1979 Lew's Ad May-June 1979 Bassmaster Magazine

We’ve written a lot about Lew Childre and his innovative products here on the Bass Fishing Archives.  Today in Lew Childre 1979, we’re going to continue on that path.  In 1979, Childre had been gone for nearly two years after his private plane crashed near his home in Alabama.  It was also the year that Shimano verified they had broken ties with Lew Childre and Sons by debuting their Bantam series of casting reels.  I’m sure these two events put a lot of stress on the family, let alone the company as a whole.

Without the mind of Childre to direct the company and its R&D, how would they fare in the coming years.  It was hard to say.

Today we’re going to look at three ads placed by Lew Childre and Sons in the bass magazines of the day.

The lead-in ad is probably one of the most recognizable old ads Lew Childre ever put out.  It’s a simple ad that features three Lew’s Speed Sticks, three Lew’s Speed Spools, and a Lew’s hat.  Let’s dissect the ad and see what it tells us from the day.

First off, Lew’s has a new graphite handle on the rods.  The handle, my favorite Lew’s handle ever made, is made from graphite and although had two collets, was very sensitive.  Of all the pistol grips we sold, this was the strongest handle ever made and I don’t recall one ever breaking.

Next are the rods in the picture.  As we’ve stated many times on this site, Childre got his start on the tackle business by importing came poles from Japan.  Not only that, Childre was a bass angler first and foremost.  His experience with rods and rod manufacturing was top notch.

In this image you see three rods, one appears to be his graphite Speed Stick while the other two appear to be made of glass.  The glass rods were high-quality for glass rods of the day, but that graphite Speed Stick was from another world.  In my eyes, it was better than Fenwick’s rods.

Being that we built custom rods at the shop I worked at, I got to feel blanks all day long, week after week.  The Lew’s graphite blanks were lighter and had a completely different action than the Fenwick blanks.  It was always a joy to make a new rod with a Speed Stick blank.

One thing that confuses me, though, is the reels used in the ad.  These reels appear to be generation-1 Speed Spools.  What is confusing about these reels is the missing Shimano imprint on the lower section of the handle-side sideplate.  As stated above, Lew’s and Shimano had parted by the time this ad came out, which most likely accounts for the missing Shimano imprint.

Looking deeper into the reels, though, we see a generation-2 paddle on the reel handles.  The gen-1 handles were flat and didn’t have any curve to them.  These paddles have a slight curve to them.  They’re also taller than the gen-1 paddles.

It was at this point in time Lew’s was moving manufacturing from Shimano to Ryobi, so maybe these reels were some of the first-run prototypes out of the Ryobi factory.  I wish I knew more.

Moving on to the next ad, Lew Childre and Son’s is featuring their graphite Speed Stick and their new graphite handle.  It’s a simple black and white ad that goes deep into why this rod is the best on the market.

1979 Lew's Ad February 1979 Bassmaster Magazine

One of the reasons Lew’s Speed Sticks factory rods felt so good was due to the guides they placed on their blanks.  Childre knew that added weight deadened the action of a rod.  To counteract this, he placed single-foot Fuji guide at the tip of the rod.  The single-foot guide not only decreased the weight on the rod, without the extra foot, the inherent action of the rod was preserved.

At the base of the rod, Lew used the new BNHG one-piece guides to cut down on weight yet add strength to the guide itself.  These guide frames started a new revolution in guides, a design that has not changed in over 40 years.

In the next paragraph, Lew talks about his progressive taper rod blank and how it adds strength and sensitivity to the finished rod.  These blanks were definitely one-of-a-kind in design.  They were slightly thicker in wall dimension at the butt, but you didn’t notice it in the overall weight of the blank itself.  The other difference between the Speed Stick blanks and all the others was Childre didn’t cover his blanks with any finish.  It was just pure sanded and polished graphite.  It added to the appearance of the rod, but most importantly, kept the weight down.

The final paragraph of the ad went into their new graphite handle.  Where other manufacturers were using glass and plastic, Lew’s had moved away from these materials and had designed an all graphite handle.  The cost of this handle was about 2-times the cost of a glass pistol grip, but it made up for that cost in the lightness and feel.

The final ad was all about their new handle.  Lew’s stated that in cooperation with Fuji, they’d developed the first and only all graphite handle.  By 1979, most every rod manufacturer, except Fenwick, was using the Lew/Fuji pistol grip on their rods.  Childre capitalized on this, and their first all-graphite pistol grip design accommodated their standard collet system, so angler could take off the old glass handle and replace it with the new graphite handle.  Pretty smart if you ask me.

1979 Lew's Ad March-April 1979 Bassmaster Magazine

It would take a couple more years for Lew Childre and Sons to come out with an all-graphite handle that didn’t have this collet system.  The new handles would utilize the newer, smaller Lew/Fuji collet, decreasing the size of the foregrip.

I’ve often wondered if these new developments were from the minds of Childre’s sons or if they were thoughts placed on the drawing board by Childre before he passed.  In either way, the rods and the handles showed how forward thinking Lew Childre and Sons was at the time.

Although Lew Childre has been gone for over four decades, Lew’s continues to bring quality gear to the angler.  I just wonder what the landscape of tackle would have been in the 1980s and 90s had he lived longer.