THE MET: The Metropolitan Miami Fishing Tournament

15 Jun

 The MET as it was called by the regulars was largest fishing tournament of its kind for many years in South Florida, and some of the greatest legends of the sport participated. We have to go all the way back to 1936 to document the first tournament that was put together by the H.H. Hyman and the Miami Rod and Reel Club .

miami metro 1st annual 004

With Frank Obrien, legendary founder of Tycoon Tackle, as the MET’s first major sponsor, the tournament was on it’s way. The draw was huge, and in 1938 the tournament was drawing over 100,000 contestants!

1938 MET 001

To celebrate the events, the Miami Rod and Reel Club put out a yearbook at the end of each tournament, with all the recognition awards and pictures from the tournament. It was also a running history of the award winners by category, so everyone could see what weight they were shooting for in the next event. There were prizes for just about every fish imaginable and classes for each such as Fly, Spin, Plug Casting, and Big Game. Men were not the only ones to participate as woman had their own category for awards as well. Take a look at some the prizes, no wonder this was such a prestigious event!

fish camps florida 002met winners 1954

Here are some of the winners and the awards that were presented. These awards presentations were quite elaborate!

Metropolitan miami awards 1959 miami metro prizes fish camps 024

As mentioned above, there were many rich and famous that participated in the tournaments over the years. Curt Gowdy, Ted Williams, Al Pflueger Jr, Frank Obrien, and many more. Al Pflueger Jr was the son of the legendary taxidermist in Miami Al Pflueger. Al Sr had a big influence in the tournament, and was the weighmaster in some of the tournaments. He also sponsored the tournament for many years. His son, Al Jr had many awards and has been inducted in the IGFA Hall of Fame.

The Tournament lasted into the 1960’s and in my opinion, is a piece of Florida Fishing History, and will never be duplicated.

Al Pflueger picAl Pflueger Jr

Smallwood Store, Chokoloskee Fl

24 Mar

The Smallwood Store, was originally  trading post established in 1906 by Ted Smallwood for settlers to trade fur, and farm produce, in exchange for basic necessities to survive the harsh environment of the everglades.

Store was closed in 1982, and in 1990 Ted’s granddaughter, Lynn Smallwood McMillin, reopened the store as a museum with the goods that were left on the shelf in the store. A step back in time for sure! Many of the goods and décor date back to the early 1900’s.

This is another must stop in South Florida just like my previous blog about the Rod and Gun Club. There are so many historical “Old Florida” things here, it is almost impossible to absorb it all, including lots of vintage Florida Fishing History.

To take a stroll through the store is walk back in time, and I will try to share this trip with you some great photos my wife Sharon shot throughout the store.

smallwood 4

Old Pflueger store display

smallwood 2smallwood 3smallwood 6smallwood 7

More store décor, keep in mind this was not added, this is original store stuff!

smallwood 8

A nice catch!

smallwood 12

A wax sculpture of Ted Smallwood

smallwood 14smallwood 9smallwood 10smallwood 5

A few parting shots

As wonderful as the store is, it is presently going through some hard times right now. The store and the owner Lynn Smallwwod-McMillin, are involved in a legal battle with a developer over the access of the only road that leads to the store. The store/museum was actually shut down for 6 months back in 2011. The legal fight continues, and hopefully this wonderful piece of Florida history will be saved.

You can read about the history and the legal woes here in this NY Times article form July of 2014.

smallwood 15

Frozen in Time!

11 Mar

If you ever get to South Florida, and you enjoy the way it used to be, you need to schedule a trip to Everglades City to see the Rod & Gun Club.  Nestled at the end of the road, it is like you are traveling back in time as you drive south on highway 29 until you can’t drive anymore…..

Originally constructed in 1864 by the first settlers here, it was purchased by the wealthy Barron Collier, Florida land baron, in 1922. The lodge survived Hurricane Donna in 1960, and a fire in 1969. In 1974 it was rescued by the current owners, the Bowen family, who have kept it as it was, a thriving club for the wealthy hunters and fisherman from the 20’s through the 60’s.

Here are a few views of the outside, wait until you see inside!

rod and gun 10rod and gun 19

It has been visited by 5 presidents, and many other rich and famous guests like Ernest Hemmingway, John Wayne, Bert Reynolds, Sean Connery, Mick Jaggar and many others.

