A devil of a good lure

by Joe Thureau

For almost thirty years, one of the most successful lures to ever grace the tackle boxes of Tasmanian trout fishers has been the Tasmanian Devil. First envisaged and manufactured by Wigstons of New Norfolk, this lure, which started from humble beginnings, has now spread its fame to overseas countries such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

In recent times Tasmanian Devils have also proved successful on many salt water species including Australian Salmon, Flathead, Kingfish and Barracouta. Their universal appeal stems from their flexibility in running and working at varying depths and boat speeds, the enticing inbuilt action, and the sixty different colour combinations. New colours are constantly being suggested, developed and tested by anglers. Four new colour combinations were recently introduced. New designs are tested and old ones are altered, all with the view of producing a better lure for the trout fisher.

Often known as a Cobra, the Tasmanian Devil has been praised by anglers in many different fishing environments.  It is from the shape of the plastic "wings", similar to the hood of the of a rampant Cobra, that the lure derives its name from the same shape that it achieves its attractive action. Sizes available are; the Little Devil, weighing 7 grams, deigned for shallow water and river fishing, the original "Standard"Devil of 13.5 grams and the Big Devil of 26 grams for deeper water. Tasmanian Devils will operate in the normal mode, and is mostly rigged in this manner, but it can be reversed, the hooks being then sited at the heavy, nose end of the lure. This seldom used rig is gaining in popularity with anglers, who use it with success at a faster than normal boat speed. The rig allows the lure to run deep and can be used at faster speed without twisting. The flexibility of the design is shown when anglers use their own favourite rigs, single hook, single and treble combination, leadlines, often with additional weights to take lures deep, and with attractors such as "Cowbells" and "Ford Fenders" included, when the trout are being difficult.

Tassie Devil lures were first conceived in the New Norfolk RSL Club, in the early 1970's, when the late Eddie Wigston and his sons Ian and Garth were enjoying a quiet beer, after a hard day's work. It was Ian who manufactured the first lure (unnamed) with the advice and assistance of Don Reid, a local angler and lure maker of a great deal of experience and skill. Eddie Wigston added his experience and knowledge. Eddie was entrusted with the testing of the embryonic lure. Many tales are told of unsuccessful prototypes being altered, and becoming effective fish takers, as the result of Eddie's insistence.

The lures, in those days comprised a lead core, bent to the desired shape, coloured with tinted aluminium foil, and enclosed in a clear plastic envelope which was glued together to hold the core film. From the start, the lures took many fish, and knowing anglers made efforts to acquire them, or at least one or two. They were not on sale at the time.

Many blank days were salvaged by these lures and gradually, still untamed, they achieved a reputation throughout Tasmania. Ian gave a number of his lures to a friend, John Heizer of Victoria, for testing on the trout in Dartmouth Dam in that State. The tests prove extremely successful and John Heizer passed some lures to a tackle dealer in Wodonga who, after further testing, was so impressed that he ordered a batch of what he called "Tasmanian Devils" from Ian. The Wigston lures had finally found a name. Originally, Ian manufactured his lures in his workshop, in Pioneer Avenue, New Norfolk - until he was banished by his wife Jill. The potent odours were taking over the family home and he had to go. An old shed, situated at the rear of Wigston's Store in High Street, New Norfolk, was cleared and Ian and Garth undertook the manufacture of lures from here. In 1974, Garth Wigston had resigned as Service Manager for Philips Electrical and, with Ian, joined in the family business. Their father Eddie having retired and passed the business to the two sons. Staff were employed, on the manufacture of the Devils around 1980 as their reputation continuing to grow. New, modern machinery was purchased, production expanded and the lure-making business took of for the Wigstons. The shed at the rear of the store could no longer hold the equipment and personnel and it was doubled in size. The new machinery enabled the use of a hot plastic injection process of manufacture, together with a production line system.

The popularity of the Tasmanian Devils continued to expand and the factory at New Norfolk could no longer cope with the demand. In 1993, Ian sold has share of Wigstons Lures to Garth and the lure making activity was transferred to a new factory in Gepp Parade, Glenorchy.

Garth and his son Stuart have installed new machinery and increased production enormously to cope with the rapidly developing markets. Tasmanian Devils have not been developed without having experienced some major problems. In the early days, the glue used in the early models was unsatisfactory, and two pieces of plastic shell sometimes falling apart. Later, soft plastic was used to hold the lead core and, if a large fish hit this plastic, it sometimes fractured, much to the dismay of the unfortunate angler.

These problems being overcome, another one was encountered. It was found that Warner Brothers of the USA owned Trade Mark rights to the words Tasmanian Devil and following several years of negotiation, a world wide Certificate of Allowance was finally issued to Wigstons Lures. This allowed the famous brand name to be used anywhere through out the world. Despite these set backs, and many other problems, the reputation of the Tasmanian Devil continues to grow and overseas markets to expand. Competition is strong; many beautifully finished overseas lures are imported to these, added to competition from a large range from Australian lure makers. Garth and Stuart continue to manufacture, package and dispatch increasing numbers of Tasmanian Devils to many local and international customers.

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