SPRING VALLEY, Ill. (AP) - Ray Segatti loves fishing, making his own lures, tying flies and trolling for northern pike and anything else that might grab hold of his creations, whether he's fishing in the Illinois Valley or on Butternut Lake in Wisconsin.
But the Spring Valley man hates wasting time trying to get rid of line twist.
Segatti made one of his best lures for pike and musky himself, and while his creation is deadly on game fish, it also tends to cause line twist and a mess at the tip of his fishing rod when he's trolling. He dresses those lures in hair with different colored leather tails, so each looks like a mouse. It's made out of a batch of parts, including stainless steel wire passing through a plastic tube and lead wire wrapped around the tube for weighting.
The first ones he built, he made with a steel two-bladed propeller on the front.
"It caused me to get a twist in my line when I used it," he said.
To get the twist out of the line, he'd let out a lot of line, take off the lure, tie on bell sinker with a swivel and drive the boat around until the twist worked out. What a waste of time that is!
He tried to lessen the line twist from his favorite "Hare Mouse" lure by putting a blade that spins in one direction on the front and a prop that spins in the other direction behind the body.
That gave him the idea for an invention, "The Untwister." His invention quickly un-twists line if trolled just a few yards or if cast out and reeled in just once or twice.
Segatti has a patent pending on the Untwister. When he first built one, he took two big prop-style spinners, bent the blades so one would spin in one direction and bent the other the opposite direction. He glued them together, passed a wire through the middle of them and bent loops into each end of the wire.
He then copied that in clay and had Leads Plastic in Mendota make 2,000 plastic props for his invention. He finishes assembling them in his workshop/fly-tying bench. If you tie line to the loop on one end, the prop locks up and takes the spin out of the line clockwise. Tie it on the other end, and the twist comes out of the line counterclockwise.
Segatti, 74, retired four years ago after operating Ray's Quick Cash, a pawn shop in downtown Spring Valley.
Now, when he's not fishing, he spends a lot of his time tying flies, making huge musky spinners, melting and molding lead for jig heads, tying jigs and occasionally inventing other strange lures - just for himself. For example, he makes slow-sinking jigs by molding jig heads out of glue, makes fast-sinking cast-able weighted versions of fly patterns such as Woolly Buggers and even has experimented with making a jig with a stinger hook at the end of a piece of red shoelace.
Ray Segatti is by no means the only Illinois Valley resident who makes his own lures. Many anglers mold and paint their own jigs and melt and make plastic lure bodies. "Gabby" Parnisari of Ladd, like Segatti, likes to make his own musky lures to fish with at Shabbona.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, John "Ernie" Ernenputsch saw little pieces of metal that were being punched out of the backs of wall clocks at the Westclox factory. They were keyhole-shaped pieces of metal removed to create a hole for hanging up the clock, said Tom Wall, longtime Better Fishing Association of Illinois member.
From those flat pieces, Ernenputsch built up a flat jig head, attached a hook to the bottom of the head, tied on deer hair and other dressing and, voila - he created Ernie's Little Demon, a great lure for crappie and for white bass on the Illinois River. Wall said the white ones with bright blue feathers or hair seemed to be the best for stripers.
"It was pretty popular region-wide," said Gary Ernenputsch Jr.
Gary said John, his grandfather, who died in the late 1970s, made the lure heads at home with a punch press, using a die like the one at Westclox. He sold a lot of them at fishing shows and swap meets with some success.
"They're a collector's item now," Gary said of the lures. "There was never anything really comparable. The only thing I've found that could really get the crappies like that was live minnows."
However, Illinois Valley residents have not ever mass-produced fishing lures, says Joe Tonelli.
The Illinois Valley is more well-known as the home to many of the famous duck decoy carvers of the 20th century.
The famous and collectible lures and plugs from the 20th century mostly came from "Plug Alley" - northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, said Tonelli, whose wife has written books on collectible fishing lures, including "Top of the Line Collectibles."
Local anglers on the Illinois River, the Hennepin and I&M canals and Vermilion River had little use for early wooden and plastic plugs.
"They river fished. They used dough balls, night crawlers. The fish aren't seeing through the water in the Illinois and Michigan Canal or the Illinois River," Tonelli said.
In fact, few famous fishing plugs were made in Illinois, although some fantastic old lures were made circa 1910-24 by companies such as the Fred C. Keeling Co. of Rockford and W.J. Jamieson of Chicago.