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The legendary Jack Lloyd: Effective, controversial, and enduring

Updated: Jun 26

The name Jack Lloyd is synonymous with the famed trolling lure that had multiple nickel-plated brass spoons (also called flashers, spinners, attractors, or blades) separated by stainless steel wire or flex cable segments.


In the press, these various names for the spoons were used interchangeably; but technically, the first spoon, which is considerably larger than all the others, is called a flasher and trailing behind it are the smaller spoons. A red rudder, positioned at the front, ruby red ornamental glass beads, and brass shackles completed the lure. The hook, strung on a short lead, was at the tail end. The largest markets for the famous multi-spoon trolling lures or gang lures were Idaho and Washington, with pockets of sales extending into BC.

A vintage Jack Lloyd 1-5 trolling lure. The 1-5 stands for one flasher and four smaller spoons.


In the anglers’ paradise of West Kootenay, Jack Lloyd trolls remained popular from the late 1920s through to the 1970s. More recently, the name has largely faded away, replaced by competitive clones and the proliferation of plastic tackle. Remarkably however, the Jack Lloyd Tackle Co. has survived as a family-run business for over a century, and until 2021, the legendary lure was still being made by hand, true to its original specifications.


Jack Lloyd was born in Kansas in 1887. As a young man, he travelled to California to visit his cousin Harold Lloyd, the well-known silent movie matinee idol, and he decided to stay. Living in Long Beach, Lloyd worked as a logger in the San Bernardino Mountains, but when he was not on the job, he was out fishing, an activity he loved.


In 1916, at the age of 29, Lloyd began making his own trolling lures. The story goes he started by taking a pewter spoon from his silverware drawer, and after polishing it, he bent the handle and attached a line and a hook. Although crude, it proved to be an instant success.


When his logging buddies noticed that he had started bringing more fish back to camp, they wanted him to make them lures as well. His entrepreneurial spirit ignited, he began producing his unique lures under the name Jack Lloyd Tackle Co. Over the next decade, he had a growing customer base and continued to experiment and improve the basic design.


Some of his proprietary innovations included adding more spoons to a maximum of four (thereby imitating a school of fish), embossing a unique diamond pattern on the surfaces of the flashers and spoons to mimic fish scales (hence the reference to “All-Diamond”), and attaching a brightly painted red aluminum rudder for directional stability. Lloyd had special two-part dies made for all his nickel-plated components, and the foundry casting was done in his basement workshop. He also did all of the polishing by hand as well as the packaging.


The stainless steel wire, which was supplied by Malin Co., Ohio, was bent and tied using hand crank machines. The ornamental glass beads came from Czechoslovakia. It is said that early on Lloyd had tried to patent his diamond pattern but couldn’t because Goodyear Tire already held a patent for the identical pattern on its tire treads.


In 1927, the State of California passed a law prohibiting the use of any trolling lure that had more than two attractors. This ruling not only outlawed Lloyd’s string of spinners, but it also banned similar gang trolls offered by a few emerging competitors, including Luhr Jensen’s Ford Fender (said to have been created from headlight reflectors taken from a Model A Ford) and Pop Geer’s David Davis.


With this setback, Jack and his wife Alice decided to leave Los Angeles in 1928 and head north, settling in Spokane. It is believed that while in Spokane, he introduced a new troll, known as the 1-1 Flasher, consisting of two flashers. Designed intentionally to meet state regulations, Lloyd felt that going to larger flashers instead of combining a flasher and spoon improved the lure’s attractor qualities.


The new lure’s one drawback was that it created more drag and required a heavier line. Mrs. Lloyd would recall years later that her husband was always experimenting with new designs, and she would find him testing “the action of his latest” creation “as he fished in the bathtub.” The same year he arrived in Spokane, Lloyd visited Kootenay Lake for the first of several fishing trips. His company’s brand slogan at the time was: JACK LLOYD SPINNERS GET’S ’EM.


The first mention of Jack Lloyd lures in the West Kootenay appeared in the Nelson Daily News in October 1930. In a meeting of the Nelson and District Rod and Gun Club that month, a resolution was passed banning gang trolls in general because they were considered “unsportsmanlike.”


Already being used “extensively throughout the district,” the contention held by many club members was that they simply caught too many fish, thereby making them detrimental to sport fishing in the long term. Many members gave first-hand accounts of how they had caught their limit within an hour using the Jack Lloyd, and one member said he trolled up the west arm from Nelson to Seven Mile and caught 22 trout using one, while his companion, who was using a different lure, landed none. Another complaint raised about gang trolls was the difficulty smaller fish had freeing themselves once hooked, as opposed to a fish caught on a fly.


Because of a gang troll’s drag, anglers often couldn’t tell that a strike had been made and “literally drowned their victim before reeling it in,” and when the fish was reeled in, it came in like a log without any fight. The resolution passed by the club declared any lure known “as a string lure, and containing more than one spoon be prohibited in angling in all waters in the West Kootenay.”

Jack Lloyd displays the fish he and two friends caught on Kootenay Lake in 1929. In the background is the Balfour Beach Inn. (Photograph courtesy of the Northwest Museum Arts & Culture. Photographer Charles Libby, Spokane)


Sport-fishing regulations for BC’s non-tidal waters divided the province into districts, the Kootenay district being one, and another being the Okanagan district, etc. There were province-wide regulations, which set catch, possession, size limits and gear restrictions, and there were also district regulations, which addressed gear restrictions and seasonal closures. Local sports clubs were often influential in persuading authorities to set rules specific to their district.


By passing the resolution it did, the Nelson club was in agreement with the provincial regulations at the time, but when the 1931 fishing season opened a few months later, the Game Commission amended the regulations, increasing the number of spoons allowed on a string lure from one to two. This was the genesis for what would become a protracted battle between Kootenay sports’ groups — who vigorously called for more restrictions to be placed against Jack Lloyds and other similar multi-attractant trolling lures — and the Game Commission, who took a more liberal stance when setting Provincial regulations. This friction would be a staple topic at club meetings for the next three decades.


In 1936, the Nelson Daily News ran a few columns devoted to the interests of Kootenay anglers under the pseudonym Isaak (Izaak) Walton. The real Isaak Walton was, in fact, the author of the 1653 book The Compleat Angler, on the art of sport fishing. In one column, the writer really let loose about the apparent unfairness of using a Jack Lloyd gang troll. In his tirade, he defiantly lashed out, saying it was beyond his comprehension “how anyone can get any sport out of catching trout with a lure such as this,” and he hoped the day would come “when lures of this kind will be barred entirely,” and in the opinion of most true sportsmen, that “day (cannot) come too soon.”


As a true disciple of Walton, he fulminated that the modern fisherman now has a high-powered launch and “almost enough tackle to sink it” and, with tongue-in-cheek, confirmed the rumour that local fishermen were considering hiring one of the CPR barges “with which to bring back (their) catch.”


In 1949, the West Kootenay Rod and Gun Association added its voice to the debate, passing its own resolution against the use of gang trolls “or any lure having more than two flashers over six inches in length.” Two years later, in 1951, a headline in the Nelson Daily News announced, “Throw That Gang Troll Away – It’s Banned on Kootenay Lake and Arms.” While the release was hardly news, since gang trolls (with more than two spoons) had been banned on the lake, the new regulations applied to Kootenay Lake, the Kootenay River (including the Slocan Pool), Trout Lake, and all their respective tributaries.

Nelson Daily News advertisement July 14, 1936


While West Kootenay sports clubs presented a strong voice against the use of gang trolls in their own district, their campaign to convince the Game Commission that the same restrictions should apply throughout the province was not successful. One reason was the lack of cohesiveness amongst other sporting clubs across the province; converts from other districts were slow in coming.


For example, it took the Lower Mainland fish and game clubs until 1951 before they voted 14 to 7 to prohibit all “trolls having more than two blades and a rudder” in their district. Another contributing factor was that occasionally clubs asked the Game Commission for exemptions. In 1953, the Christina Lake Rod and Gun Club asked for immunity against the banning of gang trolls, arguing that such a ban would eliminate kokanee fishing on the lake.


Even as late as 1955, some Kootenay Lake anglers were complaining that the longer-string Jack Lloyds were still furtively being used on the lake, even though they had been outlawed for years. Some asserted that illegal gang trolls violated the unwritten “courtesy of the water tradition” because the size of the line needed to drag the “weighty lure” was reaching “anchor cable size,” causing them to be “destructive of the lighter tackle used by the true sportsman.”


Meanwhile, throughout the 1940s, the Nelson Gyro Club sponsored their annual Kootenay Lake Trout Derby from May to late November. This was a very popular event for locals and visitors alike, and periodically the Nelson Daily News would publish a breakdown as to who the leaders were, what the largest trouts weighed, where they were caught, and which lures were used. Invariably making the shortlist was the Jack Lloyd.


A few of the more popular spinners, spoons, and plugs included names like Gibbs Stewart, Glendon Stewarts, Ruby Eyes, and Gibbs Martin. When it was announced in 1950 that the club would no longer host the derby, it was reported that over the previous decade, contestants from “all over the continent” had weighed in 39,170 Kootenay Lake rainbow trout (nearly 20 tons).


After leaving Spokane in the early 1930s, the Lloyd family lived in Seattle, except for a short time when Jack owned a tackle shop in Port Angeles. Continuing with his home-based business, he added new saltwater salmon tackle to his product line. Some of his popular lures were the Jack Lloyd Spoon, the Herring Flash, the Shoe Horn and the wooden Western Water Witch.

Nelson Daily News advertisement April 30, 1941


An acquaintance of Lloyd’s was Eddie Bauer, the passionate outdoorsman who had founded a successful outfitting store in Seattle. As always, when he wasn’t taking prospective buyers out on fishing trips to demonstrate his lures, he was fishing by himself. Recognized by his booming voice and lauded by his peers for his knack in catching fish, he was the consummate fisherman.


He once caught a record-breaking 62-pound spring salmon in Puget Sound waters off Orcas Island (near Bellingham), using only a light pole and light tackle. In true Lloyd fashion, he landed the giant fish in his boat without a net or a gaff hook. He would reach down, slip his hand into their gills, and lift them into the boat. He said he was “(tickling) ’em to sleep.”


