Carterville, Ill. – The Rat-L-Trap doesn’t fall far from the
Will Yocum, 7, of Carterville, is following in his grandfather’s
footsteps. A second-grader, Yocum has a Rat-L-Trap collection of
more than 1,100 baits.
He literally, and figuratively, got hooked on the hobby by hanging
around in Fred Washburn’s garage. Washburn, owner of Cottonmouth
Lures, has more than 13,000 collectible lures.
“He’s been hanging around here since he was big enough to toddle
around,” Washburn said. “Ever since he was 2 years old, he’s been
around these things. He’s been to five [National Fishing Lure
Collector’s Club] nationals and a regional. Those are big
Last year, Yocum’s collection was tabbed as tops in its
Like his grandfather’s collection, Will’s Rat-L-Traps are
painstakingly displayed in wood and glass cases. Dressed in a St.
Louis Cardinals baseball cap and an Albert Pujols jersey, Yocum
listened intently as Washburn talked about the collection.
“He doesn’t say much,” he said, nodding toward his grandson. “I’ll
bet there isn’t a bigger Rat-L-Trap collection than his. It’s
So, why does Yocum collect Rat-L-Traps?
“I just do it,” he said with a shrug.
“He decided he wanted to collect something,” Washburn said. “All
collectors focus on something. He started collecting
“I just like them because they have rattles,” Yocum added.
The collection process started in Washburn’s garage. He rummaged
through Washburn’s collection and tackle boxes and got a good
“We started looking around anywhere you could find a bait,”
Washburn said. “We’d gone three or four months and he had about
180. We took them to Knoxville [the NFLCC convention].”
Rat-L-Traps turned out to be an excellent choice for a
“There are six different sizes,” Washburn explained. “The colors,
their last catalog listed 152 colors. This bait has been around for
40 years. That puts them in about the antique category. They’re a
budget collectible … up to a point.”
And, what are Washburn and Yocum still searching for?
“More,” Yocum said simply.
Washburn said there may be an infinite amount of unique Rat-L-Traps
“That company [Bill Lewis Lures] made special orders,” he said. “If
you wanted a half-dozen, they’d make them. It would cost you, but
they’d make them.
“Every time we think we’ve got them all we find 10 more.”
Although Yocum’s Rat-L-Trap collection takes up a counter in
Washburn’s garage, he has a long way to go to match his
“I didn’t collect, I hoarded,” Washburn said of his early days as a
collector. “I didn’t know I was collecting anything. I have about
13,000, not counting his stuff. I haven’t taken inventory lately.
It’s more than people can comprehend.”