Lew Childre was a lot like his father, a man ahead of his time. Back in the 1940s, both men were blazing trails for many others to follow, but taking different paths.
Lew Sr. was an early day Grand Ole Opry star, a one-man show, entertaining with his proven repertoire of songs and jokes. Much of his time was spent on the road, traveling to appearances at fairs and community social events. Radios were few and far between, and television was just being invented, so what he did he had to do in person.
Lew began experimenting with homegrown bamboo, figuring out the best growths to cut and how to temper and finish the poles so they would keep their shape indefinitely. His were highly superior products, but the problem was his United States sources for bamboo were limited and the costs for his treating processes required each pole sell for one dollar instead of the going rate of a quarter. “Fishermen will pay more for a better product,” became the motto of the man and the Lew’s brand.
While Lew’s bamboo pole business thrived, he also was a great student of what was going on with new fishing rod materials and concepts. The product line was expanded soon to also include telescopic fiberglass poles, giving birth to the original Lew’s® Bream Buster®. Lew had become a true fishing rod specialist, and he immediately recognized the advantages of the lighter and more sensitive graphite that was new to the market, and the rest, as they say, is history.
By 1973, Childre was making his mark in the world of reels, too, having just introduced the Lew’s Speed Spool® baitcaster. Few thought the strange-looking teardrop-shaped reel had a chance going up against the popular Ambassadeur round reels of the time … until they would cast it. The Speed Spool’s low profile, narrow spool, fully disengaging levelwind and unique no-knob palming side cover provided a new feel and performance like American anglers had never witnessed before and they were loving it.
Lew, Bebe, Craig and Casey were beginning to realize their lifelong dreams were coming true when a nightmare hit. Lew, a pilot with his own sea plane and countless hours from years of flying to favorite fishing spots across the south, was killed in a crash on July 26, 1977. His two passengers survived, son Casey and Casey’s son.
By this time, Lew’s commitment to quality was deeply embedded in every member of his company. Bebe, Craig and Casey rallied the team and together they forged forward with the same faith and knowledge that Lew had instilled in them for product development from design to final marketing.
40 Years of Innovation
Over the 40-year-period from 1949 to when the Childre family licensed the Lew’s brand to Browning® in 1989, the family-run business had made many major contributions that would change forever the face of recreational sport fishing. Additional introductions they were involved in beyond the Speed Stick and Speed Spool included single-foot guide frames, aluminum oxide guides, unique spinning rod handles, Speed Sticker® worm hooks, Magic Carpet trolling motor, non-roller straddle-mounted trolling guides, Fuji FPS reel seat, V-shaped casting spool, SIC (silicon carbide) guide rings, Speed Spin® spinning reels, Speed Lock® reel seat/foregrip, telescopic graphite Speed Sticks, Fuji “V” frame guides, luminous tip downrigger rod, Hardloy guide rings, graphite Tennessee spinning handle, fused solid tip graphite rods, Boron Speed Sticks, graphite Bream Buster, Zirconia pawls, small body/large spool spinning reels, “Power Up” drag system and “Soft Trigger” handle system.
If you haven’t tried Lew’s rods and reels you are missing out. I continue to be thoroughly impressed with the fishability, performance, innovation and most importantly, the quality of these products.