When Dan Basore was 15 years old, his grandfather died and left him a tackle box full of unused fishing lures.
The delicate twists and turns of each trinket hooked the boy into a lifetime of collecting lures. And now he has “tens of thousands” of lures, dating from 8,000 B.C. to the present day.
Basore, now 67, is showing off some of his collection at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in an exhibit called “Hooked: Historical Fishing Lures,” through Sept. 4. He gave a guided tour through several hundred of his favorites on Sunday to a crowd of about 20 people. Afterward, Basore appraised some lures that residents brought.
“This is creativity at its highest form,” he said, pointing to a case of lures from the early 1900s.
Each groove and accessory of a lure has an intended purpose, he said, many of which didn’t pan out. But the world kept trying to find the best way to catch a fish. There are simple thin “J” shaped hooks. Some have feathers sticking out; others have real frog skin that has slowly deteriorated over time. One trick even used fake capsules of blood to represent a wounded fish.
At the turn of the century, a good lure went for $1, which was about the cost of a day’s work, Basore said. So many people improvised, making lures out of household objects. Some people tried to market their creations.
Just as Basore brought the crowd through the last part of the exhibit, a few of the visitors pulled out their own lures to have Basore examine each detail to find the value. Susan Briggs gripped three egg cartons, a plastic bag and a small box full of worn lures. When her husband died a year and a half ago, he left his collection behind. So Briggs decided to see if they were worth anything.
Basore examined a Loftie spoon lure worth about $25, an American spinner worth up to $45 and a few others that would have been worth more if they were in better condition. The rest were just keepsakes for Briggs.
“They may not mean much to others,” she said, “but I see a piece of (my husband) in every lure.”