World's Largest Lure hooks attention at unveiling in Lacombe

Comet Welding General Manager Devon Hulsman stands in front of the soon-to-be World's Largest Lure during the sneak peek unveiling May 24, 2019 in Lacombe at the Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. factory. The monument marks the 90th anniversary of the company. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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Lacombe’s newest attraction and soon-to-be the World’s Largest Lure won’t need any bait to catch the attention of anglers, tourists and citizens.

Unveiled to dignitaries and VIPs during a sneak peek at Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. Ltd. Friday, the lure – a scaled up version of their yellow and red Five of Diamonds – features a 14-foot tall hook and a 28.5-foot tall spoon.

Together they’ll form a 40-foot long monument, weighing almost 2,600 lbs, set to become the world’s largest, commemorating the company’s 90-year history, and acting as a community symbol for years to come.

Brad Pallister, the great grandson of Len Thompson who first invented the hook that started the business, as well as the co-owner and general manager of Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. called it an exciting day for not only his family and company, but the industry and community.

“The last four years have been incredibly challenging for our business and our industry has had quite the struggle. As we were recovering from these four years of challenge, we thought let’s celebrate. Let’s do something big,” he said.

“For us, the family heritage and history is really important and to be able to solidify it in a monument that obtains world’s largest status is pretty cool.”

Brad Pallister, co-owner and general manager of Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. and the great-grandson of Len Thompson, speaks to those in attendance at the unveiling of the soon-to-be World’s Largest Lure on Friday, May 24, 2019 in Lacombe, Alta. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Next Saturday, June 1, the lure will be installed at the Len Thompson Fish Pond and unveiled to the public during their annual Kids can Catch event from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The process to get to that point has definitely been a 90-year long journey, however.

As Pallister describes it, it was 90 years ago his great grandfather invented “this silly piece of metal that seemed to catch a lot more fish than anything else he could buy at the time,” and began a part-time business selling his lures in 1929.

In 1945, he opened his first full-time factory in Abernethy, Sask. and in 1958 they moved the company to Lacombe where it has been ever since, producing an estimated 55 million lures which can be found in nearly every angler’s tackle box.

Wanting to mark their 90th anniversary, they decided to put out a special anniversary kit, and then Pallister’s sister, Jessica Pallister-Dew, who also co-owns the company, wrote a children’s book.

However, the idea for the monument came from one of their employees who’d been driving back home in northern Alberta and passed by many of large-scale monuments like the Vegreville egg and suggested that for the 100th anniversary, they create the world’s largest lure.

They like the idea so much they decided not to wait, and approached the City of Lacombe, the Lacombe Fish and Game Association, as well as Echo Energy’s Echo Lacombe Association, who were all eager to lend their support.

Choosing the Len Thompson Five of Diamonds adopted in the 1950’s as the lure to base the project off of was the easy part.

“The yellow and red Five of Diamonds is by far our most popular pattern. Almost 40 per cent of everything that comes out of our factory has a Five of Diamonds on it, so it’s very, very important to us,” said Pallister. “As to where it came from, Len invented the pattern in 1951 and it’s been going stron ever since. Where it came from is unfortunately a mystery to the history books.

More challenging, however, was finding someone to build the monument. Pallister approached big city fabricators in Calgary and Red Deer, and all said building a curved spoon on that scale wasn’t possible.

That’s when Pallister decided to talk to Devon Hulsman, the current general manager of the locally owned and operated Comet Welding, just a few doors south of Thompson-Pallister Bait Co.

Comet Welding General Manager Devon Hulsman holds the Five of Diamonds lure they were given to base the soon-to-be World’s Largest Lure monument during the sneak peek unveiling Friday, May 24, 2019 at the Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. in Lacombe. The monument marks the 90th anniversary of Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

“It was an interesting idea. We had to think about it for a few minutes to say yes or no or if it was possible, but we said we’d give it a shot,” said Hulsman. “We kind of kept it on the down-low as best we could at the beginning to see if we could actually do it. We made the prototypes….and from there as we started getting more knowledge in building those, we decided it was possible.”

The 14-person team explored the different properties of steel and techniques such as hydroforming to create the spoon, putting hundreds of hours into building the monument, in particular lead fabricator Ryan Riopel, who combined his welding skills with a Bachelor of Fine Arts to make the project a reality.

Hulsman said Riopel called it the coolest art project he’s ever worked on – sentiments he could agree with.

“It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind thing you’ll remember forever,” he said. “We’ve don different projects along the way, but definitely nothing on this scale.

“We are super proud as a company and super proud as team to be a part of this…It’s going to draw a lot of attention, we hope, to the community.”

Given central Alberta’s weather isn’t always kind, including wind and hail storms, they made sure they “over engineered” the monument so it would stand up. In fact, Hulsman says the three main posts that will hold it in place have been designed specifically to weather major wind, while 14-15 gallons of clear coat will help protect the paint job on the spoon.

Alberta Ministar of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon, Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins, Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. co-owner and General Manager Brad Pallister and City of Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey pose for a photo in front of the soon-to-be World’s Largest Fishing Lure during a sneak peek unveiling on Friday, May 24, 2019 at the Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. factory in Lacombe, Alta. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Representatives from all levels of government were on hand, including the new Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks and Government House Leader Jason Nixon, who joked to those in attendance they’d done the impossible by making him look normal-sized

“This is a very fitting project for your 90th year. I caught my first fish, without a doubt, on a Len Thompson spoon, I’ve watched all of my kids catch their first fish on Len Thompson spoons, and I expect I’ll watch my grandchildren do that,” he said.

“It’s a great western Canadian story for a great business who has been a big part of our home in central Alberta. This will always be a reminder of memories we all have of being on lakes catching fish and enjoying the things we do because of the products you produce. ”

Application to the Guinness Book of World Records will be made next week, with the hope to unseat a lure in West, Texas that measures under 16 feet and was created by Ethan Sparks in 2013.

Pallister says the monument won’t be missed from Hwy 2A, and hopes it will attract people not only to the community, but to the realm of outdoor sports and fishing.

“If we can do something to attract people in the community, but attract them to fishing – even if we inspire one new angler, or get someone who hasn’t fished in awhile to say ‘I want to do that again,” Pallister said.

“Accessible fishing is so important – the pond is right here in town. If this monument can help with that, it’s a huge reason why we did this.”

Quick facts:

  • The yellow and red Five of Diamonds pattern was chosen for the monument as it’s Len Thompson’s top seller.
  • The spoon is approximately 10 ft. across at the widest point and 28.5 ft. in length and weighs 2,600 lbs.
  • The hook is eight ft. wide at the base or 14 ft in length, and weighs about 900 lbs.
  • The hook was made out of four-inch pipe
  • The spoon’s Five of Diamond’s pattern was painted in the same fashion as the regular-sized lures.
  • A total of 10 gallons of paint was used, with 14-15 gallons of clear coat. The hook was powder coated for durability.

Brad Pallister addresses dignitaries and VIPs during the sneak peek unveiling of the soon-to-be World’s Largest Fishing Lure on Friday, May 25, 2019 at the Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. in Lacombe. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

About 100 people were in attendance for the sneak peek unveiling of the soon-to-be World’s Largest Lure on Friday, May 24, 2019 at the Thompson-Pallister Bait Co. in Lacombe. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe