Shasta Tackle Co. Owner Gary Miralles
● By Jon Lewis
Cast & Lure
By Jon Lewis
Photo courtesy of Gary Miralles
Being thrifty is one of the tenets of the Boy Scout Law, proudly listed alongside trustworthy, loyal and the rest, and it was a trait that Gary Miralles took to heart during his time as a Scout.
As an avid—but underfunded—angler, he came by his penny-pinching ways honestly. Miralles was particularly fond of the Super Duper, a popular lure made by Rapala that enjoyed a lot of success on Shasta Lake.
“The Super Duper was one of my favorites but I couldn’t afford to buy ‘em, so I decided to make one similar, but better, and I came up with the Cripplure,” Miralles says. “I tested it in the bathtub, took it to the lake and caught a limit from the shore.” He was 16 years old at the time.
In addition to being thrifty, Miralles was also resourceful. He fashioned his lure from the metal band on his official Boy Scouts belt that was intended to hold a clip for keys. “That buckle on the belt was perfect for making lures. I’d go to Thompson’s and buy ’em all up. It got to where they would order them in bulk for me,” he says, referring to the former men’s clothing store in downtown Redding.
The Super Duper is a thin, uneven, U-shaped strip of metal that creates a wiggling motion when pulled through water. Miralles was trying to come up with a similar action and discovered that by making the U-shape even and closing it into a loop, he was able to give his Cripplure more roll.
He also learned his fledgling design vibrates, a bonus action that helps attract rainbow trout and kokanee (landlocked sockeye salmon) who sense the movement with their lateral lines. “It sends a signal that something is there,” Miralles says.
Miralles began making Cripplures, giving them away to friends and selling a few on the side. But not everybody was sold on his invention. Catching the most trout “was kind of a challenge to the neighborhood kids who fished. One of my friends had a cabin at Shasta Lake and we’d all go up. Guys were always trying to outfish me, and they’d buy the latest and greatest thing, but there was not one day when they would outfish me.”
After graduating from Shasta High and Shasta College, fishing took a back seat when Miralles moved to Oregon and later to Porterville (deep in the San Joaquin Valley north of Bakersfield), where he began a career with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
He returned to the North State in 1988 and helped Cal Fire open the Sugar Pine Conservation Camp. That’s also when he decided to put the Cripplure on the market and started Shasta Tackle Co. “I thought Shasta Tackle was a good name, but mostly it was so I could write off my boat and fishing trips,” says Miralles, who left Cal Fire and began working as a fishing guide.
Sales were slow but steady, thanks in part to Bob Braz, owner of
The Fishen Hole in the city of Shasta Lake, who was the first proprietor to stock Miralles’ lures. Business picked up when Miralles befriended the late John Reginato, director of the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association,
Reginato, the legendary tourism promoter, asked Miralles if he’d like to take a couple of outdoors writers fishing and Miralles was happy to oblige. One of the clients was Pete Ottesen, a longtime writer with the Stockton Record, and the trip to Whiskeytown Lake was a success with both writers catching limits of kokanee using the Cripplure.
Ottesen returned to his desk and cranked out the story of an amazing lure, designed by a kid, that had been a well-kept secret for 19 years. In its first five years, Miralles said Shasta Tackle had sold about 18,000 Cripplures. After Ottesen’s story made the rounds, the Cripplure’s sales total jumped up to 68,000.
“Everybody had to have it, and from there, things just took off,” Miralles recalls. Other writers came calling and TV and radio shows soon followed. Miralles began attending outdoor writer conferences in California, Oregon and Washington “and I ended up producing better than the local guides when I went up and fished.”
Miralles was featured on former Redding resident Justin Wolf’s “Angler West” TV series and he continued to gain exposure. “I realized it was a fantastic way to build my company without paying a fortune for advertising,” he says.
By the late 1990s, Shasta Tackle was a going concern with its line of lures, blades and flashers finding its way into big-box stores. To help meet the growing demand, Miralles turned to the Shasta County Opportunity Center for assembling and packaging. The center provides job-training for people with disabilities.
“If we had not had them, we would have had to outsource and go overseas like everybody else, but we stayed in Redding and we stayed competitive,” Miralles says. Opportunity Center clients continue to assemble and package Shasta Tackle products.
In addition to the many versions of the Cripplure, Miralles came up with the Hum Dinger, a vibrating lure, and the Koke-a-Nut, a kokanee squid bait or “bug.” A longtime trolling aficionado, Miralles also designed the popular Sling Blade dodger, a large blade that’s rigged in front of a lure or bug; it attracts fish with its undulating motion and flashy appearance.
Shasta Tackle’s Sling Blade, in tandem with Miralles’ Pee Wee Wiggle Hoochie (tequila sunrise pattern), allowed Ron Campbell to land an Oregon state record kokanee (9 lb. 10 oz.) in Wallowa Lake in 2010. Miralles still regards that catch as his greatest achievement.
The company’s success had long caught the attention of competitors and, earlier this year, Miralles agreed to join forces with Wenatchee, Wash.-based Mack’s Lure. Miralles says the merger strengthens his 28-year-old business with a strategic partner and frees him to focus on research and development.
That research now includes catching fish in the Gulf of Mexico, since Miralles recently moved to Rockport, Texas, to be closer to his daughter and his wife Dianne’s family. Miralles, who returns to Redding frequently, has already discovered the Cripplure is pretty effective on redfish, a reef-dwelling snapper that frequents the gulf waters. •