Remembering a Lake James Legend: Buck Perry--"The Farther of Structure Fishing"
As North Carolina State Parks celebrate “The Year of the Fish” it’s a perfect time to recognize one of the icons of modern sport fishing, who just so happened to start his long and storied career here on Lake James.
Elwood “Buck” Perry was born in 1915 in Hickory, N.C. Throughout his youth, he accompanied his father on hunting and fishing excursions around Lake James. The lake was in its infancy those days and the bass fishery was only beginning to gain notoriety. Legend has it, young Master Perry addressed his father after another fishless day on the lake, “Dad, you know, the deep water is the home of the fish.”
That simple statement at 13-years-old was the beginning of Buck’s lifelong study of fish and how to catch them. After he graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne University, Perry taught mathematics and physics at Hickory High School. During World War II, he served in the European Theatre as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Transportation Corps.
After the war, Perry went back to school at N.C. State University and earned his advanced degree in engineering. It wasn’t long afterward that he combined his love of fishing with his expertise as an engineer and developed the fishing lure that would make him famous – the Spoonplug.
Perry’s patented lure had humble beginnings, as he and his wife, Marjorie, manufactured each and every lure in their garage on 9th Street in Hickory. The Spoonplug was designed for both casting and trolling, giving anglers the unique ability to control both the speed and depth at which it ran.
After proving his lure and his techniques on the reservoirs of western North Carolina, Buck took his show on the road, marketing the Spoonplug all over the country and gaining a reputation for catching massive stringers of bass and other gamefish at lakes and ponds the locals considered “fished out.”
Along the way, he was the subject of many magazine features and was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 1984, as well as inclusion in the Lenoir-Rhyne Distinguished Alumnus in business and membership in the Kentucky Colonels.
Perry passed away at the ripe old age of 90, but his legacy lives on in the bi-monthly National Spoonpluggers of America magazine. If you’re interested in local fishing history and honoring a legend, Spoonplugs are still manufactured and still catching fish. Maybe there’s space in your tacklebox for one.