Antique and Vintage Pflueger Fishing Tackle

Founded in 1881 in Akron, Ohio, E. F. Pflueger’s Enterprise Manufacturing Company was not the first company to manufacture a fishing reel—that honor goes to the Meek Brothers, whose Kentucky reels predate 1840. But Pflueger was the first major commercial tackle company—its 1900 catalog, produced two years before James Heddon hung out his shingle to sell handmade wooden fishing lures, featured 126 pages of "Fish Bait and Anglers Specialties."

Pflueger’s company, which was taken over by his son and renamed E. A. Pflueger Company in 1906, was the first to commercially produce wooden fishing lures. In 1883, the elder Pflueger patented a luminous lure paint designed for night fisherman. A lure from that period, the Luminous Flying Helgramite, had wings and feathers, but was only made for about a year, making it a highly collectible antique fishing lure.

In the 1890s, Pflueger produced rubber decoys, the rubber Muskallonge Minnow (it had three single hooks and metal fins), and, in 1899, the Trory Minnow, which had three treble hooks, propellers at its head and tail, and yellow glass eyes.

Throughout the early part of the 20th century, Pflueger produced numerous minnows and bugs, some weighted, some designed to float. But the competition from Heddon and others proved too much for the company. Fortunately, lures were not its only source of revenue. Indeed, Pflueger reels would keep the company independent until well after the middle of the century.

The product that secured Pflueger’s reputation for reliability and dependable action while casting was the Baitcasting Reel, introduced in 1916. The brand for this new line of fishing reels was Four Brothers, who were E. A., Joseph, George, and Charles. Models included the Delite fly reel, in 40-, 60-, 80-, and 100-yard sizes. The reels’ plates were made of hard rubber and covered with either polished nickel or satin gun metal. Also available in that introductory year was a double-multiplying casting reel called the Medina, so named for the county west of Akron.

By 1924, Pflueger had largely dropped the Four Brothers name in favor of the model names themselves. The Regal, Elinor, and Pastime reels were still marketed as Four Brothers reels, but the Delite reel was now sold on its own. So were the Eclipse and Mohawk reels, which were salt-water models. Two other smaller salt-water reels, Sumco and Beacon, were introduced in 1927, and the Castwell came along in 1931 (it was introduced as the Comrade but that dull name was quickly changed).

Other antique and vintage Pflueger fishing reels sought by collectors include the Skilcast ("Blister Proof" is the guarantee on the side of the box), the Supreme, and an Orvis-like fly reel called Taxie...

In the 1930s, Pflueger all but discontinued its line of lures, which is what helps make those lures so rare today. In 1954, Pflueger introduced its first spinning reel, and in 1966 the company was sold to Shakespeare. Today, reels, rods, and combos bearing the Pflueger name continue to be manufactured in South Carolina.

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