It had always been Jack Lloyd’s hope that earnings from his small wholesale tackle business would be enough to support Alice and their three kids. Sadly, the ardent fisherman and lure manufacturer passed away suddenly from a heart attack in 1934. He was only 47.


For the next 35 years, Alice dutifully operated the company, specializing in the highly successful “All Diamond” trolls. The most popular model was the 1-5 Diamond, but about nine other models were also offered. Each troll attracted different fish species; the 1-2 through 1-5 trolls were for Dolly Varden, lake trout, kokanee, etc.; others caught Kamloops trout, lake white fish, chinook salmon, and brook trout.


Over the years, Alice introduced a few minor changes in the production process and materials used, including outsourcing the foundry work and diamond stamping to a Seattle machine shop and substituting the glass beads with plastic beads. However, by and large, the legendary trolls retained their original design, assembly, and packaging. Working in an assembly-line fashion, Alice could assemble 60 to 90 trolls in an hour. Helping Alice with the commercial side of the business was her silent partner, George Bovik.

Alice Lloyd and her daughter Patricia hard at her work assembling Jack Lloyd trolling lures, 1947. (Courtesy Kirkland Historical Society)


During the Second World War, Alice struggled to obtain the preferred metals she needed, and for a while, she tried to use substitutes. Unsuccessful, she temporarily closed the business and moved to California, where she was employed in aircraft production.


After the war ended, she returned to Washington state, settling in Kirkland, where she soon resumed production and sales of Jack Lloyd trolls and lures. In 1969, she finally decided to sell the tackle company. The new owners, Al Perrault and Associates, of Medina, Washington, had expansive hopes to increase production and distribution and to take the Jack Lloyd line nationwide, but their plans fell through, and they eventually sold the company in 1976 to Ed (Bud) and June Hill of Renton, Washington.


Following in the footsteps of Jack and Alice Lloyd, the Hills, with the help of their daughter, Kris, continued to manufacture and sell the famous line of trolling spinners and lures. For the next 45 years, the Hill family produced the distinctive tackle the old-fashioned way, in their garage. This included all phases of assembly, from polishing the spoons, twisting, looping, and stringing the wire, to final packaging, which consisted of mounting the lures on attractive cards which were punched for hanging on display racks. Four small crank machines did most of the work, two of which were believed to have been used by Lloyd himself.

Bud, June and Kris Hill busy making Jack Lloyd lures. (Courtesy of the Hill family)


Raw materials were purchased from all across the US. The wire and fine cable came from Wisconsin, the connecting links and swivels from New York, and the brass was sourced from various suppliers. The Hills made some minor production changes along the way, but for them, when it came to Jack Lloyd trolls, “genuine” remained more than a slogan. Production was seasonal; wholesale orders were filled starting in January, and demand continued steadily through spring before tapering off by mid-summer. For the remainder of the year, business was slow.


The controversy around gang trolls had ended by the late ’50s. Provincial sport-fishing regulations for 1959 are silent about using gang trolls or multi-attractant lures, even in the Kootenay district, which for years had been defiant in its stand against string lures with multiple spoons. This remains true in the current BC freshwater fishing regulations.


Today, if you look inside your dad’s or your grandfather’s dusty old tackle box, you might find a vintage Jack Lloyd tucked away among other types of classic fishing treasures — spinners, spoons, plugs, wobblers, and flies, as well as other memorabilia. Most of these lures will likely be scratched from use; some probably missing an eye or a hook, while others may still be on their original cards. The legendary Jack Lloyd was just one of many vintage lures that form part of the rich fishing history in the West Kootenay.

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I remember my dad and uncles using a Willow Leaf gang troll with a Wedding Ring lure topped off with a maggot to fish for Kokanee on Christina Lake in the 1960s and 70s. For trout, my dad used a a large spoon, a lot of lead weight, and a Lucky Louie lure while trolling quite fast. As a kid, I would ride along reading and eating sunflower seeds. Those were the days!

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Ah yes, I remember using gang trolls with my dad on the west arm during the 70's. Jack Lloyd, Ford Fender and Willow Leaf are the one's I remember. Whenever we went to Spokane we went to the White Elephant and my dad went straight to the fishing department! We usually came home with something new.

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My uncle and my dad fished the Kootney lake and Arrow lake for 50 year. in that time they never had a bad season and they used many different types of lures as well as making their own.the Jack LLoyd was a regular,,,as i remember when the water became choppy.They always came home with strings of huge Kookanee, and stories. I think they may have met Jack LLoyd, but can't be sure. I know they fished many times with Bing Crosby and his friends. Bing was originally from Spokane and had great fondness for Nelson where he had some business, An auto parts store for one. He liked the original Nelson Golf course. Perhaps if you are doing resea…

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I have written a whole post about Bing's Kootenay connections, although I have yet to find any proof of his visits (all anecdotal), so I'd be delighted with anything you can provide me: https://www.kutnereader.com/post/bing-crosby-in-the-kootenay

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i can't seem to get a comment published tmc.cci@telus

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