ASHLAND Steve Morman was sitting inside the Ashland Eagles club when he read something in The Independent that made him turn to a fishing buddy and ask, “Does that look familiar?”
The story was that of Gary Dean, who had found a pair of pristine antique fishing lures in his late grandfather’s shed. The lures, made of plastic and featuring retractable “wings,” were stamped “Kentucky Baitco, Ashland Kentucky,” and he brought both to Highlands Museum & Discovery Center to ask if the museum’s director had ever heard of the local company. A search of Internet resources revealed surprisingly little about the baits or the company, and the name Kentucky Baitco does not seem to be part of any local records.
Morman, who counts collecting antique lures among his hobbies and has a collection “with some unique pieces in it,” said he was sure the Kentucky Baitco lures would be listed in a book he keeps with him. When he went to look it up, he found he had already marked the right page with a business card.
“I had already been looking at that lure apparently,” he said with a chuckle.
Those lures were called “Kentucky Bass Birds,” Morman said, adding the plastic units were produced with glass or plastic eyes, as well as eyes molded into the body. His guide book refers to the lures as “a superb model,” as well as “rare and highly sought after by collectors.” The book did not, however, provide any information about the local origin of the baits, where in Ashland the company operated or the names of anyone associated with the manufacturer.
The “spoon” or lip at the front of the lure didn’t necessarily cause it to dive under the water, Morman said, but instead offered the angler a number of different actions depending on how fast or slow they cranked it back in, along with other techniques to attract fish.
“The lip was on there to give the whole lure action. There’s probably 15 different ways to retrieve it,” he said, elaborating upon the effects of fast and slow retrievals.
In excellent condition, Morman said the Kentucky Baitco lures will probably fetch between $75 and $125 each online. With another chuckle, he explained that amount is far beyond any price he has ever paid for an old lure.
“There’s no way I could pay that. I’m retired and on a fixed income!” he said, later adding, “I usually pay $3, on average, for a lure or any antique fishing equipment.”
Morman said many might be surprised to learn that some rare old lures, in excellent condition, can bring between $20,000 and $50,000. His own best old-lure investment didn’t bring a truckload of cash, he said, although he has been rewarded tremendously by it. He explained he paid $1.50 for the lure at a local flea market, and called the author of an antique-fishing-equipment book to ask about it. The man offered him $150 without even looking at it, but he declined the offer. Morman said his stepson, Christopher Skeens, always admired the old lure, so he gave it to him as a special Christmas gift.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.