With fishing in Australia there are some real unsung heroes. Some have kept a low profile because the tall poppy syndrome means that to stick your head above the parapet is to attract criticism, some just like to get on and do the best job that they can, and some are simply humble.
Lure making guru Peter Newell certainly fits the bill of the last two categories and even though he didn’t put his head up too high too often, Peter endured more than his fair share of bad luck. It is a real tragedy that this icon of Australian lure making lost his fight with cancer in early January 2009, passing away peacefully with his beloved wife Kathy and good friend Brett Campbell there to hold his hand.
In my opinion Peter Newell is arguably the greatest lure maker Australia has produced. With Norm Edwards and Eric Moller with barra lures, Peter Newell put Australian native fish lures on the map. Peter was everything you could want in a friend and a pioneer. He was innovative, extremely good with his hands and generous with his time, ideas and lures.
While Peter is responsible for some of the best-known lure designs in Australia, it is for two lures that Peter will go down in history.
The first is perhaps the longest running saga in Australian lure making, the Scorpion. Peter no longer made the Scorpion and many stories abound about this Australian classic, which is now made by Halco in Fremantle. Suffice to say that Peter’s generous nature and willingness to extend a helping hand has not always resulted in the recognition that many felt was due to him.
In spite of numerous setbacks Peter was still an optimist. Only a few days before he passed away, Peter was talking to me about needing only a few days to knock out some lures that we had been talking about for some time. Such was the nature of the man, thinking about others even when extremely ill.
But for me the Kadaitcha lure will always be the first and foremost Australian native fish lure. Inspired by, but greatly modified from the Bagley’s Smoo, the Kadaitcha was named by me as the definitive cod lure in my Lure Encyclopaedia. It earned this honour both for its fish catching ability and the fact that this design alone, in my opinion, inspired so many Australian lure makers to experiment and make the best damn lures in the world.
I first met Peter after following the advice of Rod Harrison to call in and see this really great lure maker in Tenterfield. Rod and Peter were both Coppers back then and (with Vic McCristal, Gordon Winter and Bryan Pratt) were some of the people who recognised that cod and yellowbelly were legitimate sportsfish and great lure takers. Peter gave me a couple of Kadaitchas and directions to a spot where both my dad and wife caught their first ever Murray cod on lures. I lost one of the Kadaitchas on my third cast when I threw the lure over a branch and a 20lb cod took the lure as it hung over the water and broke me off. The lure was that good that it didn’t even have to get wet to get a fish!
Peter went on to become a great innovator and his designs, such as the Skink, Boney, Beluga and Bass Rat in timber and the Ploppy, Coati and Tenterfield Surface Paddler in soft rubber over a wooden core, are very keenly sought by collectors. It is a sad reflection on us all that Peter didn’t get the financial benefits while alive that his talents deserved. A mint Kadaitcha can sell for over $600, yet Peter sold them for $20 and gave young upstarts like me some because he knew that they would be cherished.
Late last year when I knew Peter was becoming more ill, I was looking to start up a lure and tackle-collecting club. I was looking for a name that would be inspirational and there is no better name than the Kadaitcha Club. It honours a man who is sorely missed and in spite of several setbacks, was always a true friend and gentleman.
On behalf of all anglers in Australia, I can only thank Peter for his enormous contribution and express the hope that through the Kadaitcha Club and the hearts and minds of his many friends, and other lure makers that he inspired, that the legacy of this quiet achiever will last at least as long as his lures.
More info on the Kadaitcha Club can be found at www.lureandmore.com. – Frank Prokop
We’re deeply saddened to report the passing of Peter Newell. Peter carved out a reputation as Australia’s pre-eminent lure designer/manufacturer, but more importantly as a wonderful family man to his wife Kathy and his two daughters, Angela and Roselee.
Over the past few weeks we have had many heartfelt conversations with various people from the fishing tackle community expressing their sadness on hearing of Peter’s passing, I have been touched to hear of the great stories and the fantastic legacy that Peter Newell has left behind in people’s hearts.
Over the past 18 months I have had the great opportunity to get to know Peter, working with him on a new lure range. I will endeavour with determination to build Peter’s dreams of turning his babies (his lures) into a worldwide legacy of the man, but that is for another day, today we pay our deepest respects to a wonderful human being.
I will finish with a quote from world renown lure expert and historian Frank Prokop: “Peter Newell must always be remembered as one of, if not, the most innovative lure designers of his time”
Vale Peter Newell. – Trent Glover
The most remarkable thing about Peter was that he was the most innovative lure maker of my generation. Peter invented what we call the Scorpion shape – a minnow with a keel on the bottom and a sharp edge along each side on the back. These days you’ll see innumerable lures following that design.
Pete had an amazing sensitivity to what would make a piece of wood or metal wobble in a particular way. He could make everything from a slow side-to-side for cod or a tight wiggle for barra. He had a real handle on what makes a lure do what.
He was happy to share his knowledge and skill, mentoring many lure makers in this country, including some of the big names around the game. When any young person approached him with an interest in making lures, Peter would do anything he possibly could to help them.
He was a terrific bloke, generous to a fault. – Warren SteptoeReads: 5952