"IN HIS OWN WORDS"
by Frank Pintauro-Photograpy by Ed Poore
Published in the March-April 2005 edition of
Hunting & Fishing Collectibles Magazine
The reaction that Ed and I received to the Bob Pond interview in the last issue (Jan-Feb 2005) was so overwhelming that we decided to run Ed's 1991 interview with Stan Gibbs in this present number. While we featured stan's career last year in a special memorial tribute (May-Jun 2004), we felt that the information was fresh, and we knew our readers would appreciate it. So, please sit back and enjoy Stan "In His Own Words."
ED POORE: Its January 15th, 1991. I'm talking with Stan Gibbs,
the famous lurebuilder.
STAN GIBBS: (Laughs) Not famous. Well Known
POORE: Well known, yeah. The infamous
POORE: What, uh, how did you get involved in making plugs.
GIBBS: Well, I was always handy with my hands, you know, carving wood and all kinds of things. And, during the war you Couldn't buy anything anywhere. So if you was going to have anything, you know, you had to make something yourself. And then what happened was that what few Plugs you could buy didn't work because they didn't do what the fish wanted. You know, they didn't duplicate The baitthat the fish was feeding on or anything. But a friend on mine in Mansfield made a popper andthat more than anything got me interested in it.
They used to make a few of their own to fish with. But They were not interested in marketing it so they told me To go ahead and make it. So that I think some of the first Poppers I made were sort of designed somewhat after one that they had. They got me started into it.
GIBBS: And then I began to see what different things happened, you Know, from different designs what kind of actions and so Forth that it caused by different cuts in the wood.
POORE: Oh, yeah.
GIBBS: So then I began to learn how to design the plug so I Could make it do what I wanted it to do. And…
POORE: Well that must have been time consuming itself.
GIBBS: Oh, yeah, it was. Yeah. I had a good path worn From my house to the canal, you know. I'd go and work on a plug And take it over to the canal and make a few casts with it. And take it home and work on it some more and go back And make a few more casts. Constantly back and forth, Back and forth until I got it the way I wanted it. Not only to fish right but also so that it cast well. You know, that, to me that was an important part of it. Being able to cast it to me was almost the most important part.
GIBBS: But of course it had to do the job once you got it Where you wanted it.
POORE: Well, that was a big improvement cause a lot, a lot
Of Plugs that I see from the '40s didn't have that Much Weight to them.
GIBBS: There was nobody! Nobody made a plug that you Could Get to the fish with. I was the first one.
POORE: You do that with a combination of aerodynamics and, uh, And weighting the lure in certain locations?
GIBBS: Yes…and of course, once you do one thing, you sacrifice, you take something away. You know, if you started adding more weight, you're going to lose some action. So, you got to find a happy medium.
POORE: Yeah. So the first plugs you made for production Were poppers?
GIBBS: Yeah. They were poppers and I think I made four Hundred the first year. And I sold them at local Tackle shops in Buzzard's Bay. Plus Nickel Hardware, red top, Jocko the Beachcomber and Marble Hardware. They all sold my lures.
POORE: Yeah. What year was that that you made your first Four Hundred?
GIBBS: '46? '46 or '47
POORE: And there were no boxes for the ones the first year?
GIBBS: No. And they were made out of ash. And they're All red. Reddish color, sort of a reddish brown color, yeah. And they were all poppers.
POORE: After the initial 400, you did a few different paint Styles on the big popper. What did you call them?
GIBBS: I made that with a template and that peticular one we called silver blue.
POORE: What about the saw- toothed one?
GIBBS: No name really. That was just a design I happened
To Think of and that was a template too. I did them Free Hand with an airbrush.
POORE: So the earliest ones with the undefined edges on the Paint---
GIBBS: Those would be the old ones. Those are hand done.
They have orangey-yellow eyes in a small black Center. The ones done with a template have a bigger Black dot with the banana yellow eyes. You can tell
The earliest poppers by the hooks too. Look for the Ones with the little small round eye.
POORE: what was the evolution of the packaging?
GIBBS: The white box with the wire loop ends was the first
Box, then the red box was the next one. Cliff Davis, The sports writer, designed the red box. He was a Friend of ours.
POORE: So the white box with the paper labels and wire ends
Was the first box and then the red ones with the two Piece cardboard came in around 1950 ish?
GIBBS: Something like that, Yeah.
POORE: Yeah. And ran up until the red box with the plasticTop?
GIBBS: Yes, the plastic see-through top. And the reason we came up with that was because a few tackle shops said, you gotta have these see through boxes. Everyone is doing it. So we went ahead and had those made. And they cost us a fortune too. Those boxes cost us eighteen cents a piece! At the time that was a lot of money for a box. Then eventually we went to the cardboard packagingwith the cellophane bag which we did for a nickel. So buisness-wise it was a good move, and on top of that you still got a good display item because with holes in the cardboard they just hang them on pegboards.
POORE: Did you ever make the lures and sign them in a production way, like stamp the bottom, CASTALURE or anything like that.
GIBBS: No, I never signed any lures except the centennials.
