Story last updated at 9/9/2009 - 11:37 am
KETCHIKAN - Don't look now, but just about every fishing tackle box in Alaska is inhabited by Pixees.
"Out of all the fishing lures that we sell, that's the number-one seller historically," said Jeff Nusbaum, sporting goods manager for Tongass Trading Co. in Ketchikan. "It always has been."
It's a similar story throughout Alaska, where the Pixee continues to build upon its reputation among sport anglers (especially saltwater and freshwater shore casters) as a reliable weapon for targeting salmon.
Even local non-fishermen recognize the metal spoon-type lure with the distinctive "egg-sac" insert.
So, who thought up such a successful lure?
A gentleman by the name of Bill Huntley.
Huntley was the owner of the National Expert Bait Co., a Minneapolis-based company that he founded in 1932.
That's according to information from Rapala VMC Corp,. the entity that now owns NEBCO's successor company, Blue Fox Tackle.
Huntley and NEBCO had gained fame for designing innovative heavy, wide-bodied, wobbling spoon lures, according to Rapala.
His invention of the Pixee came in the early 1960s.
"The egg-sac insert was designed to emulate floating egg sacs in the rivers to entice salmon," according to Rapala.
The heavy spoons cast well for distance, and can stay at depth in moving water during retrieves. Such attributes help, for instance, when casting for pink salmon from the rocky shoreline at Ketchikan's Mountain Point.
Huntley wound up selling NEBCO in 1968 to Ron Weber of Normark Corp.
In 1978, NEBCO was renamed Blue Fox Tackle when Weber developed a promotional campaign that urged anglers to "Fish Smart Like a Fox," according to Rapala.
Pixees are marketed under the Blue Fox banner still.
The basic Pixee design hasn't changed much during its four-plus decades on the market, although the lures now come in some mighty snappy colors.
You can find hot pink, green tiger and even chartreuse Pixees, not to mention Pixees that come in holographic blue, silver, gold and rainbow tints.
There's also a newer line of "Rattlin' Pixees" that have noise-making inserts.
One indication of the lure's enduring popularity in Alaska came in the form a letter to Blue Fox, according to Rapala.
The letter writer said his hobby is snorkeling in Alaska rivers to collect fishing lures caught on snags and river bottoms.
He said he'd collected more than 4,000 lures by that time - and about 80 percent of those lures were Pixees and Vibrax spinners (another Blue Fox lure).
Of course, few people want to buy lures that don't work. The Pixee's track record makes it easy for retailers to suggest the lures to their fishermen customers.
"It's an actual lure that you can recommend to people that does catch fish," Nusbaum said. "Which we like."
And which, combined with the Pixee's general popularity, makes it an important item for fishing tackle shops to keep in stock.
"If I don't have a Pixee lure in the store, I'm in trouble," Nusbaum said.