Bill Binkelman Made Fishing History

Bill Binkelman: innovator and author

Bill Binkelman left behind a large trunk of items when he passed away on May 26, 1989. Born in October of 1909, he was one of the major innovators of modern fishing techniques. These items ended up in my possession. I acquired them from Len Coffee. He bought and sold the jigs Bill made famous for about ten years after Bill’s passing. Carl Malz, former editor of Fishing Facts, invited me to his basement. He wanted me to retrieve, preserve and share Bill and Buck Perry’s items. But that’s another story.

Len had Bill’s loaded tackle box along with a complete collection of bound Fishing Facts, instructional books, lures and correspondence. These are considered very important components of our fishing history collection. How exciting it was to review the many breakthroughs of these pioneers.  They shared what they were learning with writing, presentations, books and articles.

Chicago had been the center for fishing tackle and techniques since the 1892 World’s Columbian Exposition. A major attraction was the Fisheries Building there where new and old tackle was exhibited. The World Casting Championship tournament was a major event with thousands of spectators.

Center of the fishing world

The big five tackle makers were located in Dowagiac and Kalamazoo, Michigan, South Bend and Garrett, Indiana, and Akron, Ohio. Back in the early 1900s, they surrounded the Windy City. Even the modern era of fishing has deep roots there. Buck Perry, who produced Spoonplugs, conducted a series of demonstrations in 1957 on the Fox Chain of Lakes with local outdoor sports writers including Ray Gray and Tom McNally, with seminars at local Klien’s Sporting Goods stores.

Perry’s monstrous catches from these “fished out lakes” stunned all with techniques he taught that included structure, migration routes, fish behavior and more. Bill Binkelman, a Boston Store buyer and manager was certainly impressed and motivated by the effectiveness of these new tools and techniques.

Fishing Facts strikes shelves

He therefore brought Perry to the Majestic Theater in Milwaukee and Lake Winnebago where he repeated what he was doing on other waters with monstrous catches of walleyes. Starting in 1963, Binkelman began the publication Fishing News, which evolved into Fishing Facts magazine.

The Boston Store soon became famous for the latest lures and tackle including the Carl Lowrance Fish Locator for $150, Crawford Jigs, appropriate rods and reels, educational literature and seminars.

In the March 1984 MidWest Outdoors, Hal Walker, then an editorial writer with a division of the Hearst Corporation, wrote a comprehensive four-page article entitled, “Bill Binkelman, Fishing Trail Blazer.”

Blazing trails on the water

Quoting Steve Grooms’ article from Fins and Feathers Magazine with a list of firsts for Bill he proclaimed that Binkelman was:

  1. One of the first experts on the use of depth finders, he owned three and pioneered their use.
  2. Discovered and popularized the use of hydrographic lake contour maps.
  3. Leading promotor of speed and back trolling, which became prohibited in bass tournaments because the techniques were were so effective.
  4. Popularized Jack Crawford natural feather pattern jigs, designing some patterns.
  5. Hosted one of the first all-fishing television shows.
  6. Developed and produced books on nightcrawler secrets.
  7. Developed Worm Inflators with a team of scuba divers documenting their effectiveness.
  8. Discovered cork head jigs and developed their productive uses.
  9. Founded Fishing News, forerunner of Fishing Facts, the first all-fishing magazine.
  10. Helped develop the concept of a fishing calendar that told where fish will be and why.
  11. Discovered and refined tackle and techniques for deep water fishing using fluorescence.
  12. Started many fishing clubs of a new type.
  13. Organized a major fish observation project, implanting bass and walleye with electronic sounding devices and with a team of scuba divers followed the fish for four years.
  14. Created a special line of tackle to harvest his team’s research findings.
  15. Created a mail order business to supply proper tackle seldom found in stores, all with a money-back guarantee.

Thank you

Bill Binkelman also worked with all the other greats. Above all: Carl Lowrance, Buck Perry, Dan Gapen, Al and Ron Lindner, and many more. We certainly owe him––and them––so much for the fishing success we now enjoy.

Dan Basore is a fishing historian and steward of the history of the sport. In his efforts to preserve fishing history, Basore is always on the lookout for information about early lure makers, old lures, pre-level wind reels, manufacturers catalogs, tournament casting items and the like. If you possess information or materials that can help preserve and share fishing history please email ollures@aol.com or text 630-638-3474 or call 1-630-393-FISH (3474) or 1-800-FISH-LAKe that’s 1-800-347-4525 or write Dan Basore, 3S375 Herrick Rd., Warrenville, IL 60555.

Read up on a little more fishing history with the story of Gene and Gail Laulunen: Pioneers of MidWest Outdoors.