Invented in the middle of the XIXth century in the United States, the wooden lures intended at the beginning, primarily for the fishing of the Black-Bass, became impossible to circumvent of the fishing of the carnivorous in general.
If we leaf through the pages of the Manufrance catalogs from the twenties to the fifties, or those of famous companies such as Louis Perrot, le Pêcheur Breton, le Pêcheur écossais, or Wyers frères, it is clear that almost all the models of “fish” called swimmers, were imported from the United States. The Hardy company in England, did make some models, but they were in fact copied on the wooden swimming fishes from across the Atlantic. Well before the First World War, several American companies manufactured dozens of models almost always with glass eyes, articulated or not, intended for Black-Bass, Pike and other Muskinonges.
Between the twenties and the sixties, dozens of artisanal or industrial manufacturers created hundreds of different models, which continue to catch fish today, but many of which have become collector’s items. Among the most famous brands are Heddon, Dowagiac, Creek Chub company, Flatail, Paw Paw, Shakespeare, Kazoo, Oreno and many others, some of which are still in operation, even if the models from the thirties to the fifties are now made of plastic, and obviously have no collector’s value…
It was around the middle of the thirties, in 1936 to be precise, that this swimming fish was invented whose name, like Frigidaire, was to become synonymous with these types of lures. This time, it was in Finland, where a poor fisherman who was struggling to feed his family, Lauri Rapala, created with a piece of pine bark and a knife, the outline of the first swimming fish, which was then developed by his sons and sold more than a billion copies around the world. The Rapala legend was born.
Like Frigidaire, Rapala has become a household word.
In the 1960s and 1980s, our country was the third largest importer of Rapalas, after the United States and Japan. Like Frigidaire, Rapala has become a synonym for artificial swimming fish. But when real fishermen say Rapala, they want a real Rapala fish at the end of their line. Not one of those countless imitations, which under a big-box blister pack or on the retailer’s counter may give the illusion, but in the water turn out to be pale copies, clones that swim like crabs or spin as soon as the retrieve speed is increased. Rapala’s original models are still, as they were nearly eighty years ago, handcrafted in Finland and tested one by one for balance and swimming ability. Their price is certainly affected, but their “fishing” action, whatever the model, remains unmatched to this day
Today, due to marketing, the brand offers more than a hundred different models, but in the days of Lauri Rapala and his three sons, more than three-quarters of trout and predator anglers used almost exclusively the so-called “original” floating model, in sizes from 5 to 9 cm. For trout, the favorite color was the “yellow with black back” and for pike or perch, the “silver with blue back”. It is true that the first one imitated quite well the color of a minnow and the second, a bleak or a small roach. Today, colors come in hundreds of shades and imitations, some of them extremely realistic, but isn’t such diversity made above all to catch fishermen rather than fish? Let’s recognize here, however, that fluorescent colors, not very natural and imitative, that many old hands, unlike the younger generations of fishermen, are reluctant to attach to the end of their line, are however very effective especially in tinted waters in periods of high water.
As for the size of the models used, our parents, but this was also true when they were spooning, were reluctant to use large wooden lures. We can understand them when they were looking for trout or perch, but when it came to master Esox, they were all wrong. For pike, you should not be afraid to use a Rapala of more than 12 or 15 cm. Let’s remember that a carnivorous fish, in fresh or salt water, will jump, even if it means the risk of suffocating, on any other fish of a size even slightly smaller than its own.