Anglers Antiques: Lures from the 1950s

Last week’s article about the bait canteen made in Oberline, Ohio spawned some comments. Most of these readers had not used the canteen but said it did kindle some memories of not just keeping the bait healthy but having the fun of catching it. Some talk about looking for night crawlers with their dad with a flashlight and a can with rich dirt in it, then years later walking with their children on a mission to collect bait.

Of course, it also reminded me of the days when I lived in Greensburg, Ind. and walked with my dad at night looking for them with a flash light and a coffee can. Some thought dumping their coffee grounds in the backyard attracted them and I am sure there were other tricks of the trade for finding the night crawlers that have escaped my memory. Please feel free to let us know if you remember any.

The first old fishing item this week is another small metal bait keeper. While it could date back to the mid or late 1940s it has never been used. This is another old item I found in Cape Coral along with the lift gaff and bait canteen feature in last week’s article.

The lettering on the lid reads, Patented, Fisherman’s Live Bait Cage, Trenton Stamping & MFG Co., Trenton, Ohio. It also has a slot on the side so you can fasten the bait cage to your belt. It became a little confusing when I looked for the company in the Internet.

The closest I can get is they were based in Covington, Ky. and they also made lures. It is a good bet anglers used this bait cage for crickets and/or worms.

I will continue to look for more information about the company and their lures in the meantime. Feel free to share any information you might have about the Trenton Stamping & MFG Co.

Looking around the room I decided to feature an old Montague two-piece split bamboo Tarpon fishing rod rigged with a #112 Ocean City reel. As many of you already know Calcutta and split bamboo rods could get bent after a good fight. This rod features dual back to back guides on the tip section of the rod. The guides on the lower section are missing.

If it took a set, all the angler had to do was twist that section around and go for another round with another big fish. The second fight would sometimes bend the rod back straight as an arrow. Trying to bend it back manually could turn the two-piece rod into a three-piece rod.

The Ocean City reel features a star drag that works off a small lever on the side of the reel. While this was a nice feature it did have one drawback. Pier fishermen liked to lean the rod and reel on the railing. They would engage the clicker and disengage the drag then lean the rod on the railing. The drag lever could engage the drag if it was knocked slightly without the angler noticing it. If the rod was not in a rod holder and a big fish hit it, the rig would take off like a rocket.

I saw this scenario happen several times at the Naples Pier back in the mid 1950s. We had a large weighted triple hook rigged and ready to go and many times we were able to cast it out in the direction we last saw the rod and retrieve the rig. Sometimes the fish was still on.

I have an old Naples News dated 1949 that has such an account of that happening.

Our third item of the week is a freshwater Water Gremlin Minnow Harness. It is still on the original cardboard holder. It features a spoon stamped Water Gremlin attached to a heavy wire that has a red and black plastic cover over the wire. The hook just below the wire has a spring that holds the minnow on the lure while you troll. The name of the company on the back of the card is General Tool Co., St. Paul, Minn. with the instructions.

The minnow harness is designed especially for slow trolling. When used with minnows it is the king of the water, however, it can be used successfully for holding pork rind or any of the various worms, bugs or flies and for this type of fishing it may be used for casting. We do not recommend casting with a minnow although many experienced fishermen do it successfully.

I am not sure just how old this Water Gremlin is but it is a good bet it also is from the mid 1950s.

Anyone out there ever use it on your favorite lake? If so, did you catch anything? Let us know. We can also use your pictures.

The Antique Tackle Collectors spring show opens to the public May 3 at Mark W. Lance National Guard Armory, 190 San Marco, St. Augustine, Fla. It can be seen right off U.S. 1. You may contact the show host Mike Hall at for more information.

Good hunting!


Red Stier is a weekly contributor to the Marco Island Eagle. Questions or comments may be directed to or 172 Trinidad St., Naples, FL 34113.

© 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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