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Jan 23rd, 2013
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My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant #14455625 08/22/22 01:17 AM
Joined: Dec 2007
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Holding The Line Online Content OP
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My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant


My wife and I awoke at 2 a.m. this past Tuesday, August 16th, to leave ample time for our 6 a.m. departure from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. After conducting my one and only fishing trip for the week on Monday, then doing copious amounts of laundry and dishes, taking the dog to grandma’s house, etc., the time for our long-awaited trip to Wisconsin had finally come.

After fishing about five days each week in 100-degree weather since June, the promise of Wisconsin’s cooler temperatures would have been reason enough to leave Texas. We went one better, however, and planned to visit the Mepps fishing lure production facility in Antigo, Wisconsin.

[Linked Image]

CAPTION: From left, Mepps production manager Dan Sheldon, Central Texas fishing guide Bob Maindelle, and Mepps customer service manager Laurie Powell stand in front of the display of Mepps' 7,000 varieties of inline spinners at their production facility in Antigo, Wisconsin.

The word ‘Mepps’ is actually an acronym for the company’s French name, which is Manufacturier D’Engins De Precision Pour Peches Sportives; an English interpretation would read: Precision Equipment
for Sport Fishing.

After landing in Milwaukee courtesy of Southwest Airlines, we rented a car and began the three-hour drive west to the small town of Antigo, Wisconsin, where we would stay overnight in advance of the plant tour we had scheduled on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, we were greeted by Dan Sheldon, Mepps’ production manager, and Laurie Powell, Mepps’ customer service manager. It was Laurie with whom I made my first contact with Mepps back in
the spring of 2020, which ultimately led to a relationship between my own business and theirs in which Mepps would produce the MAL family of lures which I had conceived of.

For over two years now I had done business with these folks who, up until this point, were only voices on a phone line or signatories on emails.

The facility itself was neat and orderly in all aspects. Incredibly, all 7,000 lure types which Mepps manufactures are on display within.

With my background in engineering and having had a life-long curiosity about how things work, I was most anticipating the tour of the automated equipment which assembles and packages what Mepps
rightly boasts as “The World’s #1 Lure.”


[Linked Image]

CAPTION: While fishing for Green Bay walleye with the crew from Mepps, we quickly discovered Texas white bass aren't the only species which fall for the MAL Lure! This one took an MAL Heavy with white blade and chartreuse tail.



I was actually a bit surprised, then, to find how much of the assembly of Mepps products is still done by hand. From the sorting of components, to the placement of those components onto the shaft of what will become an inline spinner, to bending and creating the wire loops on either end of the lure, to tying squirrel-tail hairs onto the lures’ hooks, much of the production is still done by hand by Americans in America.

About the only truly automated process is the packaging of the lures into their distinctive, protective, clear plastic packages suitable for hanging on bait store walls. Even that process, however, relies on

people to place the packaging into receptacles, and then the lures into the packaging, before the machinery takes over and seals the lure in place.

According to company employees, Mepps got its start in 1951 when Tom Sheldon received a gift from a soldier returning home to the U.S. from Europe. That gift was a fishing lure, generically referred to as an inline spinner.

Sheldon had such success with the lure that he began producing his own rendition in a 10-foot by 10-foot space in the back of his bait and tackle store. Today, Mepps operates from a 50,000 square foot

production facility which cranks out over three million lures annually.

In all, about 45 employees work together to crank out this tremendous volume of lures each year, but not all of these employees show up at the factory for work each day. Many actually work from home,
and did so prior to the impacts of COVID-19. Those engaged in this cottage industry come in to the plant, pick up spinner shafts, hooks, feathers, squirrel tails, thread and the cylindrical components which made up the lures’ bodies, and assemble these into a partially completed spinner. These partials are then returned to the plant for completion.

At the plant, workers are all cross-trained so everyone can perform each of the tasks necessary to produce a quality end product. Once again, I was amazed at the longevity of the majority of the workers
at the Mepps plant. For many, working for Mepps was the one and only job they had ever held in a 30- or 40-year career, or more. Indeed, as we arrived in the parking lot before our tour, we saw an older lady, who we later learned was 84 years of age and who had worked for Mepps nearly 50 years, arrive on her bicycle from her home a few blocks away.

As our tour began, we entered into the process where those pieces not pre-assembled by those working from home are added to the wire shaft of the lure. This typically includes two cone-shaped brass
components called “bells”, a U-shaped clevis from which the spinner blade is hung, and a bead – all intended to help get the spinner’s blade spinning quickly and easily, and to keep it spinning freely during the retrieve.

Next, we visited what looked like a small laundromat with industrial-strength washers and driers lining the walls. This is where the red, gray and fox squirrel tails sent in by hunters from all over the country are received in, laundered, dyed, cut to length, then cinched securely onto hooks to give certain spinners even more fish-catching appeal.