If you are looking for what the locals call “Old Florida”, nothing can compare to this! As a fishing tackle collector, this is our Disney World!

Take a peek inside!

rod and gun 2rod and gun 3rod and gun 4rod and gun 5

Now if you love antique tackle, you have to see this!

rod and gun 8rod and gun 9rod and gun 15

Take a look at the panther and the marlin!

rod and gun 11rod and gun 14

The old newspaper articles capture the history.

rod and gun 13

A few more parting shots. If you enjoy “Old Florida”, make sure you put this on your bucket list.

rod and gun 16rod and gun 18rod and gun 17rod and gun 20

1933 Leesburg National Bass Tournament

4 Aug

Down to the wire! The 1933 Leesburg National Bass Tournament

You can’t beat Shick!

That was most likely the thoughts of a lot of the contestants in the annual Leesburg Florida National Bass Tournament of 1933. J.B. Schick was the dominant player in the early years of the event, capturing the largest fish to date. However in 1933, things would change.

In that year, some the rules had changed from previous tournaments.  Now, Florida residents could participate in certain categories and win prizes as well.

first nat 1

The categories were:

  1.  Largest Bass on artificial lures (non-residents)
  2. Largest Bass on live bait (non-residents)
  3. Largest Bass trolling (open to all)
  4. Largest Bass casting artificial or live bait (residents)
  5. Largest Bass woman (resident)
  6. Pickerel (non-resident)
  7. Catfish (open to all)
  8. Perch (non-resident)
  9. Junior Bass (all up to 16 years)

RL Stevens from the fire department was the official weigh-master, and all fish had to be weighed on the fire department scales to keep it fair. The tournament had some major sponsors in 1933 as well. The sponsor list included: The Builders of Leesburg, First national Bank, the Magnolia Hotel, Lakeview Hotel, and Harris Hardware.

Harris Hardware Window Display

Harris Hardware Window Display

Magnolia Hotel Brochure that promoted tournament

Magnolia Hotel Brochure that promoted tournament

The tournament lasted 2 months, from January 15th through March 13th, and contestants could fish as much as they liked, but were contained to the lakes that resided in Leesburg; Harris, Griffin, and Silver Lake.  Charles Abele was a longtime Leesburg wintering resident, and did most of the promotion for the tournament. Mr. Abele got national attention, and pulled the best anglers from all over the Northeast and Midwest. J.B. Shick was one of the “big name” fisherman from LaPorte Indiana. Shick had caught the largest bass in the in the history of the tournament, a 12 pound 8 ounce gorilla in 1928. Schick competed every year and was well known amongst all the anglers competing.

The grand prize for the tournament was the envy of all the participants and local enthusiasts……the infamous “Silver Cup”.  Shick had his cup, and another noteworthy angler named T.H. Farmer from Martin Tennessee, was hungry for his. Farmer had fished all 5 of the events since the tournaments inception in 1928, and came within 6 ounces in 1932 when he was edged out by George Miller on the last day.

Farmer was determined this year, and fished 14 hours a day 6 days a week, only taking off on Sundays. He had a respectable 9 pounder, but nowhere near the 12 pound 2 ounce fish that was in the lead. In fact, the lead was shared by two gentleman,  both from Florida, P.B. Alsobrook and L.P. Fussell. The Leesburg Commercial from the day before the close of the tournament read:

“Tournament This Year a Walkover, It Seems, for Natives”

Most believed that headline, since no one had come within 2 pounds of the two Floridians that were in the lead. Farmer was more determined than ever on that final day. He was at his boathouse at 5 AM and was ready to give it one more try. But…… as fate would have it, his outboard would not start……. He called the local mechanic and finally got the motor started at 10:30 and was off to give it his best shot.

Farmer did the impossible that afternoon. He came to the Fire Department scales with a behemoth fish of 12 pounds 15 ounces, eclipsing Shick’s record, and taking the Silver Cup!

Farmer indeed proved that when stricken with adversity, and with pressure on the line, that all you can control is the lure on your line…… and having patience and determination will win out in the end!

