Ron Weber introduced Rapala to America

  • Updated: September 29, 2012 - 11:24 PM

The Duluth native also worked on behalf of North Shore streams.

Ron Weber was famed as a marketer of Rapala lures and as a fisherman.

Angling legend Ron Weber, who changed fishing in Minnesota and throughout the world when he and the late Ray Ostrom began importing Rapala lures from Finland a half-century ago, died Thursday. He was 84.

Weber loved all types of fishing but was particularly smitten by steelhead, or migratory rainbow trout. A worldwide angler, he loved no river more than the Brule in northwest Wisconsin, where he and his wife keep a cabin.

"It's there that we found beauty and quiet and serenity,'' Mary Ann Weber said.

Originally from Duluth, Weber lived in Minneapolis and owned a fishing tackle distribution company in the 1950s when he happened upon a few of Lauri Rapala's early lures at a small shop in Duluth.

Intrigued by their fish-catching ability, Weber subsequently gave a few of the lures to Ostrom, a customer of his who also was an avid fisherman. The pair later formed a partnership after reaching an exclusive U.S. importation and distribution deal with Rapala.

Ostrom and Weber ordered their first 1,000 Finnish baits in 1960 and shortly thereafter requested another 2,040.

Today, Rapala brand lures are the most commonly used fishing lures in the world and hold more world records than any others.

Ostrom -- who died in June at age 85 -- sold his share of the business to Weber in 1984, and Weber subsequently sold the business in the 1990s.

But he didn't retire. "He was running four businesses right up until the end,'' his wife said.

In addition to funding music programs and scholarships at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Ron and Mary Ann Weber also have underwritten research intended to refurbish the vitality and health of North Shore streams, where as a boy Ron first cultivated his love of river angling.

"He said to me the other day, 'If I could just make one more trip to Iceland for Atlantic salmon,' " Mary Ann Weber said. "I said, 'But you've been there eight times.' He said, 'I'd like to go again.' "

Services will be at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis at 3 p.m. next Sunday with visitation an hour before.

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