something truly exciting. A rod butt that I've seen many times before, because it's on the cover of a book I've published by Mary Kefover Kelly:

What are the odds of finding an 1850s Porter General Rod in the middle of the north woods? Especially since almost no Europeans were living in the region at the time. This rod HAD to have come from out East. I pull it down; it's complete, and moreover, has a beautiful Abbey & Imbrie brass fly reel on it (the reel is pictured in the 1884 catalog so it is later than the rod). Wow. I can't pay for it fast enough.

A Porter General rod, in from the wild.

Sometimes you just get lucky.

To celebrate this momentous occasion (my second pre-Civil War fishing rod), we stop off at my favorite place up the highway in the entire part of the state: Club Northern in Minong, Wisconsin. Best pizza around, trust me. I am a pizza maniac and this beats Pogo's hands down for best Northern Wisconsin pizza. Plus they have a killer fish fry on Friday nights, and friendly waitresses with names like Cricket.

A Porter General rod, in from the wild.

So my fishing trip is over, but I have some great memories, and a wonderful old fishing rod to boot. All in all, not a bad trip! Even if the weather forced me to run away like a big chicken, I returned triumphantly.

-- Dr. Todd