He started a fishing tackle business more than 60 years ago in his parents’ basement and went on to cement the “Lindy” brand as a pillar in the North American fishing industry.
Ronald John Lindner, 86, of Brainerd, described himself as a daydreamer but worked obsessively throughout his career as a salesman, fishing guide, inventor, educator, storyteller, outdoors pioneer and ambassador for his sport. He had a burning passion for catching walleyes and a Midas touch in business.
The Chicago native who forged a lifetime partnership with his kid brother, Al, died Monday from illness while in the arms of his wife, Dolores.
“Fishing and faith was his whole life,” Al Lindner said. “It consumed his entire being.”
The brothers Lindner built a family empire around the Lindy Rig, a simple live bait setup that incorporated a sliding, shoe-shaped sinker. Coupled with the Lindy Worm Blower and other gadgets, the inventions were at the heart of a tackle company the brothers sold decades ago to the Rayovac Corp.
They moved into the fishing education and entertainment business, eventually selling their In-Fisherman multimedia empire to a New York firm.
When their noncompete agreement expired four years later, the Lindner family launched a sophisticated, still-thriving production company focused on fishing-related advertising work, promotional films, videos and the TV show “Lindner’s Angling Edge.”
Professional fishing guide Tom Neustrom of Grand Rapids said Ron Lindner helped change the course of walleye fishing in Minnesota and elsewhere. Neustrom said Ron and Al influenced a generation of fellow guides in the Brainerd-Nisswa area during a period in the 1960s and ’70s that “moved the needle” on tactical approaches.
“There’s a lot of us who wouldn’t be where we are today without them,” Neustrom said.
Ron and Dolores Lindner raised four boys and three girls on the south end of Gull Lake. It was a fate that grew from a Vietnam-era pledge between the brothers to buy a fishing resort, work as guides and open a small bait shop when Al ended his war duty.
Ron was 10 years older than Al and they had no other siblings. They grew up in Chicago, on the city’s northwest side. When Al was in high school, he and his buddies tied jigs and made spinner baits for Ron, who sold them in person to bait shops between Chicago and Milwaukee. Their passion for fishing stemmed from time spent near Hayward, Wis., at their grandmother’s cabin.
Marv Koep of Breezy Point met the Lindners as soon as they moved to the Brainerd Lakes area after the war. When they weren’t guiding anglers for Koep’s Nisswa Bait and Tackle, they were tinkering at home with fishing inventions, he said.
“Ron was so far ahead of the average person in terms of what was possible for catching fish,” Koep said. “He was also a promoter and he made things happen.”
Al Lindner said his brother was brilliant and “different to the Nth degree.” In Ron’s eyes, nothing was ever simple, Al said. Ron was born with a wild imagination and chased ideas with obsession and tunnel vision, he said.
“He was a fishing nut and he sensed opportunity all the time,” Al Lindner said.
Besides Dolores, Ron Lindner’s survivors include their sons Bill, Jim, Dan and Mike Lindner; their daughters Kim Slagter, Dawn Lindner and Lisa Hoffs; 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A public funeral service is set for 11 a.m. Monday at Halvorson-Taylor Life Celebrations Center in Brainerd. Visitation will be at 10 a.m.