This was essentially done by ABU, all over the world, for all the right reasons i.e. to fulfill a
quality product gap and meet a need NOT merely to reduce costs and
increase profits as is common practice of many private companies as
well as public sector
Government Departments today.
Successive generations of owners/managers, Gote and
Lennart Borgstrom of the family company A.B.Urfabriken were
forward thinking in that when they saw a product need and they were
not producing the item at that point in time, they sought to
supplement the company offerings by sourcing a supplier to fulfil
One thing was paramount in a private family company with no
board of directors and bean-counters/auditors to report to, was
to create quality products almost at any cost. The items were never cheap, but when
weighed up with quality and length of service, they would prove to
be in expensive on cost /per day of service.
Initially product sources came from European countries but
when better was found across the Atlantic in USA, it was eventually added to
the ABU stable of thoroughbreds.
To my knowledge, nothing was
outsourced from Australia , Africa or at this time , prior to 1981,
It seems from the earliest times, 1940’s onwards, ABU was in
need of not only specialized fishing reels but also rods, lines,
lures and accessories. Tooling up for hundreds and later thousands
of different product items, some composed of dozens or up to a
hundred discrete parts, could not happen overnight or even in a
couple of years. These parts were made by hand, punched out or
created on lathes to complete the highly demanding standards of
tolerance required. Timelines and production rates were major issues
for the fledgling company. Great staff relations where workers
tested products and made recommendations of
modifications/improvements saw this company eventually become the
course as well as topics like 1. Standard Production
in Sweden and 2. Out-sourcing , other issues like 3. Cessation of
Product lines 4. Re-issue of Product lines 5. Commemorative
Reproductions and 6. World Marketing beyond
Europe, and 7. Wholesale Off-shore Production,
would become necessary for ABU and future owners of the company. For
the moment , I will contain my self to highlighting some of the
outsourced items and perhaps gather more info for the other
topics in future.
my mind, ABU in the early years 40s/60, rarely collaborated outside
the company, only with Zangi of Italy for spinning reels and
Everol of Italy for huge IGFA reels, , BUT never to produce their
Record casting/Ambassadeur range of fine reels.
They reigned supreme “Fit for a King”
Pfleger Casting and Medalist Fly Reels from the 1955 N&N catalog
p.34/35. The logic of this defies me and I am still to determine the
marketing strategy behind this action.
of the first problems for ABU was the use of the actual name Record
for which this licenced name was already being used by a Swiss
company on their range of spinning reels. ABU initially specialized
in casting reels , documented elsewhere on this site, but the
early spinning reels came from Switzerland and Zangi of Italy had to
imported. These were groundbreaking in design (multi speed models)
and no doubt ABU learned a lot from this relationship before
becoming independent in this area, eventually some 4 decades later
becoming responsible for the creation of what was argueably the best
spinning reel to be designed: The Suverian
Series 1000 to 4000 size.
Two decades or more later, Cardinal spinning reels ( identical
except in colour and model name) were marketed into USA by Zebco in the 50’s as
Garcia had obligations to the French Mitchell Reels.
were badged slightly differently over
four or more versions.
was not just spinning reels, but
Big Game reels,
Fly reels and
ice fishing reels that were also outsourced. In the late 50’s
the Borgstom family commissioned the Everol Company to badge
engineer the beautiful big red IGFA reels ( made in 4/0, 6/0, 7 ½ /0
and rumor has it, a prototype 9/0 model) and had them branded
ABU for sale in Europe and Garcia for sale in USA. The reels were
identical featuring the famous “2 daughters and rising sun symbol” ,
differing only for marketing name.
To my knowledge all Abumatic, 500 series and Ambassadeurs
were all designed and built in Svangsta, Sweden.
Diplomat 420 and 450 Mooching Reels, made of graphite, were I
believe created in
USA but I cannot confirm this for
For one year only, the distinctive blue and yellow Delphin (in 2
models small and large)was imported from Finland and I am
also quite uncertain as to why this was done. To my mind it offered
no advantage over the existing ABU Pimpel lineup.
the mid 40's and early 50's , the very best of rods were of split
cane design and manufacture. ABU came into rod manufacture for the
first time. Initially they had a Norwegian company by the name of
Horgard supply their need for cane rods.
