Originally published by Florida Antique Tackle Collectors in a series of newsletters in 2007. Written by Steve Cox. It has been edited by Barracuda Tackle, LLC for ease of reading - no content has been withheld or changed.
As the largest manufacturer and distributor of fishing tackle in the South, Florida Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company (FFTMC) has produced an impressive array of marketing materials over its business lifespan. Those of us who are lucky enough to be Florida collectors have access to a number of catalogs and related marketing material which has survived for the past 70 years, and with which we use as reference sources to document our collections. Volume 1 of Florida Lure Makers and Their Lures by authors Doug Brace, Russ Riddle, and Bill Stuart does an excellent job of presenting the Barracuda lures and the history of the company. This reference source is invaluable, but by itself, cannot fully display all of the many colorful ads and print material used by FFTMC.
Unfortunately, only a very small quantity of these original materials still exists. They are scattered amongst a dozen or so Barracuda collectors, and up to now, have never been assembled in a comprehensive group. While there are gaps in the timeline of surviving catalogs and price lists, with virtually nothing available for the earliest period of the company from the late 1920s and 1930s, the period from post-WWII through the early 1970s is well represented. It is also apparent the "heyday" for FFTMC began in the late 1940s, blossomed in the mid-1950s; with its wave of popularity cresting in the late 1950s through the early 1960s. Coincidentally, this matched the period of growth throughout the United States, the South, and Florida, as our Gls returned from WWII and Korea, the "baby boomer" generation began, and new ranks of leisure time enthusiasts materialized.
The Reynolds brothers had been shocked by the loss of company vice president B.T. Reynolds in a tragic December 1948 hunting accident. However. under the leadership of Jock and Corl Reynolds, FFTMC steadied itself. The company had recently completed the purchase of the rights to Philip Porter Dalton's famous Dolton Special line, which it was already manufacturing for Dalton after his dispute with Shakespeare. FFTMC also built a new annex, which housed the Bait Finishing Department and a Die Costing and Lead Smelting Department for the rapidly increasing demand for Barracuda jigs and lead products". The Balsa Float Department was also included in the new building.
The earliest color catalogs utilized artwork by Mr. Stanley R. Nutting. The first shows a large, right-facing, downward barracuda with a Reflecto Spoon hooked in its mouth and a lucky fisherman's line attached to the spoon, which is being trolled behind a cabin cruiser just offshore from a grove of palm trees. Mr. Nutting's name is positioned below the fish's jaw and is obviously part of the lead printing plate used to print the cover. The catalog is "No. 6P" and is undated. However, we have price lists for September 1948 and March 1949 which are labeled "Applying to Catalog 6P", which implies a 1948 (or prior) dote. We have thus far been unable to learn any additional information about Mr. Nutting and his ties to the company or the printer, but ore hopeful he can be better identified in the near future.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Nutting's name is not on the cover of the 1949 Jobbers Catalog No. 1J, the 1950 Jobbers Catalog 2J, and the Catalog ID 1950, even though the rest of the cover is identical. In order for this to happen, the printer must have made a conscious decision to remove the name from the print block or plate. Whether or not this was specified by FFTMC will probably remain a mystery. These early catalogs all have the following text on the right-hand side: "The Famous Barracuda Brand (Barracuda Brand in the script) Fishing Tackle - Largest Manufacturers of Fishing Tackle in the South". At the bottom of each catalog, the company name and "St. Petersburg, Florida" is listed.
The 1949 and 1950 Jobber Catalogs were smaller and stapled (Volume 21 No. l bound, while the large 1950 ID catalog had to be glued and stapled backbone binding similar to a hardcover book. 1954 is the only year we have an example of the folded tab binding, and 1955 introduces the plastic spiral binding that was used in various colors each year through at least the 1970 -1971 year. The size of the catalogs varies greatly over the years, with the largest being the 82 page 1950 ID catalog, and the undated catalog No. 6P from 1948 or sooner, with 68 pages including covers.
It is interesting to note that in 1950, FFTMC offered many other manufacturers' tackle in addition to their own. The ID Catalog index reveals Arbogast, Brooks, Heddon, Manning, Hildebrandt, Johnson, Virgin Mermaid, Mack's, Peck's, and Weber lures, flies, and spoons listed, as well as Barracuda. Reels and rods by Bronson, Coxe, Hedden, Kalamazoo, Langley, Ocean City, Shakespeare, Actionglas, Bristol, Montague, and True Temper are all available for a price! Miscellaneous fishing items by Gates, Saunders, Uncle Josh, My Buddy, Floating Pal, Roll-A-Tray and other recognizable names helped FFTMC maintain its claim as the largest supplier of fishing tackle in the South. The back covers prove to be an excellent barometer of the company's willingness to spend large sums of money to print a showcase catalog, which was then distributed to a number of their best customers and/or dealers. The Reflecto Spoon, the Bull Nose Jig, the Florida Shiner, the Super Midget, the Dalton Flash and even Carl Reynolds holding up a large stringer of bass are all featured on the back cover of the catalogs. The 1950 Jobber Catalog 2J offers 32 pages including covers.
A gap in our materials is present for 1951, 1952, and 1953.
