It was around the time that we had to eat soup with forks that my mother noticed the spoons had been disappearing. That was not the moment to expound on what a fine pike spinner they made. Trouble was, a shop-bought spinner of any sort was beyond my schoolboy finances. No worries: the cutlery drawer held (for a while) an infinite source of pike lures.
You just cut off the handle, bore a hole in each end of the egg-shaped bit, put on two split rings, attach a swivel on one end, a treble hook on the other. In those days, though, I couldn't afford the swivels or the split rings. So I just tied on a hook. These home-made spinners could be made irresistible by adding fishy eyes and stripes with some gloss paint.
Actually, they didn't catch much. A few small, dumb, jack pike and once, an ambitious perch. But the spoons had the huge bonus of being free.
I was thinking about the family silver while reading Sowbelly, a book about trying to catch a world-record largemouth bass. The baits that the monster hunters all rate come from 3:16 Lures, run by ex-con Mickey Ellis. A born-again Christian (hence the company name, from John's Gospel), his favourite lure is the Armageddon, which he was selling at $316. He obviously decided that was overkill proselytising, so he's cut the price for the 10in artificial trout to a mere $250.
Once I thought the Mann's Gigantus, an American lure that costs about £100 here, was the top of the pile on price. Though it's probably the biggest, at 17in (most of the pike I caught were smaller than that), it's not even in the charts when it comes to jingling the tin. For now you can buy lures in pure gold or silver, decorated with diamonds.
A typical spinner from Macdaddy's of Shell Beach, California, will cost you $800, though a lure decorated with zirconias instead of diamonds can be as little as $40. On the other hand, the more ornate ones such as Jessica, a sterling silver, 14-carat gold-plated lure with 106 diamonds, will set you back nearer $10,000. There are even gold flies with diamond eyes, such as the Triple Threat, which comes in at $21,000. Don't like diamonds? Then you can choose sapphires, rubies or emeralds instead.
The co-founder, Mac McBurney, insists that the lures are for fishing rather than decoration. A jewellery designer, he's fished with every one and says: "There's nothing like the rush that you feel when you tie on one of these lures, cast it out and think: 'How good is my knot?' " His co-founder, Terry Conrad, said the lures were remarkably successful. "The reflection of gold and diamonds in the water is amazing."
But McBurney is working on something even more ambitious - a $1m lure. "I've been working on it for about six months and I haven't quite finished it yet, but I'm almost ready to produce a prototype." Just imagine that one getting hung on a snag.
Sowbelly, the Obsessive Quest for the World Record Largemouth Bass, published by Dutton ($5.99 on Amazon)