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A person is fortunate to meet anyone at the top of their chosen field. But for a marlin fisherman and saltwater trolling lure junky to have that opportunity with Joe Yee himself is beyond luck; it is a privilege.
Joe Yee and Eric White have been friends for decades. Over the course of numerous trips to Honolulu between us, Eric and I spent virtually every waking moment with Joe for days. The time spent in Joe's shop going through his processes, philosophies, successes and failures was an amazing experience.
In Joe Yee and His Lures, Joe talks about his past, surfing and fishing with his good friend Duke (as in Kahanamoku,) popular lures he made, and anything else that came to his mind.
In “Chapter 2: The Makings of a Joe Yee Lure,” the phrase 'keep it simple' takes on a whole new meaning. Watching Joe cut brass tubing with a hand drill and a tubing cutter was almost painful to watch, so I had to ask. “Joe, I understand ‘keep it simple’ but how about at least a band saw to cut tubing?” “I got a band saw. I had a guy help move it down into the basement. I never opened it. It's right over there (he points to a stack of boxes). It’s there for 20 years. Just trying to keep things simple you know.”
Joe's dry sense of humor comes shining through, whether it was hiding a treasure Eric had found in the shop, or talking about pouring lead outside since the fumes are harmful. “Out here they blow over there (points toward a neighboring house). It must be OK (he said with a smile) because the guy didn’t die until he was 96.”
This part of the book also debunks many widely held myths that “Joe never did this” or “Joe always did that.” You will find that Joe did what Joe wanted to do, and either sold those unique pieces to a few people he liked or gave them to friends. He only printed one 'catalog' in 55 years of lure making, and a full copy of that catalog is in the Appendix.
Pages 115-160 are chapters on eyes, labels, identification, fakes, patterns, oddballs and of course, more Joe. The book ends with my last question to Joe. “Joe, if you were surrounded by every person that ever bought a Joe Yee lure, what would you say to them?”
"I would tell them all that I hope they catch a 1000-pounder. Once a customer, always a friend.”
When first approached about the idea of doing a book about him, Joe’s typical modest reaction was, “That’s fine with me, but nobody will buy it.” It’s quite a project to research decades of craftsmanship and confirm the findings through the maker when you are working with a modest personality like Joe’s. Presenting it accurately and as unfiltered as possible is another challenge.
Throughout this process Joe insisted this book be about his lures, not himself. Inside Joe Yee and His Lures you will find both. And you should know that this book was done with the permission and cooperation of Joe Yee, and that Joe was a major partner in the distribution of any proceeds from this book … even though he of course said he wanted nothing.
Only 1000 limited edition, numbered copies were printed. Joe Yee and His Lures is a “coffee table style” large 9 ¼” X 12 ¼” glossy, full-color, hardcover, case-bound book. More than 400 full-color photographs are printed on glossy art-quality paper with gold gilt edges. It deserved no less.
I hope you enjoy this book half as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
~ Dan Magers