However, 1954 is represented by a beautiful new Stanley Nutting logo featuring a left facing, downward Barracuda overlapping a ship's porthole. Through the porthole, the cabin cruiser "Marion" can be seen trolling the waters, with palm trees on the distant shore and clouds in the sky. The Barracuda no longer appears with a Reflecto Spoon in its mouth, and we are left to wonder how the fish got away! Only Mr. Nutting's last name shows in the waves, with one of the waves possibly doubling as the letter "S", presumably for Stanley.
The author's 1955 catalog duplicates this new logo, and a 1956 catalog is in route, but as of this writing, has not been received. Therefore, 1956 and 1957 are missing, but we know the porthole logo would continue through the 1961 -1962 catalogs.
The good ship "Marion" continues to plow the waters, further adding to the Nutting mystery. Was the "Marion" owned by the Reynolds brothers, or was it Mr. Nutting's personal craft? With each successive year, Nutting's name still shows up, but the detail withers more and more as the printer's plate became worn. For 1954 and 1955, "Barracuda" is in large script across the top, "Fresh and Saltwater Fishing Tackle" appears under the porthole, and the company name and "St. Petersburg, Florida" is listed.
Catalogs for 1954 through the 1959 -1960 version consist of either 34 or 35 pages including covers, plus an 8-page price list at the end of the catalog, and are bound with the same plastic spiral.
1955 is the first year expensive metallic inks are used and that year's metallic mint green cover is an outstanding example.
The 1956 catalog also introduced the Reynolds Spoon and companion Razorback Pork Rind, the Dude Flies and a new smaller sized Dalton Special, the Tiny Dalton. A new ad featuring the Tiny Dalton and the expanded Dalton color chart helped to maintain the popularity of P.P. Dalton's masterpiece. All in all, the year proved to be an exciting one for FFTMC. 1956 brought a continuation of the Eisenhower optimism of post World War II and Korea. Seeking to soothe international fears of an escalating Cold War, a strong and stable domestic economy exuded confidence, allowing companies like FFTMC to prosper.
Unfortunately, a copy of the 1957 catalog has not been located, and our 1958 catalog is not complete. However, a catalog ad announcing Dalton's new iridescent plastic composition and color process, the Dalton Flash, is evidence of its introduction at the time. Further promotional ads changed the artwork of the old standby Reflecto Spoon ad, and an impressive collage of successful fisherman surrounding an attractive lass with a nice pair (of largemouth bass] offered Barracuda's effort at advocacy of the equality of the sexes, at least where fishing was concerned!
By 1958, the "2100 First Avenue South" address had been added and the company began listing the number of years it had been in business above the Barracuda script (1958 catalog our 31st" year). This measure of longevity would continue through the 1970 -1971 catalog, at least (our 44th" year).
The inside front covers typically provide photographs of company officers C.J. "Jack" Reynolds, Carl Reynolds and B.T. Reynolds, various soles and district managers and representatives, and the manufacturing facility at 2100 First Avenue South in St. Petersburg. The fabulous 1950 ID catalog also offers photos of the die costing section, the tool and die department, bait assembly and inspection, the bait fishing department, the shipping department and the showroom. The inside bock covers usually offered space 'to illustrate various lures, jigs, and spoons, but a few were also left blank. Barracuda catalogs have always been colorful, and it would be a disservice to attempt to describe them all when we have a number of beautiful examples to show you.
Some of the color combinations are unusual, and one can glean additional information about the relative success of the company by the types and quantities of colors represented year by year.
FFTMC then launched its most ambitious marketing effort for a single fishing item, the Golden Falcon Jig. The Golden Falcon was the brainchild of Barracuda's Paul Stake and Eastern Airlines Sales Rep Fronk Boyce. Teaming up with Eastern Airlines president and former flying ace and war hero Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, FFTMC introduced its new jig. Named after the Eastern Airlines flagship Douglas DC-7B Golden Falcon, the company designed the custom jig and raised the curtain on the new lure with great fanfare. Eastern agreed to exclusively endorse the Barracuda jig when it opened its new Golden Falcon Service, the Flying Fisherman Club. ''The Club" promotion came complete with membership card, customized cocktail glosses signed by Mr. Rickenbacker, and other Golden Falcon promotional items. Barracuda, in turn, plugged Eastern through its network of jobbers, distributors and sales reps. Later, Eastern followed with an upgrade of the DC-7B, the new luxury Lockheed Electra L-188. The Electra, a state-of-the-ort turboprop airliner powered by four wing-mounted Allison 501-D 13 engines, was also named the "Golden Falcon" and was Eastern's top-of-the-line aircraft. Barracuda's jig was first offered in a full-page color ad in the 1956 catalog, with its beautiful black and gold metallic ink cover.
However, by the time the 1960-61 catalog appeared, the jig was only mentioned briefly and was gone altogether shortly thereafter. A similar fate awaited the Lockheed airliner. The first prototype Electro was test flown December 6th, 1957, and placed into service by Eastern on January 12th, 1959, It was also selected and scheduled for popular routes by American Airlines later that same month.