[Linked Image]


CAPTION: Industrial washers and driers are used to launder squirrel tails and deer tails for the various Mepps products which incorporate "dressed" treble hooks.


From there we visited a workstation where extremely durable decals are placed onto the spinner blades to enhance color, contrast and appeal.

Next, it was on to another work area where proprietary machines are used to form the loop in the wire shaft which will serve as the place where an angler’s line is attached to the lure. In so doing, all of the accessories previously placed on the shaft are secured in place. Finally, the ‘tag’ ends of the wire are both cleanly and precisely snipped off before the lures are moved on for packaging.

Two ladies were working the packaging machine when we toured through their area. Each worked diligently, and in sync with the other, to lures into inverted plastic bubble pack trays. Once the lures
were resting in their proper place, the frames were whisked into a heated chamber where the glue on a product information card was made tacky enough to adhere to the plastic bubble pack holding the
lure. The two are mated together and the result is a neatly positioned lure, suspended within the package, ready to be displayed on a bait shop’s shelf.

Our final stop within the main building was at the shipping and storage areas where finished products are either shelved and sit ready for future orders or are shipped out.

From the main building, Dan Sheldon walked us about a block away to a separate facility where their spray booths are located. It is here where any lure components which must be painted have etching,
paint and clear coats applied before heading to a natural gas-fired drying oven.

We concluded the tour back where we had begun, in the company’s lobby, where walk-in customers routinely come in off the street to buy lures and other Mepps accessories and/or to sell squirrel tails,
and where a handsome trophy room with mounted specimens of both fish and game are on display.

The roughly 30-minute tour of the main building is available to the public Monday through Thursday.

The tour times vary with the season. In January through April tours are offered at 10:15 a.m. and 2 p.m. From May through December, tours go at 9:15, 10:15 and 11:15 AM, and at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.

Find out more at Mepps' website

MAL Lures found here: MAL Lure Store

Last edited by Holding The Line; 08/22/22 01:45 AM.

[Linked Image]
Bob Maindelle, 254-368-7411
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Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: Holding The Line] #14455662 08/22/22 02:02 AM
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Great write-up of your visit, Bob! Thanks for sharing. That's really cool!! Sounds like a really AMAZING and close-knit company to have such loyal employees. I'm wondering - to still carry the Mepps name as they do, is there still an affiliation with a French Mepps company, or is all manufacturing now done in the Antigo facility?

Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: CarolinaPartimer] #14455798 08/22/22 10:47 AM
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Holding The Line Online Content OP
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Originally Posted by CarolinaPartimer
Great write-up of your visit, Bob! Thanks for sharing. That's really cool!! Sounds like a really AMAZING and close-knit company to have such loyal employees. I'm wondering - to still carry the Mepps name as they do, is there still an affiliation with a French Mepps company, or is all manufacturing now done in the Antigo facility?


Carolina, there is still very much a relationship with Mepps-France. Most of the brass bodies and brass components used on Mepps' spinners still come from France, although the various impacts of COVID on the supply chain pushed Mepps-USA to install machinery to do some of their own brass work in house now.


[Linked Image]
Bob Maindelle, 254-368-7411
Holding The Line Guide Service
Bob@HoldingTheLineGuideService.com
Stillhouse & Belton
Ask About Trips for Kids


Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: Holding The Line] #14455877 08/22/22 12:38 PM
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Very cool post. Thanks for sharing, Bob. I love history and the cause and effect principle.

I am actually in Austin now reading this, cuz helping my son move here and starting his new job after UT.

Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: Holding The Line] #14456268 08/22/22 06:21 PM
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Dennis Christian Offline
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Bob, thanks for sharing - cool info about my favorite bait. Dennis

Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: Holding The Line] #14457263 08/23/22 04:34 PM
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Awesome post. Thanks for sharing. thumb


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Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: Holding The Line] #14457300 08/23/22 05:15 PM
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Very cool post, thanks for sharing!


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and fishing stories that my kids can share with others


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Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: Holding The Line] #14457421 08/23/22 07:28 PM
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SALLYSUE Offline
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Those are some great baits

Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: SALLYSUE] #14458895 08/25/22 12:57 PM
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Cool thanks for sharing


Lake Texoma Striper Guide Chris Carey


Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: Holding The Line] #14461994 08/29/22 03:49 AM
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This is a fantastic post. Thank you. I loved it.


Johnnlucky



Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: Holding The Line] #14470917 09/08/22 01:15 AM
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Thanks for sharing!


2016 Skeeter ZX250 w/250 Yamaha VMax Sho

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Re: My Visit to the Mepps Fishing Lure Plant [Re: Holding The Line] #14472808 09/09/22 07:14 PM
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Thanks for sharing , great bait . I order direct from Mepps , all orders are shipped ASAP, good people to do business with

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