Could the RoeMaster Spinner have been the world’s deadliest lure? We’ll never know! A radically new concept conceived of by a diabolically brilliant lure designer, it appeared briefly in the early 1990’s but then disappeared into the night and was never heard from again.
But what happened?
I’m glad you asked! Considering I was the “mastermind” behind the RoeMaster, I guess I am qualified to tell its story…and in case you haven’t already guessed, the answer is no…No, it wasn’t destined to become the planet’s greatest fish catcher of all time. But it was fun to pretend. :)
Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together!
As a college student at Humboldt State University, I must confess that I spent more time pursuing girls and steelhead than good grades. Back in those days, we skipped a lot of class to fish the nearby Mad, Eel, Klamath, Trinity and Van Duzen rivers — and those endeavors are what inspired the RoeMaster.
During those river sessions, I quickly learned that salmon and steelhead were really susceptible to roe – and well presented spinners. So, why not combine the two and make the world’s most deadly offering: A spinner/roe combination?
An evil plan indeed…and with it, I would soon rule the salmon and steelhead world!
Well, not so fast there, junior!
RoeMaster Comes to Life!
So, with my idea now hatched, I borrowed some cash from pops and bought some components and started bending wire. After some trial and error, I settled on a design that consisted of a French blade (RoeMasters were available in the odd size range of #1, #3 and #5) and then a hand-painted lead bullet weight (or worm weight that bass anglers use with Texas Rigs)…though I eventually switched to brass worm weights on later versions. Then, the “roe” was a Luhr Jensen Gooey Bob slid up the shaft below the weight. I’d then finish it off with a Gamakatsu treble or siwash hook (your choice).
Before I had a wire forming tool, the early editions were bent with a set of pliers and the results were…well…let’s just say they weren’t super pretty!
Well, it all seemed like a good idea, but the RoeMaster wasn’t exactly the best design of all time. First off, at high RPM’s, the blade would hit the Gooey Bob, causing it to stall out. At super slow speeds, however, it worked okay. Then there was that whole faux roe thing. My idea of combining two of the great salmon and steelhead offerings into one kinda fell flat on its face when you consider that the rubber egg cluster was totally lacking in one key ingredient: that milky, smelly goodness that leeches out of real roe. Hmmm…didn’t really think that one through! Sure, you could lather it up in scent, but it was still no match for the real deal.
Despite all the lure’s imperfections, it actually fished pretty darned well. Its first day on the water took place at the confluence of the Eel and Van Duzen rivers, where it actually hooked a few nice steelhead and out-fished my buddies who were using the standard for that spot, gold/red Little Cleos.
That winter, the RoeMaster had its finest hour on the Mad River just below the hatchery in Blue Lake, where I hooked 6 winter steelhead in off-color water one February afternoon while the other 23 anglers in the lineup hooked a grand total of 3 while using an assortment of drift gear. The fact that I was standing in the meat of the hole was totally lost on me and I chalked my success up instead to the deadly effectiveness of my new creation!
That fall, the new brass weight edition of the RoeMaster made its debut on the Feather River’s infamous Outlet Hole. Again, the lure preformed well and the Chinook seemed to like it.
The Rise & Fall of the Empire
Bolstered by the success of the tests, my dad and I got down to the business of marketing the lure that we were certain would soon propel us into Fortune 500 status. Step one: Come up with a catchy name…RoeMaster. Done.
Step two: A clever slogan: “It’s not a lure, it’s a Weapon!” Ah yes, we obviously turned the queso index to “high” to come up with that one! Cheesy tag line accounted for, we then went to the only place I knew of to advertise such a fish-catching machine, Salmon Trout Steelheader magazine.
So, the RoeMaster ad made its debut in the Feb/March 1992 issue of STS and ran three times that year. The ad copy included several bullet points, highlighting the lure’s attributes. My favorite was “Field tested and recommended by fisheries biologists.” The biologists were my uncle and his buddy and I can’t help but think about how damned funny that sounds now. One could argue that if the fishery biologists were endorsing the product, maybe it was because they realized it posed no serious threat to fish populations! Obviously, a marketing guru I was not…
I think most hard-core anglers could see the inherent flaws in the design right in the picture in the ad and RoeMaster sadly never took off. Needless to say, thanks to sales that could be counted on one hand, I never got my Gulfstream G3 and that island in the Bahamas. Instead, I ended up with a garage full of components (that I cannibalized down to nothing over the years), and a couple good laughs looking back after all the years. These days, there’s not much left of the mighty RoeMaster except for bags and bags of unused Gooey Bobs and a couple originals left on the garage wall.
Oh well, it was a good ride. Maybe someday I’ll have to update the design and bring RoeMaster outta retirement. Or, perhaps some things are best left alone…
We even had some shirts back in the day…