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The session ended without further discussion of the lure, but the controversy bubbled on for days. Peter Goadby, a renowned game fisherman from Australia, was in vehement opposition. "There's no secret," Goadby said. "I could make one. You could make one. It's just the old wraparound—nylon threads flowing out behind an ordinary plastic lure. There's no sport in it. A bill-wrapped fish loses his leverage for the fight. He can't escape. Even if he's released, the ball of thread around his bill will kill his speed by creating drag. Besides that, it will drive him crazy. How would you like to go around with a big ball of twine around your nose?"
While no one can be sure that a ball of nylon around a marlin bill will annoy the fish as much as a ball of twine around a human nose, Goadby's view had a good deal of support, some of it from Parker's fellow charter skippers. "George says he invented the lure four years ago," protested one of them. "I've known about rag-mouth lures for the last 12 years. George is trying to make a dollar." Others criticized Parker for using the symposium to promote what they considered a private venture.
The reaction, however, was not entirely negative. A Kona fisherman who has seen and used the lure warmly endorsed Parker's claims. And Paul Caughlan, a member of the Port Hacking Game Fishing Club of Australia, approached Parker for details and was promised a sample lure when (and if) the patent is granted. Unlike his fellow Australian, Goadby, Caughlan had not heard of wraparound lures.
Neither had he until his invention, George Parker insisted. "I've been fishing with sportsmen from all over the world for the last 20 years," Parker said, "and none of them had ever heard of this kind of lure when I hit on it in 1968. I discovered the principle by accident. I had a fish on the deck and I was using a nylon rope. One end was frayed and when I tossed it down, it wrapped around the bill. I couldn't get it off and that night I couldn't sleep for thinking of it.
"I got up about 4 a.m. and made a crude prototype. I had a bill in the deepfreeze. I woke up my son and told him to hit the bill with the lure. He did—and together we couldn't get it loose. The next day I had a 71-year-old man who had fished with me for years as a charter. He agreed to try the hookless lure on one outrigger. He got a 150-pound marlin on 80-pound test. That was the beginning. Of course, the lure is very different now."
What Parker had discovered is that the rough, sandpapery surface of the bill grabs nylon thread the way a magnet holds iron filings. Parker says that his refined version does not create a large ball of thread around the bill; that the marlin does not lose its fighting abilities by this attachment of the line forward of mouth-hook locations; that even after a long fight on light tackle, the fish—un-scarred and unbloodied—has a far better chance to replenish its oxygen and survive than one attracting sharks with its own blood; that the lure can be modified to provide distant breakaways with plastic tags for purely tagging operations, or equipped with a transistorized transmitter for tracking if scientists so desire. Such tracking devices, until now, have been implanted in the fish's back with hooked darts.
Whether Parker's lure entails a patentable principle, and whether a commercial lure company will then produce it, are questions yet unanswered. Parker says he is negotiating with a West Coast tackle firm, but if an agreement is not reached he will manufacture the lure himself. Another question, one that concerns him less, is the lure's acceptability to the IGFA. There are no prohibitions in Hawaii against the use of such a device, and it seems certain that Parker charters will rely on it in the future. If, as Parker believes, use of the lure will triple charter catches, some of his dissenting fellow skippers will have little choice but to adopt it. At tournament time, of course, if the IGFA maintains its present position, it will be hooks again.
"I hate to think of all that blood out there," George Parker says, ecologically and perhaps economically.