Kent, Ohio, has an ‘a-luring’ fishing history

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(Farm and Dairy file photo)

When it comes to the sport of fishing, Kent, Ohio, can lay claim to lots of hometown fame but none more lasting or more significant than a small bug created by William H. Schumman.

It’s a certain fact that Schumman, or more specifically his sponge rubber cricket, could and perhaps should be blamed for the demise of millions of innocent bluegills, the most well-known and most colorful of all the world’s pan fish.

While largemouth bass and toothy walleyes get all the attention in today’s media-driven world, it was a much simpler time and a more common and less glamorous target that interested Schumman some 80 years ago when he might have coined the phrase “KISS,” or keep it simple stupid.

Irresistible

It was that long ago when Schumman, surely an avid fly fisherman, sat at his fly-tying vise perfecting a bug that looks like a fishy meal waiting to happen, something that a common bluegill couldn’t refuse or resist.

Surely, Schumman whipped up a series of bugs fashioned of thread, yarns and possibly some pieces and parts of feather and fur, but in the end he must have leaned back in his chair admiring his final product in its finished form.

So pleased and proud of his lovely cricket, made sturdy and deadly, of rubber and well, more rubber, that Schumman submitted his bug to the U.S. Patent office in the mid- 1930s and did in fact receive a protective patent in 1940 for what he then called his Schumman’s Water Cricket. One can only imagine the glee of patent attorneys and investigators who felt the need to field test a few of Schumman’s submitted samples just to be sure of his claim.

I wrote the above several years ago when I had used up the last of collection of Schumman’s bug in hopes that some kindly anglers might gift me a couple of them from his or her collection. Didn’t happen. But there’s more about Kent’s “a-luring” history.

More Kent history

There’s the Barney Fish Company’s Barney Spoon, and it’s reasonable to surmise that nearly every mature fisherman who still chases largemouth bass has at least one Barney in his tackle box. It may be quite old, quite beat up, and quite tarnished but just as effective at teasing bass as it ever was. Not bad for a tiny one-man design it, make it, test it, and sell it company.

But wait, there’s more — lots more. The list of oldies but goodies continues with the Phlueger Kent Frog and the Kent Frog, both of which might be found in serious collections. There’s also the elusive Kent Minnow, a rare find and a prize for sure. In fact if a lucky yard sale or flea market were to stumble on one he or she could take a day off, make that a month, no, make that a year.

Then, of course, is the Fred Arbogast Co., one of the most respected makers of old-time lures and especially renown because a couple of the best-know lures of today are direct descendants of Fred Arbogast’s first creations nearly 100 years ago. Indeed, the Jitterbug and the Hula Popper are still just as effective as ever.

The Jitterbug was born from a piece of broomstick and a spoon. Interestingly, the metal spoon that provides the surface lure’s smooth gurgle was replaced by plastic when World War II national efforts required metals from nearly every source. Later, the wobble lips turn to aluminum.

Some old lures are worth big bucks, others not so much. Adding an original box often doubles the worth.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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