The “Father” of Fishing Lures

3 Jun

Father Lawrence Zakrevski should be considered the “True Father” of antique fishing tackle. Born in 1884, in Asian Russia, he came to the US in 1903 as a Consulate Secretary. He made his way to Pensyvania from Sioux City Iowa, and became a Catholic Priest. In 1914 two parishoners asked him to go fishing, and after that he was hooked!

He started acquiring lures in the teens, and by 1939 he had over 10,000 lures and hooks! Can you image, the type of collection he must have had at that time with his newest plug being late 30’s! What a treat it would be to go back in time to 1939 and to view Father Z’s collection with today’s knowledge.


From an article in the July Fishing Special Edition of the 1939 Outdoor Life Magazine, we can gain a little insight into his collection in 1939. His collection was well know at the time, and 1300 people traveled hundreds of miles to see his lures in a spring open house. Lures were scattered about his house in Mt. Carmel Pa, and kept in moth proof containers and boxes. He kept a record book of all his lures, and cleaned and cataloged them. Sound familiar to today’s collectors? He was a man well ahead of his time.

His collection included mice, wood, lures, metal baits, and lures from almost every state and Canada. About half of his collection came to him by donations, and the rest he picked up on his own. He was offered $2500 for his collection in 1939, and turned it down.

Father Z was not only a huge collector of fishing lures, but also a great fisherman. From an article in December 1967 Pensyvania Angler, we find out that he has been fishing for 50 years and still at 84 he was fishing as much as he could on Lake Carey.

If you are a collector of fishing lures or tackle, I think it is important to pay homage to Father Z for having the passion to pursue a hobby that did not exist at the time, and give us the inspiration to collect and hold on to our fishing heritage! Way to go Father Z!


Shur Strike Darters II

25 May

I posted earlier on these under-rated lures, and thought I would add a little bit to my previous post to give you a better understanding on how and why these lures were not as prevalent as their Creek Chub mainline brothers. Let’s take a peek at the production records from the Creek Chub archives, to see how many were produced.


The Shur Strike Darter was produced from 1939-1944, and came back in the 50’s for Montgomery Wards, but just the Frog color from catalogs I have seen. I have production records from 1940-1944, so lets take a look at what was produced during that time span by color.

Color                             Amount

0 Pikie                          451

1 Peanut Butter            448

1YP Perch                    922

2 Red White                 263

5 Red Side                   33

6 Shiner Scale             79

8 Rainbow                   189

11 Black White            18          

14 Chain Perch           255

18 Silver Flash            1174

19 Frog                       14163

Yellow Spotted            40

Total                            18035

Not surprising, Frog was the dominate color, just like the main Creek Chub line. Keep in mind Frog was available in two shades, a dark green, and a light green frog. The Dark Frog was earlier and the light Frog was later, and was used when they started selling to Wards in the 50’s.


You may wonder why these totals were so low, when Creek Chub produced hundreds of thousands during this span of the main line Darter. I think the biggest reason would be that they did not want to compete against such a successful lure. Most of the catalog companies that Creek Chub sold the Shur Strike line, did not offer the Darter. I would assume it was a marketing decision by Creek Chub to sell some of the other styles. The Bass Oreno and River Runt styles did not compete against the main line, and were almost always sold to the retailers and wholesalers. Another reason may be that the Shur Strike style did not work as well, but that discussion will be tabled for a later day.

I also wanted to point out that Red and White is really a scarce model to find when you consider that it was very popular in the main line. Perch is also difficult to find, along with Chain Perch, and Red Side. Black and White and Yellow Spotted are listed above, but I have never seen them cataloged.


I addressed  some of the body style differences in my previous post, but I did want to mention that the flat part of the head can vary somewhat. I have two lures that I have found with a more rounded head and have less of the V point head as you can see in the picture below.


If you find a Darter in a color that is not listed above, you will have found a real jewel! Keep on the look out, as these are not always properly identified! Here’s a Green Scale I found that I have never seen listed!


1973 Bassmaster Classic Display

18 Apr

If you read my post below, you know I was seeking out the lures to compliment the patch I found from the 1973 Bassmaster Classic winner, Rayo Breckenridge. After researching the tournament, I found a link to a video on the 1973 classic which got me on the right track. I also spoke to several fisherman and BASS enthusiasts, that helped me put the puzzle together.

