Lauri Rapala, founded the Rapala-Normark Group, International, the world’s largest fishing lure and tackle manufacturer. Born in Sysmä, Finland and during the world depression of the 1930s, he worked as a lumberjack in the winter and in the summer worked as a farm hand and commercial fisherman. He baited thousands of hooks on a trotline to catch whitefish, perch, and pike and rowed 30 miles every day, except during storms. During his fishing excursions, he paid attention to fish habits and baitfish habits. He learned their different locations and understood how weather affects fishing. Baiting so many hooks was a chore, so he set out to design an artificial lure that would mimic the bait he hooked. He created a lure that imitated an injured baitfish made of cork and tinfoil he took off of food wrapping and melted photograph negatives as a coating instead of using lacquer. When finished and was satisfied with the artificial lure, he tied it to fishing line (string) and trolled it behind his boat. His sons claimed he would bring in 600 pounds of fish per day.
That lure would become the Original FloaterRapala lure.
Ron Weber, a fishing tackle sales representative from Minneapolis, heard about the Finlander plug lure and tried one during a 1959 Canadian fishing trip when his friend showed how well it worked. Where it seemed the fish were not biting on natural bait, the lure proved otherwise. Upon returning to Minnesota, Weber stopped in Duluth to visit a Finnish immigrant’s outdoor clothing shop and bought a few. Weber tried the lures and then wrote to Lauri Rapala to make an order of 500 lures, which was received in early 1960. With a friend and sporting goods storeowner, Ray Ostrom, Weber set out to distribute the lures and creating Nordic Enterprises, which was later named Normark(north land) in 1965. Weber and Ostrom first test-marketed the lure in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where customers balked at the $1.95 price of the lures, where retailers were used to selling lures for less than a dollar. The Rapala was twice as expensive as popular lures like the Johnson Silver Spoon, the Jitterbug, and the Lazy Ike, it would change the lure market. When new mono line and lighter fishing tackle came out, sales increased for the light lure. During the 1960s, Normark became an exclusive North American distributor for Rapala, contracted across the sea in Finland. An article in the 1962 Life magazineboosted sales nationwide. A Lifereporter who had been covering the newly formed Minnesota Vikings team became interested in the lure and Lauri Rapala’s story was printed in an issue about Marilyn Monroe.
|Rapala Original Floater|
Weber then visited Finland to ask Rapala if he could increase production and offered to finance a small factory to produce the lures. Soon, two models of the Original Finnish Jigging Minnow joined the Original Floating Rapala. The new lure was intended for ice fishing, so Weber and Ostrom began selling a Finnish-made ice auger.
Through the 1960s, anglers in the United States used Rapala lures that included a sinking model called the Countdown.