Rocky Start Gives No Hint of Rat-L-Traps Success

Look in the tackle boxes of any 10 bass fishermen you know, not only here in Louisiana but around the country as well and chances are excellent you’ll find a Rat-L-Trap or two in half of them. With millions sold for years, this outstanding bass lure had its beginning and in fact, still calls Alexandria its home.

Some time ago, I had the privilege of joining a group of writers on a tour of north Louisiana lakes and outdoor-related industries to showcase just what our part of the world has to offer the fisherman. Hosted by the Explore Louisiana North group, one of our stops was at the Bill Lewis Lure Company in Alexandria. Quite frankly, I was a bit shocked at what I saw.                                 

For a company that has enjoyed this sort of success for decades, you’d think that there’d be a handful of workers simply pushing buttons to turn chunks of plastic into Rat-L-Traps that would be machine-painted and outfitted. This was not the case as I watched folks sitting at tables within the building hand painting lures, affixing eyes and attaching hooks to produce the finished product. Apparently the company treats its employees quite well as the average worker on the assembly line at Bill Lewis Lures has been there for at least a dozen years, according to a company spokesman. 

As fascinating as it was to watch the assembly of these fantastic fish catchers, the origin of the Rat-L-Trap is just as intriguing. Searching the internet, I found the following account on the company’s web site of how Bill Lewis came up with this lure and how it got its name.                                                                                                                                

“In the early years,” according to the company history section, “Bill Lewis, who passed away in 2005, sold various lures from the back of his old ‘rattletrap’ Ford station wagon. This routine gave no indication of the success the business would later enjoy. On more than one sales trip, Bill had no choice but to sell his products below cost just to earn enough gas money to get back home. But, Bill’s perseverance kept the business alive until one day in the late 60’s a friend with an assortment of Bill’s new prototypes revealed the powerful potential of Bill’s creation.          

“Bill and his partner were heading for the boat launch after a ‘tough bite’ sent them packing. They were cruising along a main channel of Toledo Bend when they noticed a large group of boats gathered at the channel’s edge. As they got closer they could see that none of the fishermen in the group of boats were fishing, but rather were watching another boat nearby where two fishermen were casting feverishly into the standing wooded area just off the main channel, catching 6, 7 and 8 pound bass.

“As Bill moved in for a closer look, he recognized the two successful anglers, one being his fishing buddy that had picked up some of his new lures the day before. Bill called out to his friend asking the logical question, ‘what bait are you using’? ‘That silly lookin’, rattling bait’, his friend announced.

“Those that witnessed the debut of the future all time bestseller had no doubt that this bait was something very special. During his drive home that day, one other thing happened which remains one of Bill’s most creative moments. As he was manually operating the broken down windshield wiper of his old car, with one hand on the wheel and one out the window, he thought to himself, “Rattletrap – that’s what I’ll call it.”      

A tip of the hat to the late Bill Lewis who started it all right here in the heart of Louisiana, the Sportsman’s Paradise.

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