Lind’s man collects fishing gear
Jim Fritz takes a closer look at a rod and reel, part of the collection of fishing-related items he keeps in a room in his hometown of Lind. Photo by Greg Seubert
Rods and reels, minnow buckets, bass lures
By Greg Seubert
Jim Fritz is addicted to fishing and has been so for as long as he can remember.
Whenever it has the chance, it can be found on a local lake or river looking for sunfish or walleye.
When not fishing, he can add to his collection of fishing related items which has grown for over 40 years.
The collection is so large that Fritz built a special room for it in the basement of Lind’s town house which he shares with his wife, Velonnie, and their children, Morgan, Ava and Fisher.
âI was probably 12, 13 when I started collecting stuff,â Fritz said. âMy dad had a bunch of old bass decoys and I always thought they were cool. I had them hung in my room, probably eight or ten of them.
It wasn’t long before the collection grew and finally included everything from rods and reels to minnow buckets to tackle boxes.
âWhen I was young people gave me lures because they knew I liked to fish,â he said. âI fished with a lot of them. As I got older, it was garage sales, exchange meetings, that sort of thing. He just went from lures to all things fishing. If he was old, I had to have him.
Fritz, who grew up in Waupaca, started fishing at a very young age.
âMy dad drove a truck and on weekends when he was home we would fish,â he said. âI started fishing with him at the age of 3 on the Wolf River. I loved the fishing and everything to do with fishing.
Not a hoarder
Some might see Fritz as a hoarder, someone who refuses to let go of anything.
He doesn’t see it that way, however.
âYears ago, I went to fairs or auctions every weekend,â he said. âI had tons and tons of weird stuff. I probably had 50 to 100 tackle boxes in the garage. Often times, I buy them at clearance sales and they are full of stuff. I’ll open a tackle box and if there’s a thing or two in there that’s worth buying, I’ll buy it. I come home, I walk through it and it goes on the wall.
âI bought armfuls of rods and reels and the ones I didn’t want, I sold them,â he said. âIt would earn me more money to go out and buy more things. I did that a bit. “
Fritz estimates his collection to include around 200 coils, some of which date from the early 1900s.
âHalf of those reels, you can go out and fish with them today,â he said. âI played with old stuff trying to use it. It works, but it takes patience to use it.
Many Fritz decoys hang from one of the four walls in the room.
âYou look at some of them and you wish some of them could talk,â he said. “I wonder how many fish some of them took.”
The collection includes several red and white lures.
âIt had to be an eye-catching color and the fish loved it,â Fritz said. “It must be the flash or the red and white contrast.”
His collection includes some early versions of the Dardevle, a spoon that fishermen have used for over 100 years.
A spoon which Fritz says probably dates from the 1960s is still in its original box.
âUsually the boxes, if in good condition, are worth more than the decoys themselves,â Fritz said. âThe good collector wants everything new, unused. For me it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if they get beaten or scratched. I just like to watch the stuff.
Old fashioned collector
The internet has changed the way collectors like Fritz find objects.
“It makes it much easier to find things,” he said. “I watch it all the time and if there’s something that piques my interest, I’ll buy it.”
He admitted that he doesn’t do a lot of things online.
“I prefer to see him physically,” he said. âI still like the clearance sales. I will be looking every week (for sales) and if it says fishing tackle, I usually try to go. Auctions are sort of random. The prices are generally higher.
Fritz doesn’t take his hobby as seriously as others.
âA lot of high-end collectors only want certain lures, certain colors,â he said. âA lot of guys will pick a brand and within that brand they’ll try to get all the colors of every lure. That takes time.
Fritz’s collection also includes some unique finds he has collected over the years.
âThis cane that I bought here at a real estate auction,â he said. âHe was an older gentleman and when he was young they were poor and he liked to fish. He didn’t have the money to buy a fishing rod, so he did. He found pieces of old fishing rods and told me he cut them from a lemon tree. I think I paid four or five dollars for it.
The collection has changed over the years.
âI sold some things to buy other things,â Fritz said. âI will do it from time to time, but I won’t do it if I don’t have to. I like a bit of everything. I like old tackle boxes and I really like old minnow buckets, old worm bait boxes for trout fishermen. They were made to last. If you can find some in good condition, they are worth a lot of money.
The collection had a home in the Fritz Salon, but that changed after the family moved into their current home a few years ago.
âIn our old house, that’s where everything was,â said Fritz. âOur old house was quite small. When we moved here, (Velonnie) said, âNot anymore. “
He had planned a special room for his hobby.
âA good friend of mine helped me frame the walls and it just took off after that,â he said. âI wanted to build an old-fashioned bait shop. This is what I had in my head. It has progressed and I think it went well. I like to sit here. When friends come to our house, we play cards and drink beer.
Even though Fritz isn’t adding to the collection as much as he would like, he already has plans for what will happen later.
âI hope my son picks it up and starts doing it,â he said. âHe’s interested in it too. He likes to fish. In fact, we named him Fisher.
Fritz must have thought about it when asked what makes something worth collecting.
âI guess it’s in the eye of the person,â he said. “If I see an old rod and reel and it’s in the corner somewhere, it’s collectible for me.” A lot of the things I have are probably not worth 50 cents, but I like it.