Below is the display case that shows the lures that won the classic, including the Miller High Life Patch that reads “World Champion”. 



1973 Bassmaster Classic

13 Jan

Hunting for old fishing tackle is something you have to put some time into to find the good stuff. What I mean by good stuff, is relative to the collector, but everyone who does collect will know when you stumble on that one thing that will make your day, week or year! 

Sometimes, it is not something you are seeking out, but something that you just run across and it hits you….. this is it!

I had one of those experiences recently, when on a cold rainy day in Florida, we decided to put down the fishing rods, and go hunting for fishing tackle. The search led us to an antique mall in Arcadia Florida. We found a few things, but nothing earth shattering when my wife Sharon, started looking through one of those electric revolving displays, and sure enough something interesting turned up….

It was a non discreet fishing patch that may normally go un-noticed, but this one was different….very different. It was from the 1973 Bass Master Classic, and not only a patch to commemorate the 3rd Classic, but the winner’s patch……the late Rayo Breckenridge’s Classic winning patch. Talk about a one of a kind find that marks one of the most prestigious events in fishing history!
rayo patch1

I wasn’t sure I had exactly what I thought I had until I went home and did some research. I found this January 1974 magazine, and sure enough, pinned to Rayo’s chest, was the patch!
rayo mag Being a Bassmaster fan I just have to do this patch justice, and I am going to put it together with a display that commemorates the occasion. In order to do that, I needed to find out more about this tournament. After watching the video that BASS produced for TV, I found out that Rayo caught his fish on the 6 inch Mann’s Jelly worm in Strawberry. He also caught fish on the Wooly Bully spinnerbait, and the Norman Little Scooper.

I will be searching high and low to complete the display with the lures, magazine, and a Mann’s patch from the 70’s. This is what makes collecting fun, the hunt continues!

The Florida Influence

23 Aug

Florida fisherman in the late 20’s and early 30’s were catching massive bass. Florida had fertile waters for bass and fisherman were making special trips from the Northeast and Midwest to Florida to fish for their favorite catch the largemouth bass.

Presidents such as Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Grover Cleveland,  came to Florida to fish for bass in these waters, along with many of the rich and famous of the time.

Bait manufacturers noticed this and designed baits for the Florida waters. Most baits that were designed for Florida waters were topwaters since most of the lakes were shallow, but a Florida tackle company called Eger developed a torpedo shaped lure with belly weights and spinners, and called it the Dillinger, named after the famous criminal that was reeking havoc in the streets of Chicago.

Eger developed a red stripe and black stripe Dillinger lure for Florida waters. I am not sure if this was something Eger came up with, or was brought to them by fisherman, but it caught on and was one of the most successful color/lure combinations for the company.

Other bait manufactures saw the success of Eger, and copied the style and color Eger developed.  Eger patented the color pattern in 1936, and was quite protective of the pattern, especially the dotted line around the eyes. Creek Chub came out with their version of this bait in 1937 under the Shur Strike line as the “R” Series. They re-introduced it as the Gar Minnow in 1939 and cataloged the Eger color pattern. It appears that they only sold the dotted eye pattern with the stripes for about a year before Eger put an end to that. After that, they moved to a full shaded color around the eye, and continued to sell that color pattern for many years.

Paw Paw also decided to jump in the game, and called their lure the Southern Torpedo. They made the eye pattern with an arrow, and used rhinestone eyes. Paw Paw got away with the dotted eye pattern and stripes on many other lures like the Pikie type, even though Eger had those lures in their line as well. The reason…… Eger patented the dotted eye/striped paint pattern on the Dillinger lure only in 1936……. It was specifically in the patent on the Dillinger lure, but they did not patent it on the other lures styles!

eger patent jpg

As it turns out all three companies were successful with this style lure, and made various color patterns as well. No one can deny Florida had an impact on the lure makers designs!

florida gar 001_1_1

Top Lure:  Paw Paw with glass eyes replacing factory rhinestone eyes

Middle Lure:  Eger lure with tack eyes

Bottom Lure: Shur Strike glass eye lure with dotted eye pattern

Anatomy of a 100 year old tackle box

18 May


We all love to find tackle boxes in the field just as they were when the fisherman used them. Admit it…… get an adrenalin rush when you see an un-altered box from the 30’s or 40’s and you open that lid!


