Goulburn Lures are synonymous with native fishing in Victoria, especially around their home town of Shepparton and north towards the Murray and cod fishing’s Mecca, Lake Mulwala.
But how did these Aussie designed and built dynamos become so entrenched in the native lure fishing market? What’s their history and what’s their future? Those questions are easy to answer when you cross swords with designer, maker and all-round top bloke Graham Saunders. On a road trip through central Victoria we dropped in to see Graham and have a chat about his lures. You need to keep in mind that Graham is your typical bushy. Quiet, unassuming and downright decent. There are no airs or graces and you know that what he says is truth as lying and manipulating people simply don’t enter into his mind. I love that type of honesty.
My introduction to Goulburn Lures was while I was working as a part timer at the Compleat Angler chain of stores, the original ones owned by Jim Allen. The team at Box Hill wanted to get a range of native fishing lures and Goulburn Lures were on the list. At that stage I was a super keen, just-licensed fishing nut and new lures I had never seen were eagerly awaited. Unpacking these lures would be as exciting to me as unpacking a Chrissie present. On first glance I was hooked, these lures looked the goods and the very next weekend I took some of the small 55m 10+ and 15+ lures for a swim with immediate success on some Loddon River goldens.
Mad keen lure fisher and freelancer Roger Dark has helped me out with some of the following and between us, I reckon there’s a really good picture of Goulburn Lures. Read on and learn all about these wonderful lures and the man himself.
Graham started making lures for himself and a few mates many years before he even bothered to contemplate commercialising them. These lures were beautifully rustic and were designed to do a job. In his shed there is one of his first lures – a big brick of a lure that was lost to a good fish, only to be found about 15 years later by a mate who returned it to Graham. Now that’s history!
After these early forays and with a lot of trial and error, the lures became more refined and they started to look a lot more like the Goulburn Lures of today.
This all happened in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s and it was at this point that Roger Dark first came across Goulburn Lures at Trelly’s Tackle in Shepparton, home of Goulburn Lures. Roger had become a regular visitor to Lake Mulwala and always stopped for a chat about fishing at Trelly’s and Roger said “It was on one of these stopovers where Steve pulled out a couple of largish (for the day) Murray cod lures, which had been whittled up by a local builder (of houses) who I found out to be Graham Saunders.
“I was immediately taken by the attention to detail and overall quality of the lures.
“Made from wood at the time, the surface was faultless, the bibs substantial and a lot of thought had been put into generating a lure that would sustain the ravages of a rampant Murray cod strike.
“The colours and patterns were striking, and the final clear coat of an ilk that would do a Harley Davidson proud.
“At the time Graham was toying with two very different styles, the first a high shouldered, long-tail style. The second and eventual production model, had a slim front, tapered waist progressing to a large, wide tail with two large eyes prominent, reminiscent by no accident of a large yabby making a hasty exit in the reverse direction”.
The early 1990s was a peak in Aussie lure building with famous lures like RMG’s, Newell’s, Seekers, StumpJumpers, Predators and many, many more all being whittled up by expert hands and the Goulburn Codger was an absolute departure from most of these sensational offerings. As Roger said “suddenly there was a true point of difference in green fish offerings”.
I immediately liked the difference and had the same question as Roger – how would they swim? The upturned bib, different body shape and stark contrasting colours all looked amazing and with diving depths over 5m for the large 85mm Codger and 10+ feet or 15+ feet for the 55mm offering stated, it would be great to find out in the field.
My first trip was successful and so was Roger’s first crack. He noted the brilliant action of the larger Codger stating that “The action was enthralling although not unexpected, with the wide tail rocking, rolling and snaking all at the same time. The eventual plastic production models would carry a light rattle, adding further spice to an already enticing lure. They are an incredibly snagproof lure on the troll, facilitated by a combination of that large scooped bib, a nose down swimming action and a buoyant tail”.
And fish catches came thick and fast once serious production and availability came. Roger recounts one memorable Mulwala morning where “fishing with Adam Pascoe around the now removed willows on the Victorian side of Lake Mulwala we boated no less than 20 cod and had interest from 20 more. All were taken on the Kingfisher coloured Old Codger, affectionately known by myself and my fishing friends as the Blueback”.
Like all lure makers Graham is not content to rest on his laurels and the recent release of the Currawon and the latest 70mm Codgers is evidence that his lure designing days are not numbered just yet. In fact there are whispers of surface lures in the coming years, but don’t tell anyone OK?
The new 70mm version really interests me and I am looking forward to checking them out in cod water very soon. A very easy casting size and a diving depth that places them in my preferred 4-8 feet on the cast gives me confidence they will be winners this season. Check them out at tackle stores now, or ask your tackle store to get them in.
Graham is truly one of those nice blokes in an industry that keeps throwing up really decent people. His legacy will not only be that he made some fantastic lures that caught fish, as Roger said “Graham was additionally a genuinely good bloke, a gentleman around the campfire at the end of the day and someone from the fishing industry I’ll always consider a friend”.
And it is exactly people like this that I am more than happy to prattle on about. Add a Goulburn Codger or three to your arsenal, whether you’re casting or trolling and give them a fair run. They’re pretty awesome little lures from a pretty awesome fella.Reads: 5023