Only link I can find to this Norwegian manufacturer was
here , no gone, and the cane rod resides with Artefacts Canada, written in
Their first move away from cane rods and into mainstream rods,
(in this case hollow steel rods) were built on , courtesy of Swedish
steel manufacturer Sandviken Stal. In the 1960 Tight Lines catalog,
ABU trumpet the values of the new space age material Fibre Glass.
They were quick to take advantage of this US technology . The first
rods made of steel and solid fibre glass were branded Record
while all ABU branded rods were hollow fibreglass. The relationship
with Narmco (USA based Industrial firm) as to advantage ABU for many
years. I cannot determine just when ABU developed their own rod
blank manufacturing capability. Please advise me if you know more.
Before ABU fully developed all its capability with respect
to lure design and manufacturing, it imported and included product
such as these from Norway in the 1951 Napp och Nytt catalog.
The real lures looked like this.
seems ABU’s strength lay in the production of simple spoons, perks
and spinners, easily pressed from existing equipment. Very
interestingly, ABU had a thriving home based assembly industry for
some lures. Lure parts and instructions were supplied to local
housewives who were largely tied to the house in the 40’s but happy
to find some paid work that could be easily completed at home.
Later when the plastic lures started to enter the world
market and of course ABU wanted to be part of this expanding market,
they had to be outsourced and symbiotic relationships
developed between ABU and other world companies ranging from
Some of my Collected examples
Of particular interest was ABU’s collaboration with the
world’s largest lure manufacturer Heddon. Always aspiring to be
world’s best practice , ABU only associated with likewise companies
from who they learned. Faithfulness was not a strongpoint of these
arrangements as they all eventually soured. This logical agreement
re marketing some Heddon lures in Europe via the ABU network would
work well for 5 years until ABU’s modified Heddon Spook plug,
called the Hilo (with patented adjustable depth bib) ate into
the psyche of USA fishermen and seriously threatened sales and the
relationship ended in 1960. The Hilo lure today still
remains one of the most popular in the eyes of fishermen and myself
would never fail to have some in my tacklebox whilst the Heddon
version would remain on my display wall owing to rarity.
Thanks to Mike
Elsworth for these nice images of the Heddon Sonic as marketed in
Sweden by ABU
The second major lure which ABU brought into their fine
stable of plugs was the Killer. My friend Henrik
here) has taught me so much about the history of this fine
Killer minnow lure,
which incidentally was the first lure I ever bought to catch
Barramundi with in the mid 60’s. By then I was buying genuine ABU
product with the classic parallel lined and cross hatched black,
blue or gold with silver colouration. By then the lure had been
modified many times from its original Finnish form originally
conceived on the lakeside with input from Laurie Rapala and the
other great name Nils Master.
Len Borgtrom's words.....
First we bought wooden bodies from Päjänne
I do not think that these were called Killer. The wooden bodies did
not hold up very well, so when I found the Rebel models on one of my
trips to one of the AFTMA shows, I made an agreement with them to
buy the plastic bodies from them. I think that is when we gave it
the name Killer.
The first ABU Killers were made with bodies manufactured by Rebel.
Now I believe they are all made in the Orient.
It is believed the Rakan may have Danish origins but conclusive
proof is still awaited.
The list goes on but it would be remiss of me not to mention
in passing the Scottish origins of the Kynock Killer invented and
tested by Jock Kynoch on the
Tay River. This design was licensed for a
short time by ABU and called the ABU Kynoch. Its sliding up the line
design so only the hooks remained firmly and heavily attached to the
salmon’s mouth was innovative. The major design elements of this top
running surface popper has been much copied and no serious lure
fisherman today would be without a popper in his tackle box. The
‘original’ is still being modified, with one website, I recently
noted, offering custom painting of the old design.
Bing McClellan of Burke from USA developed the soft rubber
technology (and was probably first to do so) for creating
lures and the Little Dig eventually became part of ABU’s lineup
called the Cello and Cello Dip, offered in 4 colours and one size
only for each of the popper and deep diving versions.
images of 1972 Catalog and specific lures are here.
My most recent "discovery" courtesy of
Todd Larson is
that of the ABU plug called the Snoky. It has originally been made
as the Thompson Doll fish below. The lure came into the ABU
catalogue due to the relationship between Thompson/Brunswick and
Brunswick/Zebco and Zebco/ABU.
