Collectors hooked on the allure of antique fishing lures

GLASGOW, Ky. (AP) – Glenn Reeves often visits yard sales, searching for fishing lures left behind in old tackle boxes.

Reeves, of Glasgow, is an avid fisherman, but he is also a collector of fishing lures, a hobby he has maintained for 25 years.

“A friend of mine, Ed Bartley … he and another friend, Philip Toms, we just decided we were going to start collecting lures,’” Reeves said. “It was pretty slow at first, but then we got to finding more and more.”

Reeves estimates he has several thousand lures in his still-growing collection.

“I’ve been with him when he bought a lot of it,” said Toms, of Smiths Grove. “He’s got a pretty extensive collection by different lure manufacturers.”

Another friend, Ed Darst of Glasgow, considers Reeves’ collection to be worthy of a museum.

“It’s fabulous. It’s one of the best in this part of the country. It may be the best in Kentucky,” Darst said.

Reeves, along with Bartley and Toms, are members of the Barren Bassmasters club the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club.

Aside from yard sales, Reeves looks for lures at swap meets. Reeves, Toms and Bartley recently attended the NFLCC swap meet in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

“They have a lot of stuff there,” Reeves said. “If you can afford it, you can do good.”

He was also planning to attend the Barren Bassmasters’ swap meet on Jan. 17 at the Cave City Convention Center.

Reeves collects both modern-day lures and antiques. Some are made of bone and were used by Native Americans. He also has the first fishing lures to be patented in the U.S.

“They were patented in 1852 – they made five sizes and I have all five sizes,” he said.

Reeves acquired the first of his collection of five lures – which were all made by J.T. Buel of Vermont – when he purchased an old tackle box that had one inside.

“I started out with that one and then did some research on Buel and his spinners and found out that these were the first ones patented,” Reeves said. “The others I’ve just picked up maybe at a swap meet or maybe at a sale. Those type you don’t find in tackle boxes much because they are so old.”

Reeves does not have a limit on how much he will spend for a lure, and he has been known to pay well for lures he can’t live without.

Some of the lures are what Reeves calls “folk art,” because they are hand-made from a variety of materials. Some are whittled from wood and others are made from household items such as spoons.

Reeves does not make lures, but Bartley does.

“Ed and I have an agreement that any time he makes a prototype he will make me one,” Reeves said.

Bartley, also of Glasgow, said he made many of the lures in Reeves’ collection.

“He’s been collecting mine, but he doesn’t have near as much as I do,” Bartley said. “Probably no one has as many as I have. I’ve kept every one that I’ve come up with.”

Aside from the lures Bartley makes, Reeves has others that were made in Kentucky. And there’s one in particular he would like to add to his collection: a Shakespeare Revolution lure made of wood.

“It starts around $4,000,” he said.

Most of the lures in Reeves’ collection are preserved in framed glass cases, but there are some that he uses often when fishing. He prefers to fish for bass and muskie.

The biggest fish he ever caught was a 46-inch muskie, which he caught in Canada. Reeves has been to Canada on fishing trips 25 times. He also participates in fishing tournaments as part of the Barren Bassmasters club.

Reeves, a retired builder, has plenty of time to fish. He and fellow bass club members fish nine months out of the year.

And what do they do when they’re not fishing?

“We try to collect lures,” he said.

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