POORE: Oh, the bicentennials from '76? And those are hand -signed script?
GIBBS: Those are hand signed
POORE: How many of those were made.
GIBBS: I Think it was, John says it was twenty-six. But twenty, twenty-six, I think he said. But I think I said twenty-two. Its either twenty-two or twenty-six.
POORE: Well, you know, I heard a third story yet. I heard that it was going to be two dozen and one of them got goofed up, the paint ran or something. So then there was only twenty-three.
GIBBS: Oh Yeah ?
POORE: And those were painted like the American flag?
GIBBS: Yeah, well that's why, You know, color-wise, that's why I made them. You know, like the American flag- red, white and blue. You know what, you're jogging my memory. There was one other time I made a dozen plugs for some Admiral in the Navy. This Lieutenant wanted some plugs made and he wanted them signed. And he ordered them special to give the Admiral for christmas or a birthday present. I can't remember. So I hired a sign painter to paint the name on the lures which, looking back, I think was foolish. That was the only other time I ever
signed my plugs. (actually, Gibbs did autograph some of his lures at a Buzzard's Bay show in 1992)
POORE: I hear you talked about all kinds of friends who helped you improve the business and do this and that. Can you comment on that?
GIBBS: You know, I can't take half the credit for what went on during the years. I gotta give a big part of it to these different people that helped me. One friend who knew how to use an airbrush and taught me how to use it, you know. Then anouther one taught me how to do this, and someone else would teach me how to do that. And, cause I never had any of that experience. But I was always quite clever with my hands and things; but to go ahead and do all these things right from scratch, you have to learn from somewhere.
POORE: I would bet the lures you made the greatest number of were the bigger ones. The smaller ones were more of a specialty item.
GIBBS: Well, you know, it depends. Certain years one size would sell better than the other. It would depend on the fish, the bait and stuff that the fish were feeding on. And the size of the fish that were prevailing. You know, if you had a lot of schoolies, chances are they're feeding on smaller bait. So that year, when you had a big run on schoolies and not many big
fish, you'd sell all kinds of small lures. You wouldn't sell any big plugs.
POORE: Must have been difficult to figure out.
GIBBS: It was. I remember one year we sold so many yellow plugs in New York- that was the big color for them, that I made about four gross extra of yellow for the next season. And that season they didn't want any yellow! At the end of the year I had almost half those four gross still left. The next year they wanted the blues and whites… So you never know.
POORE: You were one of the first to do the mackerel paint job, right?
GIBBS: Uh yeah, We made mackerel. I forgot that. Yeah.
POORE: Right. I think mackerel was painted on everything at one time or another.
GIBBS: Oh yeah, I did. On everything.
POORE: Oh. That must have been to tough a paint job for people to want to mess with.
GIBBS: No. Well, it wasn't too long before they started copying me. In fact, I made the nicest looking one. Of course, Dick Vegan worked for me at one time. And he had all my secrets and he quit me and went to Point Jude. And took my secrets and gave them
to them. And then they come out with plugs with my mackerel designs on them.
POORE: Boy, that's a kick in the rear, huh?
GIBBS: Sure is.
POORE: Tell me about the thing called the Canal Special Pencil Poppers
GIBBS: They weighed three and an eighth ounces. The regular ones that size were two and seven/eighths. So they weighed three / eighths of an ounce more. They had a flat bottom and more weight in the tail. That would make them plane and stay on top better.
POORE: So that was, was that kind of a special plug designed for the canal?
GIBBS: That was a special plug designed for me personally. Because as I got older I could'nt cast as far as these young fellows. And by Jesus I did something about it. So I made this plug that would outcast them all. And then they got to using them and that was it. They were still out casting me though.
POORE: That's so funny!
GIBBS: So that was the purpose of that. Yeah.
POORE: So did those eventually go into production or did you sell them out of the shop only?
GIBBS: No, I just sold them out of the shop, maybe a hundred a year or something. Those Canal Specials never went into tackle shops. I always use to keep enough on the wire because you made a special and sold it close to retail so you're putting more money in your pocket!
POORE: What about the 5 ¼ ounce Pencil Poppers?
GIBBS: Well, originally I made those for a couple guys out in California that wanted big Pencil Poppers to fish for some pretty big sized stripers out there. They worked real good!
POORE: Well you know what else might be interesting is the years you owned the business and the times that it changed hands and, you know, who bought it and then what they did with it when they bought it. Like I know that one guy went into Danny
Plugs and, you know, this, there, down the years, down the road there will be confusion there about…
GIBBS: Bill Pew bought it off me. I think it was around 1975 and I think he ran it for about 3 years and then sold it to Charlie Bardelly. Charlie was the one that bought out Danny Plugs. My son John was running both places but then Charlie got out
and he sold to John. Charlie ran it like a big business. And you can't do that. It wasn't a big business…John had the business for ten or eleven years but now its up in Bedford with Jim and Debbie Griecci.
(Thanks to Roy Curley for his support in Developing this article. Readers wishing to contact the writer may do so by calling 516-741-7044 or by emailing-- [email protected]