Well, imagine the rush I got when I saw this 100 year old box when walking into a booth at Rennigers Antique show this year!  Paul Donofrio just picked this box up at an estate sale in Sarasota just a week prior to the show, and decided to put it up for sale.


I was salivating when I saw the Heddon lures lining the top trays, and I think Paul knew he had a sale. After catching my breath and getting it home, I found out the family was from the Cuyahoga Cleveland area. Also, a hook or swivel envelope from an early 1900 hardware store in Cleveland, confirmed the home of the box.  Below is the hook or swivel packet that was found in the tackle box. Davis, Hunt, & Collister Co. were incorporated in 1893. It was located at 147-149 Ontario St downtown Cleveland.

davis collister

davis collister bldg

Bass and Trout Fishing in 1910 in the Cleveland area were for the rich and famous. In fact this box with its contents would have cost an angler more than a year’s salary for the average worker of the time.  The Cleveland/Sandusky area was also the home of an elite fishing club called the Castalia Sporting Club that included political members from the Cleveland area, and leaders of the Cleveland business community. The CASTALIA SPORTING CLUB served as a center of social activity from 1878 through 1936. Prominent members included Lee McBride, JOHN HAY, JAMES FORD RHODES,AMASA STONE MATHER, and JEPTHA WADE. Two well-known non-Clevelanders, Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon and steel industrialist Henry Clay Frick, were also members. Members kept thorough records of how often they visited Castalia Sporting Club, the names of their guests, as well as the number, types, and weights of the fish that they caught. Women were permitted as guests of the club, and the names of female relatives and friends appear throughout the club registers after 1882. However, from 1902-08 there was some disagreement among members as to whether or not women should be allowed to partake in club activities. Despite the debate, women’s names appear consistently throughout this six-year time span.


Enough of the history, let’s get down to business and take a look the box!  You ready!

Before we open the lid we need to take a close look at the box itself.  For a 100 year old box, it appears to be in great shape. The box looks to be made of pine, and is covered with leather on the top and the sides. It has 2 trays for lures, and a storage compartment in the bottom for reels and other tackle.

tackle box outside


Outside of Tackle Box


I was able to find another identical box for sale out of Canada, as you can see below, and another collector emailed me and confirmed he had an identical box.  This seems to verify that this was a production box from the early 1900’s.


tackle box on internet

Picture courtesy of:

The lock was made by Corbin who was a large lock-maker in the early 1900’s.  The Corbin lock and corner covers are all brass. According to Historical Research Series #19 published by Thomas F. Hennessy, Curator, Lock Museum of America in May, 1987; that logo was used by Corbin Cabinet Lock Co. from 1900-1919. CCL Security Products of Wheeling, IL is their successor.

corbin lock

Now, let’s open the box and take a look inside!

inside of box

The first lure of interest is a Pre 1912 Heddon Slopenose Expert Casting Minnow. It is the traditional blue/white color, with a red 2 pin collar, and “non brass” cup hardware.  The lure is dirty, from being in the box, but does not look to have much use.


Next to the Expert, is a  1911 Heddon blunt nose 100 in Rainbow color. It is cup rigged, has nickel-plated hardware, and unmarked props. It also has a large single belly weight, two hand painted gill marks, and is missing one hook.

heddon 100

Next to the 100 is a very interesting lure. It is a 1907 Heddon 150 in Brown back with yellow belly, a color called Blended Yellow.  It has one belly weight, no name on props, and 3 hand painted gill marks.

heddon 150

Wow! These Heddon’s are coming out of the woodwork!  When you think about it, maybe it is not so ironic. There were not a whole lot of choices in wood lures back in the early 1900’s. Next is a gorgeous 1911 Slate back 100 with red around eyes on white body. It is a Fat body style with 2 hand painted gill marks, one belly weight, and no name on props. Very little use on this beauty.

heddon 100 slate

The next lure has the most use of any of the Heddon lures.  This 1908 Heddon 100 in Copper, has a thin body style, with no name on props, one belly weight, and 2 hand painted gill marks.

heddon 100 copper

Next is an obscure Heddon lure made for only a few years. The Heddon Bucktail Surface Minnow was

Only made from 1908-1912.


