End of the Line
By Polly Dean
Photos by Jimmy Jacobs
Located in Branson, Missouri, the History of Fishing Museum is the largest collection of antique fishing lures, rods, reels, boats and motors collected entirely by one man and his wife. That couple was Karl and Beverly White.
Whether you are a fisherman with a specialty, be it fly, conventional, salt or freshwater, you will find this museum array fascinating and well worth your time. As I viewed the vast collection, I gained a greater appreciation that this immense assemblage was the work of a single couple.
The collection began when Karl White was aged eight and bought a James Heddon’s Crazy Crawler, which was the most expensive lure to produce at the time. It remains in the collection today, seven decades later. Currently, the museum encompasses more than 40,000 pieces valued at nearly $5 million. While many collections specialize in a specific area, this one is considered to be the most diverse and complete.
The collection of antique tackle and paraphernalia includes the first of many categories. Among those is a Spike Reel from the 1730s, which is the first reel known to have existed. There also is a Snydor Reel from 1840 that is the earliest casting reel. Only four of those are known to currently exist.
Other firsts and collectibles include a Haskell Fish Hook made in 1859, a Comstock Flying Helgramite made by Edward Comstock in 1859, and the first Skeeter Boat to have come off the production line. The oldest patented piece in the collection is the Buel Trolling Spoon that was patented in 1852. The collection represents everything in angling that is collectible, including one of the first pairs of sunglasses.
Fly fishermen will find a variety of fly fishing equipment, flies and collectibles that will satisfy their interests as well. For example, an O’Shay fly reel from the 1880s is on display.
Any person that has fallen for the sport, challenge and beauty that fishing entails will find this large piece of fishing history fascinating. One can spend as little or as much time exploring the large variety of everything that has to do with the sport of angling. A fishing trip to the Ozark Region isn’t complete without a half day or more exploring the History of Fishing Museum in Branson. You really won’t be sorry you made the effort.
The History of Fishing Museum is open 7 days a week. Visit their website for more information.