QUESTION: How many Americans fish? ANSWER: More than 50 million Americans fish. One million people earn their living as a result of sport fishing.
Q: Why are Americans to fishing-driven?
A: It's the only country in the world with that kind of emphasis on fishing. Part of it is the free-enterprise of the United States.
Q: How competitive was it as businesses grew up just to serve the fishing industry?
A: There were literally hundreds of bait-producing companies, rod-producing — everybody was in the business. There was something like 80 people making outboard motors in 1950. They were all after one of the 30,000 different kinds of fish.
Q: Who fishes today in America?
A: People from 9 to 90.
Q: When was sport fishing invented?
A: The first mention of sport fishing was in 1496. It was a treatise on sport fishing written by a woman, Dame Julia Berners. It was the first time anybody thought about writing about sport fishing. The book tells you how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, how to make hooks, how to make lines, how to find bait. And it also talks about conservation.
Q: Besides boats, what are the six items essential to sport fishing?
A: Hooks, lines, bait, rods and reels and what I consider the most important part of it, the actual tackle itself.
Q: When did making sport-fishing equipment become a commercial opportunity?
A: Hooks go all the way back to the Stone Age. But the first company to come up with a really precisely designed hook was Eagle Claw, the early day epitome of a hook. The lines they used initially — of course there was no monofilament, no fabric lines — initially they used horse hair for lines. The the Chinese came up with silk, which became a common material for lines.
Q: What direction did the bait industry take?
A: In the case of bait there were only two kinds: live bait and dead bait. And if you're not very careful, the live bait becomes dead bait real quick.
Q: How did reels develop?
A: The early reels were called winches. The English developed what they called Nottingham reels from the Nottingham section of England. There are literally hundreds of different sizes. All hand-made with brass strips on the metal. The wood was either walnut, cherry or mahogany. They were beautiful. About the 1850s, a group of jewelers in Louisville and Frankfort, Ky., came up with the idea of making a German silver reel. Progress continued on reels until World War II when there was a company known as the Zero Hour Bomb Co. in Tulsa, Okla. They made bomb components. When the war ended. There was much demand for bombs anymore so they switched from making bomb site parts to making closed-face spinning reels. And they changed their name to ZebCo.
Q: What is the best lure ever made?
A: The Holy Grail of lures is the Riley Haskell lure. One sold a couple years ago for $101,000. In the world of fishing tackle, that's the highest price ever paid.
Q: Is it true accidents have been the inspiration of many fishing inventions?
A: The spoon lure was invented by a game of the name of Julio Buel in 1848. He was out fishing with his buddy and using bait. He was eating potato salad and as he was washing off his spoon and it slipped from his hand and a big bass came up and hit it. Julio Buel of New York went home and took the handle off a spoon, put a hook on one end and an eye on the other and invented the spoon lure. He made literally millions of these.
Q: Any other accident inventions?
A: The wooden lure was invented by a fellow by the name of Jim Heddon of Michigan for all practical purposes. The Heddon Co. was the best fishing tackle manufacturer during the Golden Age of Fishing, which would have been from the turn of the century to 1950. As he was fishing when the fishing wasn't very good, he took out a piece of wood and started whittling as people did in those days. He saw a frog on the bank and started whittling. He broke a leg off the first frog he was carving. Once again a big bass came up and inhaled the wooden frog. Heddon went home and carved 15 wooden frogs. He went home and carved about 100 wooden frogs before he said to himself: “I better figure out a way to make these commercial.” That was the beginning of the Heddon Co., the most enterprising tackle company of them all.
Editor's note: Gasparilla Gazette readers willl be treated to more of Frank Koffend's fishing history ion their year's edition of Boca Memories in June.
Frank Koffend and his granddaughter Marianna.
Fact BoxFrank Koffend at a glance
Birth date: April 24, 1933
Hometown: Neenah, Wis.
Residence: Boca Grande
Family: Married 48 years with a son and daughter
Occupation: Retired silicone salesman
Biggest fish caught: 55-inch muskie