When a lure is sold under several names and companies, its history can be quite confusing. Fortunately, a number of years ago, I met a man who worked at Paul Bunyan Bait Co and he knew the inventor of this lure. He was able to fill me in with the history as he remembered it. And, I will have to add, he had the largest collection of Paul Bunyan lures I have ever seen…and I have seen a lot of collections in the last 30 or so years of collecting myself.
In the mid-1930s, Pal Tool Co was using injection molding machines to make plastic items, including fishing lures. These lures were made in Minneapolis, MN and were shipped to Lloyd and Co in Chicago, IL for sale and distributing. Many of these lures were invented and patented by Karl R. Larson, who was one of the owners of the PAL Tool Co.
Now, according to my source, Karl was a shrewd businessman and a brilliant inventor who was always looking for that next dollar. The following history of this lure and his life may be a testimony to this.
In the late 1930s, Karl came up with a new lure idea. It was a lure with an amber plastic body that unscrewed in the middle…allowing a AA battery to be placed inside. This battery was connected to a light bulb and when the two halves of the lure were screwed back together, the lure with light up. To shut it off, simply unscrew the lure halves enough until it shut off.
This lure was part of the “Bodi-Action” series of lures sold by Lloyd and Co and was called the “Pirate”. It was sold in pale green boxes which listed a Minneapolis location for a “factory” (PAL Tool Co) and a Chicago address for Lloyd and Co.
Shortly after this lure became available, the contract for manufacturing lures for Lloyd and Co was expiring. Karl wanted PAL to cut-out the middle man, and sell the lures themselves. With some convincing, the other owners of PAL agreed to do so with the “Bodi-Action Pirate” and some other lures. This decision was probably based on the fact that Karl owed the patent rights to all of the lures they made.
PAL made plain white labels to cover the old Lloyd and Co boxes so that they could reuse them. The name of the lighted lure was changed to the “Electro-Lure”, and they were sold with the PAL white label on the box (see the examples pictured below). But sales were very low which caused some arguments and disagreements to happen at PAL. Karl packed up all of his lure patents and inventions and left the company. He then formed Paul Bunyan Bait Co. in 1939.
PAL Tool Co stayed in the plastic molding business, and did make different lures for other companies at a later date. For a brief period, PAL may have continued to assemble lures for the newly formed Paul Bunyan Bait Co too.
Lloyd and Co still sold a battery lure called the lighted “Pirate”, which was very similar to the “Bodi-Action Pirate” that PAL made for them. To this date, I am not sure who manufactured this lure for Lloyd and Co. A picture of this lure is below.
Karl, now with Paul Bunyan Baits, finally received the patent for the Electro-Lure in early 1940 and decided to make it in 4 colors…green, yellow, silver, and white. Each had a red face and “ribs”.
In the Paul Bunyan Catalog, it states that the Electro-Lure has “a beam of light flashing from its head”. Actually, the light did not flash, but the wobbling of the lure in the water made it appear that it did.
One thing I have found with these and other lures with batteries in them...if the light was left on out of the water, the heat of the light and battery could melt or deform the lure. When in the water, it kept cool, but out of the water and in a tackle box was not a good thing for the lure. That explains the warning in the box that stated you should not leave the light on when storing the lure. There is also a warning that mentions that this lure may be illegal (due to its use of light and batteries) in some states, so please observe your local laws before using.
Today vintage Electro-Lures whether by Lloyd, PAL, or Paul Bunyan are not common but not overly rare either. Lure boxes, on the other hand, can be difficult to find.
On a side note, Karl Larson left Paul Bunyan Baits in the very early 1950s (why, I am not sure) and formed the Larson Bait Co in Aitkin, MN where he developed some weedless lures (for more information, check my website under Minnesota Lures, and click on Aitkin).
At a much later date after Karl sold Larson Bait Co and he retired and moved to Florida, he reportedly killed his wife and himself for reasons unknown. A sad and troublesome ending to a Minnesota lure inventor.