When Chip Rice opened the glass doors to a wooden display case full of fishing lures, it was as if he had opened the pages of history.
To a person not really interested in fishing or history, the sight might have been insignificant, but to a lure collector or anyone else with a feel for nostalgia, the old tackle would have conjured up the sights and sounds of an angler casting a Heddon Minnow, Creek Chub Surfster or maybe even a Underwater Expert for bass, muskie or pike, as far back as a century ago.
Rice, a Burleson, Texas, veterinarian, was eager to share information about the antique fishing tackle he has collected for more than 15 years.
He was preparing for the upcoming Dallas Antique Fishing Tackle Show next weekend in Grapevine.
The show attracts collectors from across the country and people who have found it a great place to sell lures and other items they have found or inherited. For others, it is a place to learn a bit of history about an old lure, reel or rod they own.
"We always have a lot of people who come to the show just to find out how much a lure they have might be worth, or maybe to sell it because they really aren't interested in collecting lures," said Rice, one of the show's organizers. "Anytime someone shows up with something that is really neat, it gets exciting for those of us who are really into collecting lures."
Rice seeks almost any type of old lure, reel or other fishing item he can find, but some collectors have specialized interests, targeting specific lure manufacturers such as Heddon, Creek Chub, Winchester, Pflueger, Foss or South Bend, who manufactured wooden, metal, glass and eventually plastic lures.
Many collections are of top-water lures, flies and poppers, or perhaps Texas-made lures.
Among Rice's favorite finds are "glass minnows." These were clear glass tubes similar in shape to other lures, even down to carrying treble hooks. They could be opened and a live minnow was placed inside to attract game fish.
A spinoff to the glass minnow was a wire cage lure, in which a live minnow was placed inside the spiral wire body. Rice's collection includes one made by a Fort Worth angler decades ago.
"You never know when you are going to find something really interesting," Rice said. "To a lot of people, these old lures mean nothing, but to a collector it might be one of the best additions he has found in a long time."
As with any type of collectible, a fishing lure or other piece of tackle is worth as much as a person is willing to pay for it. Some lures might sell for as low as $5 to $10, while others might go for $500 or more.
The Internet marketplace, especially eBay, has made lures so available that the prices for many lures that once were relatively high are now low, Rice said.
Even the boxes that old lures and reels came in are collectibles.
"Some of those old boxes, especially the wooden ones and some of the old cardboard boxes are worth more than the lures that came in them," Rice said. "If you can find one that is in really good condition, you've made a good find. Having an old lure is one thing, but if you have the box it came in, you really have something good."