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A HISTORY OF WALKER DOWNRIGGERS INC.


The world’s most dependable downrigger was born in the Kalamazoo, Michigan garage of sport fisherman Bill Walker about 1969. A contract engineer for a medical equipment company, Walker was skilled at making stainless steel products for hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices. A regular troller for salmon in Lake Michigan, which at the time was becoming the nation’s hottest fishery, Walker began to experiment with downrigger design.

He was not alone: Other specialty companies were also improving on the hardware-store pulleys and bicycle wheels that do-it-yourself anglers were bolting to boat transoms to participate in fresh water angling’s newest rage--controlled-depth fishing.

Walker’s goal was to make a downrigger that allowed trollers to “fight the fish, not the equipment,” and the result was a low-profile unit with a straight arm that precluded the need to reach far over the boat side. His brainchild included the industry’s first swivel base and dual rod holder, key inventions that competitors quickly copied.

The fledgling company took off and Walker found himself juggling time for his full-time job. In the early 1970s, a group of eight investors, led by Noel Jackson, a Kalamazoo-based CPA, bought the company from Bill Walker and renamed it Pacific-Atlantic Products. They made improvements to Walker’s successful design, building a cowling, for example, from fiberglass and adding a nylon take-up wheel to replace the original one of metal.

The investors kept the name Walker Downriggers and brought out a red-white-and blue model in time for the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976. Many of these lifetime-warranty downriggers are still in dependable use today.

Meanwhile, the Lake Michigan salmon fishery exploded throughout the Great Lakes to include brown trout, steelhead, walleye and other game fish. A plethora of lures, trolling aids, products to improve navigation, and enhances in sonar equipment followed. Jackson and one of his Pacific-Atlantic partners, Mike Loomis, bought out the other investors and added Producer Tackle Co. to add fishing lures to their product lineup. Some time later, the pair split with Loomis taking over Producer Tackle and Jackson keeping Walker Downriggers as sole owner.

To keep innovation in the Walker product lineup, which now included manual and electric downriggers, Jackson bought several patents from a bankrupt competitor, Riviera Downrigger Company, which had moved from Michigan to Texas. From these patents came Dual Temp Sense--the popular unit that measures water temperature at the downrigger weight—and the exciting new Automatic Weight Retrieval system with automatic shut-off.

In 1994 Jackson sold Walker Downriggers to Randy Ford, owner of a Canadian sporting goods company that often led all North American retail outlets in the annual sale of downriggers and other specialized trolling equipment.

Currently located in Stayner, Ontario the company continues to improve market share because customers know that low profile, high-speed, lifetime-warranted Walker Downriggers are the world’s most dependable. They also know when it comes to keeping fishing fun, while raising the learning curve for serious trollers, Walker is first with innovative products like Strike Vision—the most sophisticated underwater camera system ever made.

“We’re proud to carry on the Walker Downrigger tradition,” said Ford, president and CEO. “Look for Walker to always be there when it comes to controlled-depth fishing.”