Lew's announced this week that its Ozarks Fishing Museum will open Thursday, May 19, with a public ceremony featuring family members of the late Lew Childre, the company’s founder, along with several well-known fishing personalities.
The museum is located at Lew's corporate headquarters in Springfield, Mo.
Among the items on display at the 1,000-square-foot museum are a vintage wooden float boat and a 1975 Ranger bass boat. Approximately half of the museum is dedicated to the history of Lew's, including historical rods, reels, accessories, advertising materials and photographs. The balance of the space is used to house a variety of other collections significant to the region, including the J.D. Fletcher White River collection.
A meet-and-greet with refreshments starts the activities at 1:30 p.m., remarks from Lew's officials and guests begin at 2 p.m., and the ribbon-cutting ceremony follows at 2:30 p.m. The museum opens to tours afterwards, closing at 6 p.m.
In attendance will be Casey Childre, son of the late Lew Childre; noted fishing historian and Fishing Tackle Retailer magazine editor Ken Duke; "Mr. Crappie" Wally Marshall; and Team Lew's members David Fritts, Guido Hibdon and Dion Hibdon. Springfield Chamber of Commerce members and other area VIPs are also participating in the museum opener.
The museum was incorporated into the original design of the new Lew's facility and it has been under development since the fishing tackle company moved into its new home last September.
"Lew Childre introduced a lot of industry 'firsts' from the 1950s to the 1980s, many of which are still used in today's fishing gear. The man and his innovations deserve a place of preservation in fishing's history," said Lew's CEO Lynn Reeves. “We have the BB1 serial #2 Speed Spool reel here, along with many of Childre's earliest prototypes that I believe folks will find highly interesting whether they fish or don't. These are things the public need to see and we're pleased to make that possible."
Reeves said among the most prized possessions are one of the Lew's gold rings that Childre used to recognize special friends and achievements, the original pistol grip rod handles that Childre's fishing buddy Shag Shahid hand-carved from wood and that ultimately led to Lew's Speed Sticks being the country's best-selling bass rods in the 1970s, and some vintage movie footage of Lew Childre fishing.
The J.D. Fletcher White River collection consists of more than 5,000 lures, a variety of other antique fishing items and scores of old photos relevant to the late Fletcher's long history of guiding in and around the Table Rock Lake and White River area.
Additional collections include an on-loan assortment of Clark's Water Scout baits that were originally made in Springfield by the C.A. Clark Mfg. Co., and also a display of spinnerbaits from Springfield's old 3 J Bait Company.