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Suggested bibliography, antique fishing reels

The novice collector should have, at least, a cursory knowledge of the history of fishing; the "general fishing history" books include descriptions of how equipment was adapted for different types of angling. This abbreviated list emphasizes books that describe tackle history and will be helpful for identifying "finds." Therefore, I have omitted some useful price guides, some nicely illustrated books, and a number of good books that probably are somewhat specialized for the novice collector.

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General fishing history

Henshall, Dr. James A. Book of the Black Bass. Cincinnati: Stewart & Kidd Co., 1881. A very popular book. Henshall described contemporary fishing equipment and methods, as well as providing scientific studies of the black bass. He updated his information for the 1904 and 1923 editions. The author was an important angler, collector, writer, natural scientist, and conservationist who greatly influenced environmental legislation in this country. His books are worth the search.

Major, Harlan. Salt Water Fishing Tackle. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1939. The best of the very few sources of information on older salt-water equipment. Like Henshall, the author updated information for his 1948 and 1955 editions.

Schullery, Paul. American Fly Fishing. New York: Nick Lyons Books, 1987. A history of the sport and its associated equipment.

Trench, Charles Chenevix. A History of Angling. Chicago: Follett Publ. Co., 1974.


Bingham, Ted. The Celebrated Reels of Edward vom Hofe. Brightwaters, N.Y.: Fishing Stuff, 2007. A definitive history of the reels made by one of the most important and most innovative makers in the U.S.

Brown, Jim. A Treasury of Reels. Manchester, Vt.: American Museum of Fly Fishing, 1990. A catalog of the museum’s reel collection, the book contains an excellent, extensive history of the fly reel.

Orrelle, John. Fly Reels of the Past. Portland, Ore.: Frank Amato Publications, 1987. Another fine history of the fly reel.

Turner, Graham. Fishing Tackle/A Collector’s Guide. London: Ward Lock Ltd., 1989. The definitive book on British tackle and manufacturers, with an emphasis on reels.

Vernon, Steven K. Antique Fishing Reels. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1985. Evolution of various reel features through descriptions of U. S. reel patents to 1920. Useful for identifying and dating older reels.

Please see the description of my expanded new edition of Antique Fishing Reels.

Vernon, Steven K., and Stewart, Frank M., III. Fishing Reel Makers of Kentucky. Plano, Tex.: Thomas B. Reel Co., 1992. A history of the Kentucky reel industry from 1810 to 1940. The hand-made Kentucky casting reels are considered among the finest ever built and represent the "cream" of the collector’s "crop." They owe much of their original popularity to Henshall.

White, Phil. Meisselbach and Meisselbach-Catucci Fishing Reels. Grand Junction, Colo.: Centennial Publications, 1995. A definitive history of the Meisselbach companies and their reels. Although the subject may sound a little specialized, virtually all collectors will encounter some of the reels from these prolific companies sooner or later. The book is thorough, carefully researched, and well-written.

Wright, Ben. The Wright Price Guide for the Reel Man. LeRoy, N. Y.: Third Edition, 2002. The spinning-reel collector's "Bible," with manufacturers' histories and a value guide.

Lures and other fishing collectibles

Campbell, A. J. Classic and Antique Fly-Fishing Tackle. New York: Nick Lyons Books, 1997.

Keane, Martin J. Classic Rods and Rodmakers. Stockbridge, Mass.: Classic Publ. Co., 1976.

Kelly, Mary Kefover. U.S. Fishing Rod Patents and Other Tackle. Plano, Tex.: Thomas B. Reel Co., 1990.

Irwin, R. Stephen, M.D. Sporting Collectibles.  Wayne, N.J.: Stoeger Publ. Co., 1997. Includes a large section on fishing tackle and ephemera.

Luckey, Carl F. Identification and Value Guide/Old Fishing Lures and Tackle. Florence, Ala.: Books Americana, 1996.

Murphy, Dudley, and Edmiston, Rick. Fishing Lure Collectibles. Paducah, Ky.: Collector Books, 1995.

Pfeiffer, C. Boyd. Our Fishing Heritage: Tackle & Equipment. Minnetonka, Minn.: North American Fishing Club, 1999.

White, Karl T. Fishing Tackle Antiques and Collectables. Luther, Okla.: 1990.

Copyright by Steven K. Vernon. All rights reserved. Redistribution or republication of text and/or illustrations from this site in any form without permission is prohibited.