Gerald Almy: Old time lures effective for catching fish

Gerald Almy

In these hi-tech times we exist in, it’s sometimes nice to look back on simple products that were not devised by a computer or software, but rather by one creative, pioneering mind of a single person tinkering in his shop. Such is the case with some fishing lures developed during the 20th Century. Yes, that’s right, over 100 years ago.

In spite of having to compete with newer lures created or improved with the latest high-tech manufacturing methods, some of these old-fashioned artificials are still catching plenty of fish today. In today’s column we’ll profile one of these great lures that has stood the test of time and still remains in many tackle boxes today, in spite of its long-ago, humble beginning.

Lou Eppinger was a taxidermist practicing his wizardry with deer skins, game birds and squirrels in Detroit in the late 19th century. Back then not many people had the extra cash to mount their birds, fish, or game heads, and his income stream was unreliable. To fill in, he began selling fishing lures to flesh out his income. He eventually tried experimenting and creating some new lures by himself. He crafted most of them out of metal.

In 1906, while on a camping trip in Ontario, he gave one of his new inventions a try on a lake. Not only did it cast farther than any other artificial in his tackle box, it caught more fish and bigger ones. The new “spoon” was a resounding success.

Little did the taxidermist know he had created a lure that would still be catching fish well over a century later. Eppinger continued tinkering with the spoon, testing it and improving it. In 1912, he finally perfected the design that allowed his lure to be cast accurately even in the teeth of a strong wind and wobble temptingly on the retrieve.

He named the new offering the Osprey and began marketing it.

In 1918, Eppinger renamed the spoon after the Marines, who had been called “dare devils” for their feats in World War I. Later he changed the spelling to Daredevle, to avoid controversy. 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. One of my greatest thrills as a fishing and hunting writer was fishing with Lou on a lake in Canada many years ago.

Eppinger now offers a wide variety of spoons and spinners, besides the famous red and white Daredevle, in a myriad of color combinations. You can buy them small enough to catch anything from a 10 inch native brook trout in a tiny stream to stripers in lakes to huge muskies and giant lake trout in northern Canada.

How to fish the Daredevle: Try a moderate to fast steady retrieve either casting or trolling and you usually can’t go wrong. Also experiment by jerking the lure, then letting it flutter down. Another method I like calls for reeling fast over shallow water and then simply stopping the retrieve when you come to a deep dropoff. Fish will strike the lure as it flutters down, like a wounded baitfish.

If fish are deep, simply jig the Daredevle up and down vertically beneath the boat. This is also a productive method through the ice on frozen northern waters during winter. Using downriggers to take the spoon deep and side-planers to pull them away from the noise of the boat are proven methods on the Great Lakes and other large bodies of water with trout and salmon.

These lures are classics for pike, muskies, pickerel, lakers, stripers, arctic char, cutthroats, browns, rainbows and walleyes. In small sizes they are also effective on smallmouths in rivers, panfish in ponds and brook trout in small mountain streams.

Though seldom used there, the lures are also great for saltwater fishing for species such as speckled trout, stripers, and bluefish. You can troll or cast for those species in the Chesapeake Bay and tidal rivers. Just be sure to use a swivel so the line doesn’t twist. And when bluefish are biting, be sure to add a steel leader.

The Daredevle may be a century old, but it has definitely stood the test of time.

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