Popular hand-tied walleye spinners in the upper chamber
At night, or on weekends, or when he’s not fishing or hunting, especially if it’s raining or windy outside, Ashley finds herself alone in her bedroom feverishly working under her pseudonym: Pauly Wally.
Ashley is the founder, owner and sole employee of Paul Wally Tackle Co., something he started decades ago in his Superior home, primarily by lark. He now ties more than 10,000 walleye fishing spinners a year, selling them at local tackle stores, bait shops and on his own website.
Lures of all shapes and colors are neatly stored in plastic bins in the closet at Paul Ashley’s home in Superior. (Samantha Erkkila / [email protected])
It all started about 25 years ago when fellow fishermen noticed that he had a knot for knots.
“A few of my Steelheading buddies, some of the guys that were older and maybe couldn’t see as well, asked me to tie wire rigs to them. … Then they started asking for spinning platforms for the walleye. Then more people asked, ”Ashley said. “Eventually I started selling them rather than giving them away.”
Ashley, 69, started life in central Wisconsin but has lived in Superior since 1977. He first learned to tie a real snell knot from an old steelheader on the Brule River.
“It cost me a 12-pack of beers to learn it, that’s what he charged me,” Ashley said with a smile. “Now I pass it on to others. And I charge them a 12 pack too… except now you can go to YouTube and learn for free, so not as many people ask me.
Ashley can complete about 30 single, one-hook spinner platforms in an hour “if I really push it,” he said. It can do maybe 15 two-hook harnesses and 10 three-hook rigs at the same time.
Paul Ashley secures a snell knot while luring a lure at his home in Superior on June 11, 2021. (Samantha Erkkila / [email protected])
He usually works for an hour or two, after which he needs to be distracted. It’ll make a dozen of a specific color or type, then change.
“I’ve had orders for 100 of the same color, same pattern, and it’s getting a little boring,” Ashley said as he sat at her workbench.
“With the cost of the materials and the time it takes to make and take them out, that comes down to about $ 10 an hour of work,” he said.
But Ashley seems to really enjoy the job. In a guest bedroom of her upper house filled with decoy-making boxes and bins, Ashley has a desk with the measurements for each platform marked in permanent ink. It moves quickly, cutting chunks of loose monofilament fishing line on a spool, then enters its massive assortment of spinning blades, beads, floats, hooks, and other gear. It offers one, two and three hook versions, most made with a 15 pound test line and 36 inch leaders. The color match is remarkable, and when he mixes the colors of different pieces of hardware, he gets over 100 combinations. He will even do custom orders.
Paul Ashley is pointing fingers at a hot pink three hook lure he made at his home in Superior on June 11, 2021. Ashley said he can make about 15 lures in an hour and likes to change the color combinations to keep his interest. in the task. (Samantha Erkkila / [email protected])
He gets some help to develop new color schemes.
“My wife is good at that design part with the color combinations,” Ashley said.
But he leaves the fishermen to decide which ones he continues to do the most. You can tell which ones are most popular by empty or nearly empty display hooks at bait shops.
“Hammered brass and hammered nickels are still popular, especially on the St. Louis River here, the dark water. …. Chartreuse and oranges are also very popular, ”he said.
Ashley’s personal favorite?
“I would say shiny pink… Hammered brass is good too,” he said.
Paul Ashley wields a newly handcrafted three hook lure with a hot pink diamond blade at his home in Superior on June 11, 2021. (Samantha Erkkila / [email protected])
Ashely said that in some years the popularity of unusual colors skyrocketed. Last year it was black spinner blades. This year the propeller style “smile” spinners are big.
Last year, when taverns and restaurants were closed due to COVID, Ashley mostly lost her day job. So he crouched down and started making more tackles than ever. He even launched his own website, paulywallytackleco.com, where customers can order directly from its growing assortment of products including ice fishing jigs, fast-hitting pike gear and Lake Superior trolling spoons.
“I don’t push the website hard. I sell at the same prices as the stores, so I’m not trying to compete with anyone. But it’s a chance to reach new people, ” Ashley said, noting that he shipped equipment to New York, Iowa and Michigan this summer.
“This has probably been my busiest year,” he noted.
He pays attention to the little details, like using packaging in Green Bay Packers colors and wrapping each spinner platform in a tight circle, followed by three loops to keep it from unwinding, and l insertion of each in a small Ziploc bag so that the color of the blade underlines it. to the client.
Paul Ashley throws a bag of hot pink diamond blades on his workbench. Ashley said hot pink was one of her most popular lure colors. (Samantha Erkkila / [email protected])
For a year now, Ashley has faced increasing COVID-related issues with her hardware supply chain. Almost half of a recent order placed with a wholesaler of hardware supplies was sold out. Still, he has managed to keep most of his clients happy.
Of the roughly 10,000 units it will sell this year, 2,500 will be in Superior’s Bait Box alone, the first store that has transported its rigs and still its biggest customer.
“He’s one of our best sellers. It’s probably the best-selling (lure) we have, ”Cheryl Dinda said at the Bait Box bait shop in Superior.
“He’s a local guy and that means a lot here,” Dinda added. “And they work. So people come back and buy more.
A large display of Pauly-Wally Tackle Co. lures hangs near the counter at the Bait Box bait shop in Superior on June 11, 2021. (Samantha Erkkila / [email protected])
Pauly Wally Tackle is now available at a dozen stores locally, including Marine General, Fisherman’s Corner, the Twig Store and Chalstroms in the Duluth area as well as Northwest Outlet in Superior, The Cabin Store in Barnes, AAA Sports in Spooner, the C – Store in Iron River and Solon Mercantile in Solon Springs.
Russ Francisco, owner of Marine General, said spinners Paully Wally have moved on quickly this season.
“I already had to rearrange. Cool stuff, ”noted Francisco.
Paul Ashley, owner and sole employee of Pauly-Wally Tackle Co. in Superior, with a 30.25-inch walleye that he caught and released on the St. Louis River in May using one of the its hand-attached nocturnal crawler drilling rigs. (Photo courtesy of Paul Ashley)
Ashley often stops by bait shops on her pizza delivery route, either to fill orders or to get a new customer. So far, most of the bait shops he visits are biting.
“I don’t go out of my way to try and buy them in stores,” he said. “But every place I show them to people, they end up putting them in their store.”