George Wahl passed away on November 19, 2008 after a battle with cancer.
The following is reprinted from StarTribune, Sunday, November 23, 2008.
August 2008 many of George’s friends got together to “roast” George. In September 2008 he was able to take one last trip to Whitefish Bay on Lake of the Woods. During the trip he was interviewed by Muskie magazine.
A DVD with both George’s roast and his interview is available by contacting Paul Hartman at 763-269-2144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wahl, 65, hooked anglers with his fishing lure
A workplace injury spurred George Wahl to redirect his work to the promotion of all things muskie.
By BEN COHEN, Star Tribune
Last update: November 22, 2008 – 8:30 PM
George Wahl knew a thing or two about what lures a muskie to the hook. And as an avid muskie angler and inventor of the Eagle Tail lure, he’d caught his share and helped others catch theirs, too.
Along the way, he helped make Minnesota a top muskie fishing destination. Wahl, who founded the Minnesota Muskie Expo, made the famous lure and raised funds for fisheries research, died of cancer Nov. 19 at his home in Golden Valley.
He was 65.
He grew up in north Minneapolis, restoring cars and selling them, later becoming a mechanic for a dealership. Nearly 30 years ago, he was hit by a driver while on the job, and the accident left him with a broken back.
No longer able to work as a mechanic, he turned to making fishing lures in his basement.
In the early 1980s, he fashioned a fish-fooler in a few weeks. After a few days of direct selling, he signed dealers in Wisconsin and snagged an exclusive arrangement with the old Burger Bros. stores.
His lure has caught more 50-inch fish in muskie contests than any other bait, said Paul Hartman of Blaine, who now runs the event Wahl started, which has been renamed George’s Muskie Expo. The annual three-day event attracts thousands of muskie fanatics.
As for the lure’s popularity, “he said the name was everything,” because others failed with similar lures, said Hartman.
Wahl not only caught a lot of muskies — he stopped counting years ago around 400, his biggest a 56-incher — he made a lot of friends.
Most tackle makers and fisherman hold close their secrets, but not Wahl. He’d teach anyone how to make his lure and help people launch their tackle businesses, said Hartman.
It made good marketing sense to him to freely give his lures away to strangers he met while fishing. Years later, they would ask him to autograph the lure.
About 14 years ago, he founded the Minnesota Muskie Expo, held annually in the Twin Cities.
Wahl had donated more than $70,000 of the show’s proceeds to Muskies Inc., the national group formed in Minnesota to promote muskie fishing. He once served as president of the Twin Cities chapter and was involved in the early efforts to stock muskies in Twin Cities lakes.
Russ Peterson of Minnetonka, who Wahl introduced to muskie fishing, said Wahl was keen to provide fishing opportunities for needy children. He also raised money for use in muskie research by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and its counterpart in Ontario, Canada.
John Olson of Richfield, a past board member of Muskies Inc., said, “If he saw a fish somewhere, he would take you to it, and watch you catch it.”
In the Aug. 31 Star Tribune, Wahl reminisced about how, in 1972, he became a muskie fisherman.
“A muskie almost jumped in my boat, chasing a lure,” he said. “It was a big fish, too; it scared me to death. You see something like that, it changes your life.”