1971 Lew's Catalog Cover

For me it’s hard to envision Lew Childre not in the bass game.  When I got into this sport in 1974, all you saw in the magazines were ads about his Speed Spools, Gear Kits, Speed Sticks, and various other products geared towards the bass angler.  But today in Lew Childre 1971, we’re going to look a couple years prior to 1974 and see where he came from.

I have always heard the story about how Childre had been a cane pole peddler early in his career.  He couldn’t find good cane in the U.S. so he ventured to the Far East to chase down the infamous cane grown in those regions.  He’d finally settle on high quality cane harvested from Japan and India for his cane poles.  But the starting material wasn’t the only thing that made this cane worthy.  It was the manner in which it was tempered that increased its quality.

Throughout the 1960s, he imported literal tons of cane poles to the U.S. selling most of them under the Lew Childre and Sanders, INC label.  Childre didn’t stop there, though.  He sold hooks, floats, sinkers, and even small reels to accompany some of his cane poles.

By the end of the 1960s, he started importing fiberglass telescopic “cane poles” that were being manufactured in Japan.  These fiberglass poles came in several lengths and weights, up to the Hawger that was rated for “pulling 10-pound fish directly from logs.”  But we’ll get back to that later.

Today’s catalog does not feature any bass gear whatsoever.  What it does feature is Lew Childre and his company just prior to changing the world of bass fishing.

The cover of this catalog features a pole rack filled with Childre’s cane poles.  Most of the poles seen in this image are combos complete with pole, line, hook and a float.  From my understanding, these poles cost anywhere from $2 up to maybe $5 each.  It was Childre’s goal to provide angling equipment at an affordable price so everyone could enjoy the sport of fishing.

The inside cover features a look at his new fiberglass telescopic cane poles as well as some peripheral tackle, an Olympic Midget reel, and a set of guides.  The concept of those slip-on guides would be seen in a few years when Childre came out with his Speed Merchant Custom Rod product.

The first page of the catalog shows how deep Childre was into the business.  One of the preferred methods to fish with a cane pole was to use minnows.  And Page 1 of the catalog is filled with minnow buckets and aerators.  Lew’s was the one-stop shop for all your cane pole fishing needs.

Then on pages 2 through 4 he featured his fiberglass telescopic poles in various lengths, powers, and riggings.  Most of these rods were fitted with a line tender where others had a reel seat.

1971 Lew's Catalog Inside Front Cover

Page 5 is where a little nostalgia hit me.  If you’ve read any of our pieces on Dee Thomas and the start of the Flippin’ craze, you know that he preferred the Lew’s Hawger when he was developing his “Flippin’” technique.  The is the pole that Thomas used in those first few tournaments held by Western Bass.  Looking at the catalog, though, I don’t see the Hawger that Dee described to me.  He had told me in prior interviews that the pole he used was one-piece and that the line, 80-pound Dacron, was strung through the hollow of the rod.  The poles on this page don’t seem to follow his description.

Another interesting fact about these fiberglass telescopic poles is that the telescopic concept was brand new to the fishing industry.  Prior to this, to have a rod that was collapsible, rod makers utilized ferrules.  The ferrule, generally made from some steel alloy, would dampen the action of the rod and add weight.  The telescoping concept got rid of that.  But this is not what I wanted to discuss.

When Thomas first came out with his Flippin’ Stik with Fenwick, the first-generation rods were one piece.  At 7-feet, 6-inches, the rods would not fit in the rod lockers of the day.  This was the main reason for poor sales at the start of the Flippin’ craze.  So Dave Myers, Fenwick’s lead R&D guy, utilized the telescopic concept on the generation-two rods, decreasing the stored length down to 5-feet, 6-inches.

On pages 8 through 10, Childre gets into his pure cane poles.  What surprises me are the quantities sold.  A tackle store couldn’t just buy one pole, they had to buy a minimum of a box or bundle up to a carton.  A bundle consisted of anywhere from 25 to 100 poles, where a carton contained from 24 to 48 poles.  In my early fishing life, I don’t ever recall seeing this many came poles in one place.  I’m sure if I’d grown up in the south, that would have been a different story, though.

1971 Lew's Catalog Page 5 featuring the Lew's Hawger pole.

Finally on page 11 we get to the page that features the only cane pole I have of Childre’s.  Model 2-JR was an 8-foot, 2-piece pole with gold ferrules that came rigged with line, float, and hook.  I found my pole several years ago, still in the package, on eBay.  I think I paid $15 for it, which to a Lew Childre fan wasn’t much at all.

Lew's Cane Pole Combo Model 2-JR circa late 1960s to early 1970s. Photo Terry Battisti.

Also on this page is the start of the spear section.  Who knew Childre sold frog gigs amongst other pointy objects designed to dispatch aquatic animals?  I sure didn’t.  It must have been a profitable business as he dedicated over a page to the weapons.

The rest of the catalog was a mish mash of line kits, guide kits, oyster knives, sinkers, hooks, floats, and even an ice fishing rod.  Who ice fishes in Foley, Alabama?  It just shows how far Childre’s reach was at the time.

This catalog makes me wonder how long Childre continued on selling this gear when he switched to bass-centric products.  Did he keep this part f the company under a different division or did he sell or abandon it altogether.  To have an 18-page catalog of this caliber, you’d think it was making money for him.  If anyone out there knows the outcome of this part of the company, please drop us a line in the comments below.

As in the last catalog we posted, Bass Buster 1973, this catalog came from the collection of Dustin Lucas.  I’d like to thank him for his generosity in loaning it to us to share with you today.  If any of you out there would like to share your collection of catalogs, please leave us a comment in the comments section below.

For those of you who would like to see the entire catalog, please check out the gallery below.  Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through each page.


Gallery – Lew Childre 1971