Wright & McGill catalog No. 63, 1962. Front cover.

Let’s take a look at the “Wright & McGill Catalog 1962.” It’s 64 pages, including the cover, of fishing rods, reels, hooks, line, company info and fishing tips. This is the company’s catalog no. 63, and I’m assuming that that number does not correspond to the year, as the company was founded in 1921 (or 1925). So, some years they must have published more than one catalog per year, or had small format catalogs and price lists which they counted as part of the total series. But unraveling the history of W&M is extremely difficult. Early records for the over-100-year-old company are often fuzzy, undated, partial or missing. The best history for Wright & McGill, in my opinion, may be found in three succeeding NFLCC magazines; Summer 2014, Vol. 24, No. 1; Winter 2014, Vol. 24, No. 2; Summer 2015, Vol. 25, No. 1. The 3-part series of articles, titled “Fly Rod Lures of the Wright & McGill Company,” were written by Jerry R. Martin and Jim Dorr. The articles attempt to document W&M’s fly rod lures, and in so doing they also present some of the confusing history of the company.

In any event, it’s not my intention to give anything but the most superficial history of the Wright & McGill company. I’d strongly suggest you turn to the excellent NFLCC articles mentioned above if you want more. The company started out with artificial flies, before developing their famous Eagle Claw hook and getting into the fishing rod business. Eventually W&M sold just about everything associated with fishing – hooks, rods, reels, lures, line and more. This catalog is from what might be considered the tail end of Wright & McGill’s golden era, and is heavy on tubular glass rods (12 pages) and Eagle Claw hooks (22 pages).

Wright & McGill rods were of good quality and attractive. The casting rods had an interesting and unusual reel locking system, where a horizontal thumb screw was located in a fattened section on the rod handle just ahead on the reel seat. Turning this screw with your fingers moved the reel locking tab forward or backwards, tightening or loosening the reel on the handle. Check out the catalog photo to the right.

For a long time Eagle Claw was thought to be the best brand of hook you could buy. The story of how Drew McGill was inspired to create a new fish hook by the sight of an eagle grabbing a fish from the Colorado River has been a part of company lore since the early days. (You can read it here.)

After their earliest years as a manufacrurer of artificial flies, Wright & McGill really built the foundation of their company on their hooks, so while 22 pages of hooks might seem uninteresting, they were justifiably proud of this part of their business. Only 14 years earlier, in 1948, W&M operated the world’s only equipment that produced hooks via full machine automation, producing thousands of hooks of consistent high quality per day. According to their website, to this day, Wright & McGill is the only fish hook manufacturer in America.

Wright & McGill catalog No. 63, 1962. p.6 - note reel locking screw on casting rod.

When I was a teenager I read the Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers book, by the editors of Fishing Facts magazine. I followed the advice in that book mostly to the letter, including stocking up on Aberdeen style hooks (I still have my small plastic compartment box with the green hook size labels I made with the family label maker). But where the Fishing Facts guys recommended Mustad Aberdeen hooks, I went with Eagle Claw, because Eagle Claw had a reputation for great hooks and they obviously had the cooler logo.

The reels that Wright & McGill had available in 1962 were quite interesting and attractive. Beginning on page 14 we see four reels that I consider to be rather futuristic-looking for 1962. These include three spincast reels – Models 14, 88A and 88SS – and one spinning reel, the model 7L-SL (and 7R-SL – I assume left- and right-hand models). The 7L-SL spinning reel looks very much like the spincast reels, although the reel hood or spool cover has an exposed section with a center line guide. In lieu of a bail your finger acts as the line release and manual drag. A couple pages later we have another fascinating reel, the Fre-Line All-Purpose Spinning Reel Model No. 10BC Double Handle. This is a reel that Wright & McGill touted as being so versatile that it would work well with any kind of rod: casting, spinning or fly rod.

Wright & McGill catalog No. 63, 1962. p.14 - Spinning reel 7L-SL, with exposed, bail-less, finger operated configuration.

As for lures, W&M had only three pages of lures (five, if you count the two pages of snelled hooks with attached spinner blade and beads) with basically four lures total. These include the Red Hot and Razzle Dazzle inline spinners, the Right-Fish (a small fish-shaped metal spoon), and the Flasher, a Dardevle-like spoon. I’m not sure why the lure section is so sparse, as I don’t know the exact production dates of, for example, their Miracle Minnow and Bug-A-Boo plugs. They did produce a number of hard body plugs, such as the Flapper Crab, Swimming Mouse and Bass Nabber, prior to World War II. A look at other W&M catalogs would be most helpful. 

Page 53 shows what must be some of the most enticing gift packages ever. These sets include reels and lures; rods, reels and lures; lure sets and more. And of course all sets include Eagle Claw hooks and logo’d paperwork. Each gift package is encased in a beautiful form fitting box with a classy brown cover sporting the Wright & McGill eagle logo in embossed gold.

One final note: In the page of Fishing Tips, one of the tips says that if you’re in a pinch and need to weight your line you can cut your toothpaste tube into strips and attach the strips to the line, where it will act like a lead sinker. This reminded me of the same tip from the old Sportsman’s Digest of Fishing, by Hal Sharp. It speaks to the time when toothpaste tubes were made of lead, tin or zinc. Can you imagine, toothpaste in a toxic lead tube? Yikes!

To scroll through the catalog, just click on the first image in the gallery below and use the arrows to move forward.

GALLERY – Wright & McGill Catalog 1962