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Antique fishing lures

Antique fishing lures

Native to the Adirondacks: Chairs, Guide-boats – and Fishing Lures

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, April 11, 2011

To the double-ended guideboat and the slanting-back, wide-armed lawn chair,  add the fishing lure to the list of Adirondack products that have contributed decisively to the pleasures of summer everywhere,  says antique tackle dealer and collector Henry Caldwell.

According to Caldwell, the owner of Bolton Landing’s Black Bass Antiques,  the man credited with inventing the fishing lure was J.T. Buel, a Whitehall furrier who spent most of his time fishing and testing various baits on Lake George.

Folklore has it that Buel, born in Vermont in 1812,  was eating his lunch on the lake one day when he dropped a tea spoon overboard. As the bright silver object twisted through the water, “a fish hit it,” Caldwell said.  Buel attached some hooks to it and a crude form of the spooner was born.

Fred Streever of Bolton Landing, O.C. Tuttle of Old Forge and Williams and  Woodbury of Diamond Point were among other local manufacturers of fishing lures, said Caldwell.

Live bait spring hooks, he said, were invented on Schroon Lake.

New York’s thousands of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams also made it the home of the reel, according to Caldwell. “More patents were issued for reels from New York State than from any other state,” he said.

Antique fishing tackle is now highly collectible, according to Caldwell. “Fishing is the largest participatory sport in the world,” he said. “There’s a long history to it, and people want to know more about the sport. They may start with the tackle they grew up fishing with, and go from there.”

Like most other collectibles,  value is established by rarity.  Items fetch anything from a few dollars to thousands of dollars,  but things of value can still be found in yard sales, flea markets and junk shops.

Caldwell said his collecting began at an early age, as a boy, fishing on Lake George and exchanging lures with his brothers.

Like many another fishermen, he discovered that while fish were not always been attracted to his lures, he found them irresistible.

Asked how soon he knew some lures were valuable, he said, not soon enough.

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