WAUWATOSA, Wis. -- Every angler has at least a bit of collector in him.
Who among us hasn't bought a lure because it was handsome or saved an old piece of tackle due to sentimental value?
And others, well, the collecting gene is clearly dominant.
Take Chris Hauser of Wauwatosa.
"I got hooked about 20 years ago," said Hauser, 50, of fishing tackle collecting. "I still like fishing, but my time on the water is down a bit."
Hauser is, for sake of clarity, prone to understatement.
His collection of fishing tackle includes lures, flies, reels, rods, promotional material, fishing regulations and just about anything to do with the sport between the 1870s and 1970s.
He has nearly a tackle box for every day of the year. And most are filled with lures.
As most avid collectors, Hauser is filled with stories.
"The founder's mother complained about him using so much expensive bait," said Hauser, pointing to a lure from the Musky Sucker Bait Manufacturing Company of Madison. "So he designed an artificial."
Thousands of such stories will be exchanged when Hauser and hundreds of other collectors gather later this month at the Great Milwaukee Classic in Brookfield.
The event, hosted by the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club, is an annual high-point for sellers, buyers and those just plain interested in antique tackle.
"I really like the historical aspect of it," said Hauser. "And coming from the Milwaukee area, there's so much to learn about local lures and companies."
The NFLCC is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering an awareness of fishing tackle collecting as a hobby. The group has about 5,000 members in the U.S., Canada, Japan and other foreign countries.
More than 200 exhibitors are expected at the Great Milwaukee Classic. The public is invited to bring fishing tackle for free appraisals; people also may sell it in auctions at the event.
NFLCC retains 10 percent of the sale price to help pay costs of the show.
Hauser is a fan of the show, and not just because he is one of the exhibitors.
"The shows are best for gaining knowledge," said Hauser. "Knowledge is king. It not only helps you learn what about the values of certain tackle, but helps you learn what variety is out there."
Some collectors specialize in certain manufacturers like Heddon or Creek Chub or Milwaukee Bait Company.
Others focus on types of tackle, like bamboo rods or hand-carved, wooden lures.
And some create collections based on geographical boundaries.
Hauser, for example, is working on a display box of Wisconsin-made lures.
The hobby appeals to a wide-range of people, said Hauser, a self-described "piscatorial lure-ologist."
"Some really get into it, do lots of research and it becomes their life," said Hauser. "Others just like to dabble in it."
The same range is evident when it comes to price.
Most old fishing tackle is worth only a few dollars, if that. But the rare item can fetch tens of thousands of dollars.
A lure reportedly sold at auction at a recent Great Milwaukee Classic for over $30,000.
And Hauser said empty lure boxes have sold for as much as $20,000.
"You collect what you can afford," said Hauser. "The highest price paid for a reel was $40,000 for a 1859 Billy Hurst reel in a box. But most items we see are worth just a few bucks."
Some old lures continue to prove their worth in the water, too.
Hauser encounters anglers each year who continue to use antique lures--including some worth over $100 -- to tempt Wisconsin fish.
"I tell them the monetary value," said Hauser. "But they usually don't care. It has sentimental value to them and it catches fish."
The Great Milwaukee Classic provides a good opportunity for people to learn the market value of those certain somethings they have stored away.
"The secret in Milwaukee is that a valuable box could be in someone's sewing cabinet or a valuable lure could be in someone's basement," said Hauser.
A visit to the show will at least provide credible, unbiased information, said Hauser.
"That's one of the neat things you find about the group is how members share the information," said Hauser.
And the show can be a gateway to a lifelong hobby. Hauser hopes the appeal reaches new collectors of all ages.
"If you don't get kids into fishing, where you gonna be?" he said. "And by the same token, we need new collectors to keep the hobby strong."