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Lure of the lure

Lazy Ike collectors gather in Gowrie for chance to find their ‘Holy Grail’

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Jesse Willison, of Humboldt, looks over a case full of Lazy Ike lures Saturday during the Lazy Ike Collectors Group meeting at the Gowrie Fire Station.

GOWRIE — If one can imagine a combination of bright colors and patterns, then somewhere in their long production history, there’s probably a Lazy Ike lure that matches it and a fish that went for it.

Some of those, neatly encased in class or lovingly placed in vintage tackle boxes, were shown, sold, bought, traded and evaluated Saturday during a meeting of the Lazy Ike Collectors Group at the Gowrie Fire Station.

The lures, which were produced in Fort Dodge from the late 1930s until 1978, are highly collectible.

Jesse Willison, of Humboldt, is among those making them his hobby.

“I’ve always been into fishing,” Willison said. “I found a few a few years ago and I’ve been hooked since.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Lazy Ikes Collectors Group President Randy McCurdy, at left, visits with Jim Askelson, of Stewartville, Minnesota, during the group’s meeting at the Gowrie Fire Station. Askelson is the grandson of Marie Kautzky, one of the founders of the Fort Dodge-based company.

He currently has about 500 in his collection, all different.

He doesn’t have one that’s his personal “Holy Grail.”

“I like pretty much any of them,” he said. “If it catches my eye I get it.”

Randy McCurdy, of Grimes, is president of the group.

He knows the company history from beginning to end.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Lazy Ike lure came in an astonishing variety of color combinations. This display, with hundreds of them that are nearly physically identical, are all painted differently.

“The first Ike was made in about 1938,” McCurdy said. “The first ones were hand carved.”

The company was officially know as Kautzky Sporting Goods and Lazy Ikes, he said. Kautzky siblings Joe Jr., Rudy and Marie were partners in the operation. It remained so until 1962 when it was sold and became the Lazy Ike Corp. They went bankrupt in the late 1970s after moving production to Des Moines.

Greg Benson, of Gowrie, is also an avid collector.

“They hand-carved them in the basement to start out with,” Benson said. “They had about 15 women assembling them till they figure out how to turn them on a lathe.”

During the course of their production, the company made a number of different sizes and different designs. Collectors frequently attempt to get an example of each design in every known paint pattern.

Searching for that last one to complete a category can lead to a fun hunt. Benson, McCurdy and Willison all enjoy going to garage and estate sales. Collectors also haunt online auction sites and draw on their network of fellow collectors for that one special specimen.

One advantage local collectors have is that the lures were quite popular in Webster County and the surrounding areas which means they’re more likely to be found at sales.

Then there’s that “Holy Grail” again.

“Each guy has a different area of interest,” McCurdy said. “His Holy Grail might not be the Holy Grail to me. Each style of lures there’s a different Holy Grail.”

The gathering of collectors also enjoyed the company of a direct connection to the manufacturer.

Jim Askelson, of Stewartville, Minnesota, is the grandson of Marie Kautzky.

He has an extensive collection.

“It’s more for sentimental value,” Askelson said. “My grandmother had a cabin by a lake. We just had an unlimited supply of them. If we lost one, we would just grab another one.”

There were a number of patents in the family too. Joe Kautzky Sr. patented a trigger mechanism for double barrel shotguns. Joe KautzkeyJr. held a patent for a fishing pole rack, a reel and of course, the Lazy Ike.

So how do they fish?

“I still fish with them,” Askelson said.

Willison had good luck, too.

“I loved it,” he said. “I caught a bass with it.”

McCurdy and Benson both fish with them, too.

“But you don’t use the valuable ones,” Benson said.

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