The Journal Gazette
Sunday, July 21, 2019 1:00 am

Show reels in fans of collectible fishing lures

1,000 people see the displays

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

Darwin Stewart has been collecting lures for decades.

Stewart, of Clarksville, Tennessee, spent the weekend at the National Fishing Lures Collectors Club national show displaying his collection of Big O lures handcrafted by angler Fred Young.

More than 1,000 people from across the world attended the show this weekend at Grand Wayne Center, co-host David Saalfrank said. The primary objectives of the club are to foster an awareness of fishing tackle collecting as a hobby and to assist members in the location, identification and trading of vintage fishing-related equipment.

The international event showed off thousands of pieces of fishing tackle, some of which, Saalfrank said, date back to the origins of fishing in America.

Saalfrank, a regional vice president for the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club, said this weekend was the fourth time the show has come to Fort Wayne. The organization has been around for 43 years.

Together with co-host Bob King, Saalfrank organized the weekend convention.

Stewart's lures were made in eastern Tennessee, Stewart said, and have a long history behind them.

Some of the pieces in Stewart's collection are one-of-a-kind lures.

“It's pretty much all bass fishing,” said Stewart, 76. “They're all made out of balsa wood. A lot of them are one-of-a-kind.”

The lures are hand-painted and some are autographed by Young himself, Stewart said, explaining how Young would sell his lures.

“He would sell them six to an egg carton,” Stewart said, pointing to a display on his table.

The painting and design were unique to Young's style, he added.

Stewart started fishing when he was a child. He started seeing Fred Young's lures in the 1970s.

“I saw them, and I liked the colors, and they caught fish,” Stewart said.

Stewart has been coming to the collectors' convention for more than 30 years. He has been to all four in Fort Wayne.

“Of all the shows I've gone to, they have put on the best,” Stewart said. “It's a volunteer situation and they work (extremely hard).”

Saalfrank, who lives in Ossian, is also a collector.

“My grandparents had a small pond, and I started fishing as soon as I could hold a fishing pole,” he said. “As a fisherman, you're always collecting, you just don't realize it.”

Saalfrank said the artistry and the construction of the old lures are what captivate him.

“Everything was handmade, hand-painted,” Saalfrank said. “Nothing left the shop unless it was absolutely perfect.”

This year's convention may be over, but the collectors' love of fishing and tackle lives on.

More information about the National Fishing Lures Collectors Club can be found at

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