As a small kid in the early to mid ‘70s, my mom would take me to Leach’s Sporting Goods to buy worms, sinkers and hooks. I could stand and stare for hours at the crankbaits and other hardbaits, that I couldn’t really afford. Baits such as Bagley’s Balsa Bs, Rapalas, Jitterbugs, Hula Poppers, and Devils Horses are some of the baits that come to mind. Also hanging on the walls were packaged plastic worms from Creme and DeLong. Located on the floor in the coffee cans were bulk worms and jig heads. It was a dream-like place for a kid bitten with the fishing bug.
At the glass counter were reels I could only dream of owning, like the 5000DL, gold-plated collectors reel priced at $99 and the less expensive red 5000 and black 5000C. Then there were the rod racks. Filled with Fenwick, Garcia and other manufacturers. All more than my saved lunch money could afford.
What intrigued me most about Leach’s, though, was the “boat shop” out back. In the early days of my fishing adventures, which started in earnest in 1972, we didn’t have a boat and resorted to renting when we went to the local lakes to fish. For those of you that fished southern California during those days, you remember the old (even at that time) wood and glass sleds they rented that might top out at 3 mph with a 6-horse Merc going downwind.
As we spent more and more time at the lakes, we eventually saw some of the first bass boats that had made it out west. Their sparkling gel-coat, big motors and swivel seats sure looked like a much more comfortable fishing platform than the hard glass and throw cushions we’d been sitting on for a few years.
Anyway, it was at Leach’s where I saw my first actual, dyed-in-the-wool bass boat up close. It was a Ranger TR3 fully loaded with two Lowrance Flashers, and a RAM trolling motor. It was a sight to behold for an 8 year old.
Leach’s was also the place where we bought our first bass boat in 1976 or ’77. A 15-foot Sea Nymph Jon/bass boat loaded with a 35-horse Johnson and a 23-pound thrust foot-control Pflueger trolling motor (we didn’t get a depth finder until about a year later).
Leach’s was also the meeting place for my first bass club, the Ambassadeurs of Southern California – a club I joined in 1978. At the time I was 14 years old and working at Bob’s Fishing Tackle. I was invited to join the club so I talked my dad into joining. Unknown to me, the club had an age limit of 16. I guess they assumed I was older than I was because at 14, I was over 6 feet tall. In 1980 we had a tournament at Lake Havasu on my birthday. The guys had a celebration for me and that’s when they found out really how old I was. At that point they couldn’t kick me out but they did joke about taking back my tournament wins and places up to that point.
But back to Leach’s Sporting Goods.
Unfortunately Leach’s closed down in the early 90s. Property in southern California had reached such high prices that the owners decided to cash in and sell to a developer who was bringing in an Indian Casino. Out went one of my favorite tackle and boat shops and in came more traffic and drunk drivers. Not a good replacement as far as I’m concerned.
Anyway, this ad brought back a flood of memories for me and I hope it does for those who frequented Leach’s during those hey-days of bass fishing in southern California. The ad also shows a VERY YOUNG Mike Folkestad at a time when he was just starting to become a western (and arguably national) legend.