Vale Jeff Reid – By Dave Donald
The Australian tackle industry has lost one of its lure making icons, the founder of Reidys Lures, Jeff Reid. Aside from his skills as a gifted fisher and cutting-edge lure designer, Jeff was one of a select few who had the drive needed to turn his vision into reality.
His perpetually positive outlook manifested via a cheeky, mischievous personality, endeared him to his mates and staff, but it was his generosity and honesty that led him to be highly respected throughout the recreational fishing fraternity.
Jeff was a thinker, a doer, a man who was most satisfied when he was pushing the envelope. There was always something he could do better and this reflected in his meticulous product testing, both in the factory swim tank and out in the rivers and billabongs.
Jeff and I first met sometime in the 1980’s when he had a small home-based workshop near Sarina, south of Mackay. When I moved to the Cape York Wilderness Lodge in 1990 as the fishing charter contractor, my tackle included a bunch of his Taipan and Little Amazon models.
It was the mid 1990’s before we caught up again, after I was invited by the Mackay Sportfishing Club to give a presentation at an Expo held at Kinchant Dam, during my wet season break from guiding. Jeff had not long arrived home from winning one of the early Barra Nationals in NT and couldn’t wait to tell me about the fantastic opportunity he’d just been offered.
He’d been trying for several years to establish his dream of opening a lure factory in the Mackay area but the local councils weren’t very supportive. So, imagine his surprise when a minister from the NT government who he’d met at the Nationals invited him to his office in Darwin, asking what the NT government could do to get him to establish his lure factory idea in Darwin.
My immediate advice was to pack up and go – but he’d already worked that out himself. When I flew up for the 1998 Barra Nationals to fish with Jeff in the Reidy’s Rats Team, the factory was built and fully operational. His dream had become reality, Jeff and his lovely wife Cheryl, were absolutely in their element.
Jeff didn’t have a boat at that stage – establishing the factory had drained their finances – so we used a hired 14foot tinnie with a 40HP Yammy and a dodgy sounder. Our third team member, Jason Masters, was an accomplished young fisho so we headed off to the Daly fairly confident in our ability to do well. By the fourth day, our team was in second place, thanks mainly to Jeffs intimate knowledge of the river and intelligence gleaned from his regular contacts. We somehow managed to keep one step ahead of the pack, finding new hot spots when the previous ones had been ‘discovered’ by our competitors.
Jason and Jeff were outfishing me because I had an aversion to using green lures. I’d persisted with silver and pink models of our gun lure, the Reidy’s Goulburn Jack, and was landing fish but at about half the rate of the lad’s green offerings. It wasn’t until I reluctantly made the switch midway through that Thursday that my hookup rate improved.
Meanwhile, the Daly snags had accounted for almost all of our green examples, so I suggested to Jeff that evening that he pull some green Jacks from his donated prize packs and replace them with alternatives. He refused my request – a measure of the strength of his ethics. Our team managed 22 lovely barra the final day, 4 more than our closest rivals, squeezing them out of first place.
All of our fish were landed on green Goulburn Jacks, a couple of which we’d retrieved from a tangle of lures pulled from a snag earlier that morning! The fish gods had seemingly rewarded Jeffs high principles.
The story didn’t end there! Back at the factory with trophies in hand, Cheryl was concerned with the health of their ‘pet’ barramundi which lived in a large tank in the showroom.
“She seems to be moping and off her food. Jeff, you’d better have a look at her right away!”
I followed Jeff into the tank! As soon as his face appeared, I swear the entire body language of that big fish changed. It was almost like it was smiling and wagging its tail. The barra absolutely recognized its ‘master’. It was something I had previously thought impossible. Jeff was as chuffed as his pet at the reunion.
The Reidy’s B52 was probably Jeffs most popular model and I received half a dozen for testing. An immense amount of work had gone into the design of this particular lure – shape, weight, buoyancy, hardware – but most importantly, it was designed to be cast rather than trolled, harking back to Jeffs Queensland history where ‘flicking’ is the predominant technique. One interesting feature of the B52 was the inclusion of rattles, something that Jeff personally thought weren’t fish friendly. They were included because the market thought otherwise, a rare compromise on his part.
Small and big B52’s followed, the larger model proving to be one of the Daly’s top trolling producers. Around the same time, Reidy’s range of Rubbers proved deadly with those who favoured soft plastics for casting.
Jeff and Cheryl found kindred spirits when they sold the business in 2007 to Colin and Karen Burdon who have taken the name Reidy’s to a whole new level. Strong family ties found them relocate back to the Mackay area where they settled at Armstrongs Beach in a quiet beachfront home.
Cheryl passed a few years back, now Jeff has joined the wife he adored. But his legacy lives on through a bunch of lures bearing his name on nearly every northern tackle shop wall.
Vale to a great mate – and fishing legend!