Granger company lures fishing icon

NORTH BONNEVILLE -- Just how bad is the economy?

It is so bad, even Northwest fishing icon Buzz Ramsey has not only been out of work since January, but is using "poor man's ramps," as he terms locations without fees, to launch his boat.

"My wife is looking forward to getting a paycheck again," he quipped recently as a six-knot current swirled around his anchored and heavily sponsored jet sled.

Maggie Ramsey's wait -- and those of thousands of Oregon and Washington guides, anglers and others who flock to his frequent seminars -- is nearly over.

Just when everyone thought the region's fishing tackle industry and economy were getting boring (Joe's tanked, Luhr Jensen & Sons closed and its Hood River factory closed), Ramsey is emerging from the ashes.

He's been picked up by market-savvy Yakima Bait Co. of Granger, the largest surviving lure manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest.

Ramsey, 59, started recently, driving from his home on the Klickitat River to Granger for a few days to visit the company's staff as its new brands manager. Yakima created the position for him after emerging from economic downturns of its own.

For more than 30 years, Ramsey was at the hub of angling innovations at Luhr Jensen & Sons Inc. in Hood River as its promotions manager.

When the company was unexpectedly sold to Rapala VMC Corp. in 2006, Ramsey turned down a similar position for personal reasons and went to work instead for Pure Fishing, Inc.

As economic gloom spread into 2009, though, Pure Fishing's problems also deepened and Ramsey fell to a companywide downsizing in January with just a few hours' notice -- on a cell phone as he was in a company booth at a regional outdoor show.

He visited with Yakima Bait officials, but had to wait as the company weathered deep losses of its own, no little of which stemmed from Joe's bankruptcy. The company is almost exclusively into lures, with such popular brands as Worden's Roostertails, Hildebrandt spinners and Toman spinners and others.

The fit to Yakima Bait is natural for Ramsey, who's already thinking about improvements in the company's lures, refreshing various dies and molds, exploring the Yakima/Worden's logos and developing catchy names for new products.