• Published:March 2, 2018
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It's funny how certain things stick in your memory.

I remember buying my first spinning reel with my own money, and my phone number from our house in Satellite Beach, Florida, from more than 30 years ago. For some reason, however, I can't remember my own age. I actually failed a bank security test on that one this past summer. Nor can I remember the first sailfish I ever caught, which you'd think would be a pretty big milestone.
I’ve used tons of fishing lures in my day, everything from Mold Craft Softheads to Iland lures to some bad-ass custom designs made by true artisans in Hawaii, but I certainly couldn’t tell you when I became aware of any of them for the first time. That’s not true when it comes to the lures created by the legendary Aussie maker, Peter Pakula.

Already blessed with a cool-sounding name and the instant big-game credibility that comes from fishing Down Under, the Pakula lure lineup immediately got my attention, and proved the inherent power of good advertising with a crazy photo of a sneering punk rocker with a Mohawk fashioned out of colorful Pakula lures!




I came across the ad while looking through some back issues of Marlin magazine from the early 1990s and as soon as I saw it, I was on the phone trying to get Pakula to send me some lures and he promptly obliged. One of the first things I pulled out of the box he sent was a crazily painted two-by-four that was about three-feet long with mirrors attached to both sides and a slanted face. It was the first teaser, besides a set of bowling pins, that I’d ever seen, and Pakula gave it the beguiling name, Witchdoctor. Pakula first invented the Witchdoctor in the late ‘60s, but it wasn’t until 1984 that Pakula Tackle became a full-time business and started offering a complete line of lures and teasers.

ROOTS DOWN UNDER

An island continent, surrounded by some of the world’s finest fishing opportunities, Australia produces first-rate fishermen of all kinds. Like any outdoorsy boy growing up there in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, Pakula turned his attentions to the sea, catching whatever he could. His parents, however, did not approve. “They hated my fishing,” says Pakula. “They came through World War II and thought fishing was a waste of time. They wanted me to study.”
"I wanted to make heads that would track straight in tough conditions, and with my background, it wasn't too difficult to come up with the shapes..."
-- Peter Pakula

Thankfully, Pakula did both and gravitated to lure fishing right off the bat, which wasn’t nearly as common back in those days. But it wasn’t a kinship with lure shapes that made him a proponent of pulling plastics, it was the smell of bait. “I always fished with lures because I couldn’t stand the smell of bait. Besides my parents would have known that I wasn’t at the library,” says Pakula.

Pakula’s studious ways paid off for him in two important ways: he became an expert in the textile industry and earned a good living in the field, and his background in hydrodynamics allowed him to recognize how certain shapes would act when moving through the water.

“I started out using a lot of SevenStrand lures, but they didn’t really work like I wanted them to in what was often a short, choppy sea so I started making heads of my own. I wanted to make heads that would track straight in tough conditions, and with my background, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with the shapes,” he says. “The first one I made was called the Long Chugger. It had a solid plastic head that tapered backwards. The material I used was incredibly toxic and I was making them in the oven in our kitchen. They process made everybody sick so I had to stop.”

One of those original Long Chuggers recently sold at a charity auction for a record $1,800.

The lure maker didn't sit idle for long. Pakula’s next shape, the Beer Barrel, kicked off Pakula Tackle and put him in the business of producing and selling lures. “The Beer Barrel looks like a short chugger,” Pakula says. “It’s incredibly stable at all speeds. There were a lot of six- and seven-knot boats back then and the Beer Barrel worked in all conditions. It was one our best lures and it caught a lot of striped marlin and blue marlin in New South Wales during the early days of blue marlin fishing off of Sydney. People, at times, had to wait up to six months to get one when they were selling at their peak.”

As well as the Beer Barrel did in the early days, it would soon be eclipsed by one of the most recognizable and popular big-game lures ever produced, the Lumo Sprocket. Always an innovator, Pakula was one of the first lure makers to incorporate UV additives and glowing skirts into his lure heads and skirts.

“It’s arguably the most famous lure in the world,” says Pakula. “I made the shape while working in a machine shop. Part of my deal was that they would let me make shapes on the machines. I would make the shapes after hours during the week and then troll them on the weekends. The Sprocket caught a mako shark on its first run and three marlin in a row shortly after.”

While testing his designs, Pakula rotated head shapes in and out of his lure spread. If the lures caught fish, they stayed out. If they didn’t, they were gone. “The Sprocket was designed for the long rigger and it’s been running and catching them out there ever since,” he says. 

The Lumo Sprocket developed some fanatical followers over the years. I once watched Jody Whitworth free dive 30 feet down to retrieve his last Pakula Lumo Sprocket after releasing a 500-pound blue on the North Drop off of St. Thomas. “Ever since I heard that story I started putting lead in them,” joked Pakula. “We have three ranges of Sprocket, the original light one, the Powerhead, which is a bit heavier and a jet version which is keel weighted. Don’t even bother diving in after that one.”

Pakula has no idea how many lure shapes he’s come up with over the years but some of most famous ones like the Rat, Sprocket, Mouse and Cockroach all have a sharp edge up front and a fairly tight wiggle. “I really like that tight wiggle,” says Pakula, “but some people like screwing it all up by jamming a stiff rig in them. That's like shoving a broomstick up a ballerina’s ass and telling her to dance Swan Lake!”

Pakula never stops innovating and has expanded his line of tackle to include hooks, wiring gloves, hook-sets, teasers, dredges and more. To see all of his creations, visit pakula.com.au.

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