I would love to add one to my collection if anyone has one for
The Doll Fish was a popular lure first introduced in 1972. Outdoor
writer Don Carpenter declared of it in The Annapolis Evening
Capital: "Something new in plugs for fishing is the 'Doll Fish'
made by Thompson Fishing Tackle Co., Knoxville, Tenn. It is a
sinking, fast-vibrating brilliant colored minnow with real-to-life
scales that make it look like the McCoy. It emits a 'clickity chek'
sound while moving, is made in three sizes, 1/4-ounce, 3/8-ounce,
and 5/8-ounce--colors ranging from light to dark."
A Thompson Doll Fish in the box
In 1972, after two decades at the helm, Doll Thompson sold his
company to Brunswick Corporation, venerable pool table makers who
had acquired Zebco corporation in 1961.
The lure maker himself!
Having made a name for
themselves in the fishing reel market, the Brunswick-owned Zebco
found a nice match in Doll Thompson, who served on the Board of
Directors of the firm until 1975. Zebco continued making most of
Thompson's line into the 1980s.
This particular deep diving model was not translated
to the ABU stable
Len Borgstrom's words....
Now I remember! I actually fished the upper
Amazon for peacock bass together with Doll and Homer Circle. In the early 1970s! I still
have some nice paintings, which I got from him in my summer house
Thanks for reminding me. I just forgot the name we gave that lure!
other links between Burke and ABU are suggested below by the Welsh
Sleuth himself Mike Elsworth.
I first came across a lure called the Swappin' Droppen on a card
with both Abu and Burke on it. The lure has a rubber body with a
hair tail and uses interchangeable Droppen spinning blades (pic to
follow). This lure really intrigued me so I started asking people in
America what they knew about Burke. I found out that they had ceased
trading but they had made really neat rubber bodied baits throughout
the 60s and 70s, maybe into the 80s.
Then I found a Big Dig lure and realised that it was a Cello Dip
with a different lip. I started asking more questions and found an
Ol' Twitch, it was a Cello ! Then the penny dropped Abu's rubber
bodied lures must have been made by Burke ! Last year I was told by
a friend in America that he had been speaking with an old guy that
used to work for Burke, the old guy clearly recalled that Abu bought
baits from Burke. You have subsequently had this confirmed by Len so
this is now proved as fact.
Len B; "I think that Burke (Bing McClellan) tried
to sell our lures after Garcia gave it up. He was not successful and
might have dumped the parts."
What is less clear is whether Burke also made the Rakan, I believe
that they did. I also believe that they made the fish part of the
I have spoken to the an expert on all things Burke, and I showed him
a pic of a Rakan and he did not know it.
Len B; "Rakan
was after my time, so I do not know.
He did however think that Burke could have made it. I am not aware
that any other firm had the technology to make it at that time. So
for me it must have been Burke.
The next strange twist came when I found a Reflex on a Burke card,
then I found a Toby ! My prediction is that I will find an Ellips
Why ? about three years ago I bought a large collection of lure
parts from a guy in America. The parts were Toby bodies, Droppen
bodies and blades and Elipps bodies. It turned out that he worked
for a scrap metal merchant and there were tonnes of these parts
being melted down ! He saved a few examples because he thought they
were too good to scrap.. He was right.
(Mike Elsworth) current
theory is that the then Abu Company may have gone
through financial difficulty and paid Burke with lure parts.
Possibly they made them into finished lures and sold what they
could. When Burke
itself was wound up the remaining parts were sold off as scrap. Just
my theory at the moment but I bet that I am not far off the truth.
Len B: "The first ABULON monofilaments
were made by Plate
Bonn. Same as Platil, but private brand for us.
ABU fly lines were made by Sunset Lines in California. Then by another company. I cannot
remember the name just now, but they were the first with floater fly
lines with integrated air bubbles. The name will come to me
eventually. Very famous company and at that time the leaders in the
field. The name of the company was AIR CEL!!
Accessories: Tackle boxes etc ???
I am still seeking information on more
outsourced reels, rods, fishing lines and accessories.
Any additions or corrections to this information would be greatly
appreciate by myself.