Unfortunately, the loss of several Electra's in unexplained, high profile crashes in 1959 and 1960 caused the airliner's safety to be questioned. The L-l 88s underwent a massive recall and extensive wing and engine modifications to correct the cause of the crashes, an unusual type of self-induced propeller wind shear called "whirl mode". By the time these upgrades had been completed, the Lockheed was surpassed by the new and faster jetliners offered by Boeing and Douglas. The Golden Falcon and its Flying Fisherman Club faded away, along with the Barracuda jig. It is not known how many Barracuda Golden Falcon Jigs were produced, but it is now thought that with their unusual coloration, they were meant to be a limited edition item, and never intended to be a big seller to the fishing public. It is unfortunate that FFTMC timing in joining Eastern Airlines coincided with the Electra's public relations nightmare. The jigs, however, are exceedingly rare now and are highly desirable as Barracuda collectibles.
The 1959-60 catalog was the first to combine two years as a biannual publication. New color ads freshened up the jig line, and the New Tiny Spoon-Fly/Jig-A-Bu Combination ad was introduced. A new streamlined Barracuda logo, a sneak preview of which was displayed in the 1958 fish photo collage, appeared at the bottom of this combo ad. The number of sales reps had increased to a total of six by this time.
1960-61 catalog cover sported 3 different color inks. New for the jig line, the Big Eye Dude, Rudy Dude, the Shark Face and "New Blister Pack" jig packaging were touted.
The 1961 -1962 catalog uses metallic ink, this time with silver on a black background. The 1960 -1961 catalog boasts three separate colors overlapping a white background and must have been very expensive to print.
1961-62 offered the Reynolds Spinner Spoon ad and reintroduced the metallic ink cover, this time in black and silver. The Dalton Special line was again expanded to a fifth smaller size, the Wee Dolton.
A 1962 -1963 catalog cover was revealed by Allegra Print & Imaging's talented graphic design team when the original 1964 catalog cover proved to be only a minor modification of the prior year.
The 1962 -1963, and the slightly modified 1964 catalog sport a new logo displaying the same Barracuda typeface from 1954-1962. However, it now faces to the right and down, with air bubbles on a two-tone half and half background offering more streamlined lettering and a contrasting color oval. A black and green plaid gridwork pattern is printed over a white background. The porthole, cabin cruiser, fishermen, palm trees, and clouds are no longer illustrated. The words "QUALITY PRE-TESTED TACKLE THAT CATCH FISH" (please note catch, not catches) are displayed in the lower left. The company name and address is listed on the bottom. Discovering the catalog cover overprint provides further insight into the fortunes of FFTMC, and one of the methods they used to cut printing costs. "The Fabulous 50s" were finally over. The binding for the catalog has changed over the years.
The 1964 version had red ink overlaid on the green ink bars describing the year of the catalog, and its position in the timeline. These bars were swapped and new white ink lettering added for the 1964 version. 1962-63 and 1964 catalogs provided a hint of the new austerity program at FFTMC, with the 1964 version being a cost-saving overprint of the 1962-63 artwork. A PT-109 Jig, thought to be a tribute to JFK, was introduced in 1964. The Dalton Twist debuted in a full page ad, and a Dalton Twist/Flash combo ad appeared as well. The Pot Belly Dude and Pulsator Trolling Jig rounded out the new items in the line. The sales rep team at Barracuda now numbered nine, with "Barracuda Booty" Boots Bradford still representing much of the prime southeast US territory.
Copies of the 1965 front and back cover are all that we currently have evidence of, and the years 1966 and 1967 are missing.
The 1968-69 issue consisted of 27 pages and offered the last documentation known for a new product introduction, that of the Banjo Eyes luminous Head jigs. By 1968, major changes had occurred to the sales staff, with Bradford noticeably absent and Jack's son, Charles B. Reynolds, now featured as vice president. While the circumstances of Bradford's departure are unknown, it had to cause a tremendous ripple in the company's marketing efforts. "Boots" had been affiliated with Tycoon Custom Rods prior to joining FFTMC. The loss of his contacts and many years of experience proved to be a significant impact to the company. The size of the catalog fluctuated in the late 60s and early 70s.
The 1970 -1971 catalog is the smallest with 16 pages including covers, followed by the 1964 catalog containing 22 pages including covers.
The 1972-73 catalog was apparently the lost Barracuda catalog, according to Florida Lure Makers and Their Lures, and offered only the standard product line with no additions.
The death of Jack Reynolds in October 1974 proved to be the final blow to FFTMC. The resulting IRS seizure in February 1975, a mere l 03 days later, effectively killed the company. The subsequent liquidation of FFTMC assets and the sole of most of the company trademark and manufacturing rights underscored the tragic end of a great tackle firm. This "snuffing out" of a bright spark of entrepreneurship is a loss to us all.
Special acknowledgement and appreciation Is extended to these FATC members for their generous loan of this wonderful assembly of FFTMC "Barracuda Brand" promotional material: Doug Brace, Frank Corter, Ron Gast, Al Helms, Roth Kemper, Steve Linkous, Robert Pitman Ill, Gary Robinson, Gil Sorensen, Bill Stuart, and Ed Weston.