Almy: Classic lures remain among the best

By Gerald Almy

Considering the technological advancements lure making has undergone in recent years, it might seem foolhardy to turn to offerings invented decades ago.

Not necessarily. Some of the best lures you can tie on today were invented by anglers many generations ago who had one goal — not to become famous or get rich, but to catch more fish. Some are still used regularly, others not so much. All of them deserve the term “classic lures.” Here’s a look at two of those lures — how they were invented and how you can still use them to catch today’s “sophisticated” gamefish.

Mepps Spinner: Todd Sheldon was tending to customers in his sports shop in Antigo, Wis., shortly after World War II when a GI walked in and plopped a handful of Mepps spinners on the counter that he’d picked up in Europe. It was a generous gift. But Todd didn’t realize just how generous it was at the time.

He put them in his personal tackle box, where they languished for a while without him giving them much thought. Finally, one day when he was fishing the Wolf River and having poor luck, he remembered the special flashy spinners. Tying one of the Mepps artificials on his line, he cast out and began reeling back steadily. A strike came quickly. Then he caught another fish, and another. Before long, he had quickly limited out.

Soon Sheldon traced the spinners back to their place of origin, France. They had been used there since Andre Meulnart invented them in 1938, and catching fish steadily for Europeans. Todd ordered several boxes and began selling them in his sport shop. Word spread quickly about the tremendous fish-catching powers of the flashy new spinning lures.

In 1960, Sheldon obtained North American distribution rights to Mepps lures, and in 1972 purchased Mepps France. The company has expanded to offer a number of different spinners and other lures, but the classic Aglia Spinner is still its best seller. When Sports Afield magazine used to give awards for outstanding trophy fish, more were caught on the Aglia than any other offering.

Tactics — Mepps spinners work on all gamefish, from diminutive panfish to leg-long pike and muskies. For stream trout and sunfish, try a size 0 or 1. Big crappies and walleyes like a size 2. Bass, salmon and steelhead will slam size 3 and 4 spinners. For pike and muskellunge, move up to size 5 spinners.

These lures are particularly appealing because they are easy for anyone to catch fish with. The best retrieve is smooth and steady. Simply cast to likely cover or prime areas in rivers like pools, eddies and rock piles and retrieve evenly. Try different depths by letting the lure sink before retrieving. Use faster retrieves in warmer weather when fish are aggressive. Work the lure slower and deeper if a cold front has passed through. Go with fluorescent models in off-color water, silver on bright days, copper or gold on cloudy days.

Yes, it’s a simple lure. And it’s old. But the Mepps spinner still catches plenty of fish.

Daredevle: Lou Eppinger was a taxidermist practicing his craft in Detroit in the late nineteenth century. Work was slow though, so he began selling fishing lures to expand his income sources. He eventually tried creating some himself out of metal. In 1906, while on a fishing trip in Ontario, he cast out into the lake with one of his new inventions. Not only did it cast farther than any other lure in his tackle box, it caught more fish.

The young taxidermist tinkered with the spoon over the next few years. In 1912 he finally perfected the design and began marketing it under the name the Osprey. In 1918, he renamed the spoon after the Marines, who had been called “Dare Devils” for their feats in World War I. Later he changed the name’s spelling to Daredevle to avoid offending anyone. Ed Eppinger, Lou’s nephew, soon joined the firm and over the years it grew into one of the largest tackle businesses in the country.

Over a century later, you can still buy Daredevles small enough to catch a 10 inch native brookie or big enough for huge pike, muskies and lake trout.

Tactics — Try a moderate to fast retrieve, either casting or trolling, and you can’t go wrong. Also experiment by jerking the lure, then letting it flutter down. If fish are deep, simply jig the Daredevle up and down vertically beneath the boat. On local Shenandoah Valley waters both this lure and the Mepps spinner are good for trout in mountain streams, smallmouths in the Shenandoah River and bass and walleyes in area lakes. In larger sizes they’ll catch pickerel in ponds and stripers in Lake Anna near Fredericksburg.

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.