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His pole star

“Convenient design. Fits in your glove compartment. Attaches to your belt. Contained in the handle are: hook, line, sinker and bobber.... It’s the best gift you can give to any kid or adult.”

That’s the longtime pitch for the Pocket Fisherman, a sort of retro-cool mini pole for the not-so-serious fisherman.

Sure, it’s plastic and small -- about 10 inches folded, 18 inches unfolded -- and its shape bears a disturbing resemblance to the electric carving knife dad got for Christmas in the 1970s.

But the infomercial icon that’s been around for more than 30 years -- even millionaire pitchman Ron Popeil isn’t sure the exact year it was launched -- seems to snag more memories than fish.

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Canadian Les Godson recalls inheriting one from his grandfather, who used it to fish for brook trout near his tourist lodge in Aubrey Falls (“population two people, two dogs and a cat”) in northern Ontario, Canada. Godson, 50, of Sault Ste. Marie, recalls helping his granddad with his trapline and that the Pocket Fisherman came in handy for retrieving beaver that he had shot.

Sid Wales of Redondo Beach likes to cast his when fishing at golf course water hazards. He recalls a neighbor who would rig it up with the casting plug as a toy for his two cats, who liked to pounce on the lure.

Popeil, an avid fisherman who owns two boats that bear the quirky product’s name, swears he has caught fish with the 1.5 million seller. He says the idea was the brainchild of his father, Sam.

“My father wasn’t into fishing,” he said. “All the testing he did was at a trout farm.”

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It quickly fell to Ron to promote the product through his namesake Ronco company. “It was No. 5 in the line of products my dad invented that I marketed,” he says.

Ron wasn’t sure it would sell because of its $19.95 price tag. “In those days, products under $10 sold on TV. I wasn’t sure we could sell something for $20,” he says.

But sell it did, especially during the holidays. Ronco still promotes the product, and now it’s $29.95.

And Popeil likes to relate the response his father gave when questioned about the utility of the Pocket Fisherman.

“It’s not for using,” Sam Popeil reportedly answered. “It’s for giving.”

-- Paul Whitefield


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