Back in March my father celebrated his 79th birthday, the man I credit for immeasurable amounts of helpful guidance over the years, maybe chief among them cementing my lifelong and rabid love of the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. To say I’ve “got it bad” doesn’t quite explain it, and I can credit Robert C. Melotik. Thanks pops.
My dad and I have been lucky enough to share many great experiences afield over the years and I’ve also benefitted from many great tales from his own colorful childhood, and just one of those unforgettable accounts focuses on an iconic fishing lure company: Rapala. With dad turning 79 and Rapala celebrating 80 years in 2016, the connection becomes even more intriguing.
You can view Rapala’s 80th Year Commemorative film below:
EXPOSED TO THE ‘SECRET’ LURE
Turns out my father remembers vividly his first exposure to Rapala lures, as a teenager growing up in southern Wisconsin. My dad recalls traveling to a Milwaukee-based sporting goods shop with his uncle one day, where they were introduced to a “secret new lure” by the shop manager.
As dad tells it, he and his uncle, who were well known to the shop manager, were treated to the “special showing” of the amazing new lure, because they were regular customers.
“[The manager] told us he couldn’t put the lure on display because it sells out too fast, and he wanted to sell them to his good customers,” my father explained. Then he further detailed how the manager reached slowly under the counter (the guy might have first looked over his shoulder) and produced two lures: shiny Original Floating Rapalas measuring about 4 or 5 inches long, sporting two treble hooks each and the now-iconic silver-and-black minnow finish. There was no lure box, no packaging at all, my father remembered, further cementing the secretive, unusual transaction in his memory banks. It was almost as if the transaction had been illegal.
Of course my dad and his uncle produced their hard-earned money on the spot, and the pair traveled home thinking they had won the lottery. In a sense, they had. My father told me he caught many fish with that skinny, shiny lure, especially scads of eager northern pike that were attracted to the lure’s distinctive action as my father row-trolled the wiggling artificial around his favorite lakes. This was in the early 1950s, and in the many decades since, the Rapala legend has only grown, and steadily.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Turns out the apple didn’t fall far from the tree; my first tackle box gifted to me by my dad held a few Rapalas, and I’ve used them over the past 40 years or so to catch literally dozens of species. Today my fishing tackle collection includes several hundred Rapalas, many of which have helped me achieve personal angling milestones. I’ll never forget catching my first “bragging sized” walleye on Wisconsin’s Wind Lake, casting an Original floater (silver and black) during my early teens, and many years later, equipping my new wife with an ultralight spin rig and a small “trout finish” jointed floater, on our first stream trout fishing trip together in the upper Midwest. That day, Julie caught trout after trout, a very good thing because I had roused her at 4 a.m. and promised her both the early wake-up and hour-long ride in the dark would be well worth the effort. Thanks to a few newly sharpened Rapalas, they certainly were.
Through the years I’ve happily helped many others experience the amazing fish-catching abilities of Rapala lures, with maybe the most-impressive example being—of all times and places—my very own wedding reception. Maybe that successful trout outing with Julie was a good omen; while most wedding receptions feature wedding favors of cleverly wrapped and monogrammed candy, or maybe a commemorative glass or mug, we went a different route. Nestled at each table setting was a smartly gift-wrapped package, a thin, rather compact rectangle. Maybe you’ve already guessed: Each box held a silver-and-black, Original Floating Rapala (Number 11).
Happy 80th anniversary, Rapala. Here’s hoping sportsmen everywhere will get to celebrate a whole lot more of them.
Looking to add to your own Rapala collection? Check out these sales from Sportsman’s Guide: