I’ve been involved with the recreational fishing industry for the last couple of decades and in that time, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some people who have had a profound impact on the way we fish and the lures we use. Some are well known while others just go about their business quietly. But the one thing they all have in common: they all design and make great lures.
Because not every angler has the opportunity to meet the people behind the lures, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a profile of some of the lure makers I’ve met over the years, to give you a glimpse of what makes them tick. And I would like to start with one of Australian lure making’s quiet achievers: Jeff ‘Gentleman’ Reid, of Reidy’s Lures fame.
My association with Reidy’s lures goes back to last century. I first met Jeff and his lovely wife, Cheryl, when I moved to the Northern Territory in the 1990s. At that stage, Jeff and Cheryl had just relocated to the Top End themselves and they were setting up their lure making factory and tourist facilities at Wishart Siding on the outskirts of Darwin. Relocating their already successful business from Mirani (about 30km west of Mackay in Queensland) to the Top End was a tough decision for Jeff and Cheryl. But the move proved to be just another successful step in the Reidy’s Lures story, which began way back in the early 80s.
The Reidy’s story is typical to the way the majority of Aussie lure manufacturers started out. Jeff began by carving his lure bodies out of scrap timber. Then, a few of his mates wanted some and before he knew it, he was supplying the local tackle stores. From there, it didn’t take long for demand to quickly outstrip supply and Reidy’s were faced with a tough decision: invest in technology to keep up with the growing demand or stick to being a small time manufacturer.
Luckily for us anglers, in 1985 they took the plunge and invested in plastic molding technology, which was a big commitment for an Aussie lure maker at that time. As Jeff says: “In those days no one had made anything much in plastic (apart from imports) so we had to pioneer that style.”
As planned, the move to plastic drastically increased their output and no doubt helped to establish the Reidy’s name as one of this country’s lure making pioneers.
Despite their success, by the mid 90s, Jeff felt that a move to the Top End was needed. Relocating to the NT would open up a bigger slice of the barra market, as the Territory had the highest number of visiting anglers each year. It was also the logical place to build their lure making factory and tourist attraction, which eventually opened in 1998.
To the best of my knowledge, this is something that remains unique in lure making circles. Instead of trying to keep his lure making skills a secret, Jeff actually invited paying customers in and showed them around. I don’t know any other lure maker who has been so open about what they do, which reflects on Jeff’s character and his way of thinking. The factory proved to be a great success, quickly turning into a must-see destination for every visiting angler, as well as an ever-increasing number of tourists.
By 2000, Jeff decided to seriously pursue the export market, drastically increasing production levels again. Unfortunately, the only economical way to do that was to take some of their production overseas, where they could cope with the large runs involved. The first overseas produced lure was the B52, then the Export Model Little Lucifer and after that the Judge and Daly Devil. Of course, the rest of the lures in the Reidy’s line-up continue to be produced in Australia at their NT factory.
Looking back, I don’t think any other lure makers had ever even thought of opening up their doors to the public and showing paying customers how they made lures. In this respect, it was Reidy’s who took really took lure making ‘out of the back shed’ and introduced it up to the masses.
I’ve been lucky enough to go through the factory quite a few times and see how much time and effort goes into each Reidy’s lure. Jeff or Cheryl or any of their staff never cut corners in order to produce a quality product. I’ve also been fortunate to share the boat with Jeff on a couple of occasions and his knowledge of lures is by no means limited to making them; he sure as hell knows how to use them too.
To see Jeff work one of his B52s is an education in lure fishing all in itself – he brings his creations to life. With snaps and flicks of the rod tip, he can make a B52 dart and glide, and then come to a quivering halt. It looks for all the world like a nervous baitfish darting about trying to find somewhere to hide, which is no wonder the B52 has been such a successful lure and an integral part of the Reidy’s lure line-up.
While Jeff designed a whole range of lures, there are a few stand-out lures in his line-up that have become extremely popular with Aussie lure fishers. The previously mentioned B52 is of course one such lure; in skilled hands it’s a real barra magnet. Then there’s a little gem of a lure known as the Little Lucifer, which, despite not actually looking much like traditional barra lure, changed the face of freshwater lure fishing in the Territory overnight.
Before the Little Lucifer was popularized, most rod tips in the Top End had a Spearhead swinging off them whenever they were anywhere near the billabongs. But once local guides started using the Little Lucifer and bagging out, it didn’t take long for everybody else to catch on.
I’ve seen first-hand how effective these lures can be. I was once out fished 16 barra to none by my mate who had a green Little Lucifer when I didn’t. The only thing I caught was a sleepy cod. I don’t think I’ve ever gone near barra water since without a green Little Lucifer in my tackle box.
Despite the success of the B52 and the Little Lucifer, there is one lure in the Reidy’s line-up that I think is the absolute pick of the bunch: the Judge. My vote goes to the Judge simply because it’s one of the most versatile minnow lures I have ever used. Jeff designed them as a barra lure but a well-tuned Judge will hang in there at surprisingly fast trolling speed. I have taken enough mackerel and tuna on these lures to rate them as one of the best light to medium tackle bluewater lures available.
In terms of catching barra, the Judge is also a dead set easy lure to use, especially compared to the B52, which performs best worked by an experience lure angler. The Judge has enough in-built body roll to take barra on just a slow, steady retrieve. This allows even relatively inexperienced barra anglers to get in on the action and some monstrous barra have fallen to first time fishos while using the Judge.
The Judge’s big barra credentials should hardly come as a surprise. Originally it was designed to replace the Reidy’s Aqua Rat, a lure that was voted by international lure makers in the late 90s as one of the world’s best minnow lures.
These days, Jeff Reid is no longer making lures. The business was sold to former Tasmanians, Colin and Karen Burdon, who have already started to put their stamp on things with the release of several new models including an up-sized Judge, a baby B52 and a Big Lucifer as well as well as a new surface lure called the Jay Walker. There are also some hot new colour schemes on the market, which are sure to be a big hit with anglers.
While his lures are widely used and as popular as ever, Jeff Reid’s huge contribution to the Australian lure industry is still relatively unknown. His name doesn’t seem to be mentioned when the ‘movers and shakers’ are discussed. But I for one know and appreciate just how much he has influenced the way Aussie anglers fish and no doubt his lure fishing legacy will last a hell of a long time.
Current Range of Reidy’s Lures
Little Lucifer (Export Model)
Prop A Pop A