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‘Mystery’ Lure Has Tackle Collectors Baffled

By Louie Stout

‘Mystery’ Lure Has Tackle Collectors Baffled

Antique lure collectors are an inquisitive bunch. Sure, they like to add old-time baits and tackle to their collections. The rarer and harder an item is, the more collectors treasure it.

But there’s more to avid collecting than perceived value of relic lure or gear. These folks are historical buffs and can tell you the story behind each lure in their collections.

Where and how it was made, how many were made, where it was tested and even background on the man who created it.

And it’s that part that is driving Mike Kechkaylo of Berrien Springs crazy.

You see, Kechkaylo recently purchased one of the rarest lures of all. So rare, in fact that not even the most experienced antique lure collector can identify it.

“As far as I know, it’s the only one in existence,” he said. “I’ve been collecting and studying antique lures for 40 years and I’ve never seen one like it.”

And that drives an avid collector crazy.

“I’ve spent hundreds of hours poring over patent applications and not found anything that would come close to this thing,” he said.

The 3 ½-inch red and white lure certainly is unusual. It has a propeller under the belly that, when pulled through the water, turns a shaft that runs through the lure body and is connected to nose-mounted metallic “bubbler” that spins on the nose. It also has an elongated line tie that runs off the chin of the bait to keep it from interfering from the churning bubbler.

The bubbler agitates the water, similar to today’s buzzbaits, and the turning prop adds more water disturbance from the underneath side.

“My guess is it was used for bass and pike,” he said.

Kechkaylo is convinced it was mass produced between the 1920s and ‘40s and designed by someone who knew a thing or two about fishing lures.

“It’s got very high quality hardware and the body is made of red or white cedar,” he said. “My hunch is they only made a few then suspended production because it was too difficult and costly to make.”

The lure was discovered during a national lure action in Springfield, Mo. two years ago. A woman walked into the National Fish Lures Collectors Club gathering with an old tackle box that belonged to her father. Some of the relics held inside the box were auctioned off.

“The mystery lure – that’s what we’re calling it – created quite a buzz among collectors,” Kechkaylo said. “There were hundreds of us there, and everyone was blown away by this lure.”

The lure was purchased for $1,900 by another man, who sold it Kechkaylo for the same price a year later.

Since then, Kechkaylo has done everything he could to unlock the hidden secrets of the mystery lure. It’s been written up in several collectors’ magazines and blogs yet not one bit of information has turned up.

He even tracked down the woman who took the lure to the auction two years ago.

“She said her dad was an avid fisherman and loved fishing the Fox River in Illinois,” he said. “He was born in 1908 and died in 1967 and lived in Evanston, Ill. and northwest Indiana. That’s all I know.”

Although you can tell the lure has been fished, it’s still in great shape and all of the moving parts still work.

“I won’t put it in water to test it because I don’t want to do anything that could harm it,” he said. “But the prop spins and the bubbler turns with the prop activation.”

Given the historical knowledge of Michiana produced antique lures – several of other old-time favorite lures were made in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana – he’s hoping that a Tribune reader might know something about it or even have one still in the original lure package lying in an old tackle box.

“I’m stumped and looking for anything informative about this lure that someone might want to share with me,” he says.

You can call Kechkaylo at 269-325-3519, or email him, kech22@prodigy.net.