by Jim Porter
The dusty tackle box had been under the work bench for a very long time. somehow, this old weekend partner had been relegated to being the repository of the myriad of odds and ends fishermen seem to save for a rainy day. Such was the weather that Saturday afternoon when I convinced myself to finally clean out the garage.
It was a Plano 8600, that old box. It was, and still is, probably the best ever made. Sturdy latches big enough for even cold, numb hands to open on a blustery December fishing day. And, a positive locking handle, in case one forgot to close those latches. A hip roof-style container, both sides of the top folded back to allow total access to its massive depths. The three-level lure trays still pull smoothly up-and-out, providing more storage space than any box its size should be able to contain. It had survived a thousands of angling outings, being dropped, kicked, sat on and, once, even serving as a jack stand while a trailer tire was being changed. For a fact, they don't make 'em like they used to.
Opening the old relic produced a gold mine of long-forgotten treasures. A lifetime of fishing memories were revisited as the contents were displayed. Flashbacks of events long past came as though they were yesterday, rather than countless years:
It's just on old collection of junk, but it's priceless.
- A small plastic bag of bail springs and other parts for the original, green-colored Cardinal 3 and 4 spinning reels. Remembered by many as the best ever made, the original Cardinal, manufactured by the ABU Company of Sweden, ceased to be available for a while. Demand brought it back, but the current version is no comparison to the one that took so many bass when Tennessee's Tim's Ford Lake was new and unspoiled.
- With all the cracked and faded paint, it was one of Smithwick's finest. Named the "Buck 'n Bawl", this fat cousin of the famed Devil Horse top water lure was a half inch shorter than when originally purchased. Too many bass had ressured the rear hook, gradually reaming the eye screw from the wooden body. One Spring day in Alabama, a small pocket knife performed surgery and the small lure was able to sally forth to do battle again.
- Carefully threaded on a safety pin, four original Sampo ball-bearing swivels. Bought when these 'best of breed' cost only a nickel, they replaced many a barrel swivel on spinner bait blades.
- An over-sized jig head, made of plastic and containing some small steel shot. Creme Lure Company had made a futile attempt at cashing in on the rattle craze with this product in the early 1970's. Plugs with rattles impressed anglers but, for some reason, jigs waited a while.
- A couple of faded lures that, when made, were factually called 'rubber worms'. About 1950 vintage (a very good year), they resemble an earthworm in shape, are hard as a garden hose and smell like a recap tire casing. However, bass of many fish generations ago seemed to like them fine.
- A `Houser Hell-Diver', the original safety pin-style spinner bait. Vintage 1928, or so. Not many around. Charlie Brewer, the `Slider ' lure inventor, gave me this one a long Christmas ago. The rubber skirt is melted into a sticky blob, but the remainder is well preserved. Made with what resembles coat-hanger wire, a giant tear-drop blade and a gigantic swivel that would choke a horse, the `Diver' looks as though it would stand up to a mauling from Jaws himself.
- A small package of hooks marked "Made in USA", a rare item these days. No rust, either.
- A spare handle nut for an original red Garcia Ambassadeur 5000 reel, the symbol of a 'true' bass fisherman back in the `ancient times'. As I recall, the reel's serial number was #454.
- With rusted hooks, a loose lip, and numerous battle scars, a Heddon River Runt Spook that was retired when more glamorous crank plugs out-advertised it. One of the first to convert to the use of plastic bodies over wood. Probably still as good a lure as any.
- The Barlow knife my wife gave me for Christmas when we were dating in college. The large blade is broken. So is the marriage.
- A rubber cricket with a bent hook, to which many a sunfish gave his all for a ten year old kid.
- A key to some long-forgotten lock.
- The 1959 Arkansas fishing license says "J. Porter, green eyes, brown hair, 18 years old, six feet tall, 160 pounds." Let's see, if 36 years equals 70 more pounds-- ---. No wonder those trolling motor batteries get tired quickly. Heck, no one was ever that thin.
- A faded photograph of a true 'sportsman' with a big stringer full of bass. I seem to recall that they were dragged all over town for everyone to admire, until they finally spoiled and had to be disposed of. Conservation was not a topic then. Hope we didn't learn too late.
- An old metal twist-key, with which to open a can of Vienna Sausages. They made great temporary replacements for broken sheer pins in an old 5-horse outboard, something rip-tabs will never do.
- It has no hooks and the paint is all but gone; but the old 59-cent Hula Popper, the first lure bought with a kid's lawn-mowing money, still lies in wait for just one more chance at the world record and immortality.
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