The lure has a Green Crackleback patch on head, with white body.  The bucktail on the back hook has deteriorated.  It has two hand painted gill marks, no name on props, and no cup on back.

heddon bucktail

The last of the Heddon lures is a “OO” in Strawberry Spot. This lure came out in 1912 which seems to be latest lure in the tackle box. Cup rigged, high forehead,  and no name on props. It is 5 sided with belly weighted, 5 hooks, and 3 hand painted gill marks.

heddon 00

Now let’s take a look at some of the metal lures. There are two Delany Canadian lures to take a look at. William Delany was a jewelry maker in Cobourg Ontario Canada. Delany was born in 1834, and began manufacturing metal spoon lures in the 1890’s. Lures were available in silver, copper, and brass, and he had various sizes in plain, hammered, and ribbed. Some lures had bucktail and wool skirts.  According to Canadian collector Paul Briscoe, these are quite collectible.



Other metal spoon lures that are of interest are the W.T. Lowe and Skinner spoons. Although these NY metal lures are not as valuable as the Delany, they are still early 1900’s vintage.

all metal lures

The most intriguing non lures in the box have to be the line spools. After discussing these spools with noted line collector John Etchieson , John was able to make a few observations that were not known until these were revealed. These Cuttyhunk line spools according to John appeared in the 1910 Gladding catalog, but disappeared in the 1912 catalog!  Wow! Just made of 2 years, and in pristine condition!


cuttyhunk catalog

courtesy John Etchieson

Also, according to John, “The three line blocks of the Excelsior braided linen are also Gladding and have the early pre 1912 logo of two fish facing each other. By 1912 Gladding had adopted the famous large letter “G” logo that they used on their products until they finally went out of business.”

excelsior line

Our next piece happens to be a carded spinner/fly lure called the Water Witch Bass Spinner. After researching this one, I found that this lure was most likely tied by the famous Carrie Frost who was well known for this pattern and was active during this time frame.

water witch

Here is a little history on CJ Frost, courtesy of James Jordan.


C.J. Frost Fishing Tackle

Born     in La Crosse, Wisconsin Oct. 14, 1868- Carrie J. Frost started tying flies     for her father. Initially C.J. tied flies in her home. After she put some     of her flies on the market for the public to buy, C.J. opened a store on     Jefferson St. in Stevens Point Wisconsin. Later she moved to a Normal Ave     location. Finally she had a new brick building built on Ellis Street.

In     1906 Her brother George W. Frost became involved in her business. In 1919     at the time of her retirement Carrie was employing 150 people in her     business named the C.J. frost Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company. She     sold the business to a firm under the name of Frost Fishing Tackle Company     which was short lived. Her company eventually evolved into the Weber Tackle     Company at some time between 1919 and 1921.

Carrie     J. Frost has long been considered a pioneer for female business women and     the American Fly tying industry. Carrie passed on Oct. 7, 1937 leaving one     of the greatest tackle making legacies behind. She is no doubt responsible     for putting Stevens Point, Wisconsin on the map as the Fly making capital     of the World. Prior to her endeavors the majority of Flies cast by American     fly fishermen and women in the United States were imported from England.


Here is a picture of the Frost factory, and a similar Frost spinner

frost building


frost lure

The only reference to the lone bobber found in the box I could find was a catalog ad from the H.C. Evans Co in 1909. The Ad indicates a round cork, egg shaped, wood top float. It has the same design and size. This would be the #2 sizes or 2 inch.

The brass box swivels were also featured in the catalog, and these were sold through many hardware and sporting goods stores in the early teens.



Here are a few other miscellaneous items that were in the box. Rod tips, an interesting rod butt, some matches, and a tin candy case!

rod tips

Pacific Hardware carried these style rod mountings in 1909.

rod mountings catalog

This Fraser rod butt was patented in 1906.

fraser rod butt

rod butt patent

The Cigar Lights were made in Sweden, and quite collectible.

cigar lights

The two reels in the tackle box are a Hendrix and a Meiselbach Tripart. These both are early 1900 reels, and the Hendrix may even be 1800’s.

hendrix reel

tripart reel


I hope I was able to share some history that you all could enjoy. If you have any insights on any of the items in this article, please feel free to contact me any time.


Rick Osterholt