Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame to Induct Bill Lewis
The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame Selection Committee has chosen legendary lure maker Bill Lewis for induction into the 2023 class of Hall of Famers.
Lewis is well known as the inventor of the Rat-L-Trap lipless crankbait.
Upon his return from World War II where he had been a bomber pilot during D-Day and piloted over 30 other key missions, Lewis came home to Mississippi where he had left a promising football career behind for the war. So many years had passed that the scholarship offers to top schools such as Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, and others that he had pre-war had faded away.
Looking to build a career, Lewis left his rural hometown of Laurel, MS, and headed to the Windy City to cash in on his opportunity to use the GI Bill to get an education in commercial art at the Chicago Academy of Art.
Long before the days of Photoshop, Lewis fine-tuned his skills in sketching and cartooning ads. But, after working in Dallas, TX and Jackson, MS for large ad-agencies, he couldn’t deny his passion for creating fishing lures at home, and he had the entrepreneur’s itch. He moved his family over to the center of Louisiana, a true sportsman’s paradise.
It was in his garage in Alexandria, LA where Lewis designed a wide array of lures. As he got the lure molded for the Rat-L-Trap he started sampling a variety of weights to load the lure and get it tracking right. He found that larger buck shot was useful in weighting the head chamber and that he could use smaller, chill shot in the body. He was not adding the bb’s to make sound at first, but to add weight to get the lure to swim properly. It wasn’t until he got on the water to test the lures that he discovered the sounds the bb’s would produce in a vibrating lure body were incredible at attracting fish and triggering bites.
As the popularity of his lure grew Lewis knew he had to expand. He upscaled from the garage shop to small buildings around Lee Street in Alexandria, then to a barn that was converted to a lure production facility in Boyce, LA. Then eventually a large-scale manufacturing plant was built that employed up to 300 people in Alexandria.
The Rat-L-Trap has undoubtedly been one of the top-selling artificial lures of all time. In a 2007 Outdoor Life article titled “Hall of Fame Fishing Lures”, the Rat-L-Trap was named “The Most Influential Lure” of all time. Their reasoning, was that rattles and sounds in fishing lures were not a consideration before Lewis’s legendary ‘Trap, but from the Rat-L-Trap forward not only was a whole genre of lures called “Rattle Baits” created, but from then on crankbait designers always considered what type sound their lure would make. Would it rattle, knock, clack, or maybe even be silent? These were all considerations that now would exist forever in lure design thanks to Bill Lewis.
The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum is the international headquarters for education, recognition and promotion of fresh water sportfishing. Our mission is to develop and maintain the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and its museum for the preservation and display of historical artifacts of fresh water sportfishing. We strive to conduct and maintain a program for the recognition of persons, organizations and institutions that have made significant and lasting contributions to the sport and heritage of fresh water fishing. The Hall of Fame conducts and maintains a program for qualifying, compiling and publishing all fresh water sportfishing records. The Hall of Fame also maintains a library that disseminates information and acts as the clearing house for historical and contemporary publications for the fresh water sportfishing industry. The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame institutes programs to foster, maintain and improve the environment for future generations through promotion and education. Visit our website @ www.freshwater-fishing.org