Bob Pond, the pioneering striped-bass fisherman who made Atom Lures for 54 years, is retiring from the fishing business. He will continue to wrangle with fishing regulators and scientists, however, as the head of Stripers Unlimited, the organization he founded in 1965. Pond, 81, built the first Atom Lure in 1944. Back then, almost everyone was fishing with bait on the bottom; when bass were feeding on the surface, fishermen figured the stripers couldn't be caught. On one such day, Pond was fishing the Cape Cod Canal. " I'm sitting under the Sagamore Bridge," he remembers, " and there was a fisherman there, but I couldn't see him. All of sudden I saw a striped bass rolling on the surface... and then it started coming toward shore. That's when I realized there must be an angler down there. Well, I was entranced because outdoors writers in Boston were writing about (catching fish on the surface). I waited until he got the fish to shore, and went down to have a look. " This guy had the fish on the bank, but it was totally covered with a Turkish towel. He had his hands on his hips, and he looked at me and shook his head... I realized I wasn't going to get any answers from him so I just left." "Two or three weeks later I was standing on a pile of rocks fishing. I looked down and there was this thing floating around my legs with some color on its back. I picked it up. It was a Creek Chub plug and it must have been (the other fisherman's), because nobody else had been fishing there, and nobody was fishing plugs. "It was all scarred-up. The hooks were broken, the paint was all off, it was a mess, I put it on and went down to the breakwater, and caught fish one after another." Pond brought the lure back to his shop and made two similar plugs from curtain rods. His lures were larger and heavier so they would cast farther. "It was the fourteenth of October, and I went down to the Cape Cod Canal... I caught 14 fish with that new plug. The next morning, I caught another pile of fish." Atom Lures were born. Pond bought a lathe and all the other tools he would need, and that winter, he turned out 400 plugs. They were on the market the following spring.
With his newly found success, he dreamed of becoming a rod-and reel commercial fisherman. That never happened, however, because he became too busy making lures for other fishermen to enjoy. Pond traveled up and down the coast, promoting his new lures. During the day , he would meet with outdoor writers and tackle-shop owners, and at night, he would speak to fishing clubs, and show them movies about catching stripers with his lures. He drove thousands of miles of the striper coast, from Maine to Virginia, and was booked every night of the week. Though he did almost no advertising, Pond spread the word about Atom Lures. In 1948, Atom Manufacturing switched from wood to plastic to make lures. The plastic lures fished as well as wooden ones, and the plastic was much more uniform. When Pond owned the company, he made Atom Lures in an ancient South Attleboro building that first was an ice house and then a dance hall. From the beautiful detail on the old front door to the hardwood dance floor of Prohibition days, to the massive stuffed striper on the wall, the place bubbles with history. In May of 1998, Pond sold the assets of the company to Greg Metcalf and Larry Razza of Smoker Baits in Pawtucket, RI. Their company is best known for its offshore trolling lures, but they also make inshore poppers and Powerhook gaffs. They will now do business under the name, " Atom Manufacturing," using the trade names, Atom Lures, Smoker Baits, and Powerhook. From the old ice house, Metcalf and Razza have brought Atom Lures to the Internet where their web site, www.atomlures.com, offers a glimpse at the products they make, including Pond's original Striper Swiper, to a line of sporting pins, belt buckles and accessories. Members of the Atlantic Tuna Club, the oldest big-game fishing club on the East Coast, Metcalf and Razza are both fishermen with a sense of tradition. "We consider ourselves very fortunate to have the opportunity to purchase a company with the history and reputation of Atom Lures," said Metcalf. "We look forward to blending this 54-year-old company with our energy and experience, and marching into the 21st Century."
In 1965, Pond founded Stripers Unlimited . The new group's first purpose was to be a clearing house of information about striped bass fishing in New England. Anglers from New Jersey and other mid-Atlantic states would visit the the Northeast during the summer to go fishing; a membership in Stripers Unlimited would provide them with a yearbook containing information about fishing spots, tackle shops, and other members they could contact. Soon, Pond turned Stripers Unlimited into a combination clearing house for biological information on striped bass and an activist organization for conservation measures to protect the fish. In the 1970 yearbook, he wrote of the need for more research on hatchery-raised stripers. Then he sank his own money into the research and did the work himself, as he would for the next 28 years. Though he maintained close working relationships with scientists in the academic communtiy, Pond often was at odds with biologists employed by government agencies. Government biologists, he said, were more interested in computer modeling than in hands on field work. They could learn more about bass, he said , by examining the reproductive organs of bass in a fish-processing plant than by sitting before a computer screen. (In one of his campaigns, Pond asked anglers to save the gonads of the fish they caught so he could exmaine the organs). In public hearings, Pond sometimes would catch government biologists mis-stating accepted scientific fact. Those catches did not endear him to fishing regulators. Nonetheless, he says, "reluctantly," the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Comminission recently awarded him the Dr. David L Belding award for Marine Conservation, a prize given to the person " who has done the most to promote conservation and sustainable use of the Commonwealth's marine resources." Although he's retiring from the tackle business, Pond says he will continue the work of Stripers Unlimited ." There is so much to do , " he says, "so much to do"
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