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Folks 'gear' up for fishing tackle shows

DALLAS — The National Fishing Lure Collectors Club recently held its annual Antique Fishing Tackle show Saturday in Grapevine, Texas. Think Antiques Road Show without Tiffany lamps, ornate furniture, smoky paintings, moth-eaten Persian rugs or Civil War relics.

In fact, the annual show is very much like a version of the PBS television series Antiques Road Show except it is restricted to fishing tackle, said Burleson lure collector Chip Rice, a veterinarian.

Explaining that quite a few true experts are on hand to appraise items that the public brings in, Rice added: "Unlike Antiques Road Show, the public at our show has an option of putting their old fishing gear in our auction."

NFLCC members go to great lengths to ensure fair prices, Rice added. Visitors can run their items through the auction with a minimum sale price attached. If the gear doesn't bring the minimum price, they can take it home.

"A couple of years ago, we had a guy bring in an early Shakespeare lure that was still in the box," Rice said. "It was a rare item, and I gave him a conservative estimate of $750. He put the lure in our auction, and a couple of guys decided they wanted it pretty badly. When the bidding got to $4,000, I looked at the owner, and there were tears running down his face."

The top lure last year sold for $800. Rice remembered a tackle box that included a few nice collectibles. The entire box was worth about $1,500. Most old fishing tackle is not worth much at all. That's what you miss on Antiques Road Show. Each episode spotlights a handful of interesting pieces from hundreds of items brought in for appraisal. Most of those antiques aren't worth much, either.

Fishing tackle started gaining prominence among collectors when NFLCC was founded in the 1970s. Texas has about as many lure collectors as any state. There are several serious collectors in the Dallas area, but Rice says most tackle collectors are specialists.

"We have members who concentrate on Texas lures and tackle, for instance," he said. "Others are only interested in fly-fishing gear, and some people only buy lures of a certain color. We have collectors who concentrate on fishing reels or fishing rods."

Oklahoma's Karl T. White is one of America's best-known fishing tackle collectors. His collection includes more than 20,000 items and takes up 4,000 square feet of exhibit space in the Oklahoma Aquarium near Tulsa. White's collection is valued at more than $4 million.

According to White, who has written books on evaluating tackle, the appeal of sporting antiques is based on traditions that remain essentially the same as they were 100 years ago. Only the equipment has changed.

Rice said it's possible to find fishing tackle treasures at flea markets and garage sales. It helps to get there early. Rice has friends who arrive so early for advertised sales that they need a flashlight to evaluate merchandise.

Like all those people who line up for Antiques Road Show, the average fishing enthusiast doesn't know if the tackle box he found in the attic contains valuable gear or not. That's where the NFLCC comes in.


What: Annual meeting of fishing tackle collectors.

Where: Hilton DFW Lakes, 1800 Highway 26 east, Grapevine.

When: Saturday, 8 a.m. CDT to 2 p.m.

Features: Approximately 100 tables of antique tackle displays, experts to appraise tackle, on-site auction.

Information: Chip Rice, 817-295-7750 or e-mail

Other antique tackle displays: The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center near Athens has a collection of more than 500 items on display. Included are a full collection of Layfield Lures made in Malakoff, Texas.