Three years after removing his antique fishing tackle from the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, Karl White of Luther is still searching for a museum to house his collection valued at $5 million.
There are more 50,000 items in White's fishing collection. It includes old lures, plugs, boats, magazines, rods, reels — anything related to fishing.
“I have the first of everything,” White said.
White wants the collection in a museum, but for the last three years all of it has been stored out of public view.
White removed the collection from the Karl and Beverly White Museum, which was part of the Oklahoma Aquarium, because the aquarium would only display one-third of it.
“They couldn't display what I had,” White said. “I didn't like how they presented it.”
With no commitment for additional space for the items, White decided to search for another site for the world's best fishing collection. Three years later, White still hasn't found a suitable home.
“It's been very frustrating,” he said. “I think the (Oklahoma) Wildlife Department has made a great mistake by not grabbing hold of this.”
White said he is willing to give the collection away if it would be displayed in the proper manner.
His dream is for the entire for the entire collection to be displayed in a chronological way to show the history of fishing.
“People could walk through the history,” he said. “That's what I want.”
White doesn't sell pieces of his collection even though many have doubled and tripled in value over the years.
“I have never sold,” he said. “I look for niches that would fulfill something.”
A former bass tournament fisherman, White started buying lures when he was 8. He became a serious collector of antique tackle in 1961.
He was the founder and former owner of Crystal Laboratory in Luther, a pollen gathering and processing firm whose products are used by allergists, which earned him enough money to pursue his addiction for collecting.
In 1997, White paid the highest amount ever for piece of fishing collectible when he bought a Snyder reel — the first casting reel made in America in the late 1830s — for $31,350. The commission fee pushed the cost to $34,200.
Since 1997, only two other fishing collectibles have been sold for a higher amount.
White has authored a set of books on fishing collectibles and writes a column on antique collecting for Bassmaster Magazine.
“Anything to do with fishing, if you want to know the history, I can tell you,” he said.
He gets phone calls daily from people who want to know the value of an old fishing item.
White, 74, still is hopeful that his fishing collection will end up in a museum for the public to see.
But it must happen soon because of his age and declining eyesight, he said.
“I better (find something) in the next year or so or I am going to have to sell it,” White said.
“The common lures that caught fish are the ones they sold the most of and are not valuable. It's the ones that didn't catch fish that are the ones that are rare and valuable, because they didn't last more than a year.”
Karl White of Luther on collecting antique fishing lures