ANTIGO - Fishing has been part of the Northwoods for as long as anyone can remember.
In the 1950’s, fishing took on a new meaning in the area when Todd Sheldon decided to importing Mepps spinners.
Mepps fishing lures are a mainstay in many tackle boxes.
The original Mepps Aglia was rated as one of the top lures of all-time by Field & Stream magazine.
The company still runs a majority of its operations in Antigo – and more than 4,000 different fishing lures get assembled just off Highway 45.
"We assemble, package and ship out all over the world," Long-time Sheldon's/Mepps employee Rosella Spencer said.
"All things considered between sizes, styles, colors, we make about 4,000 different lures," Sales & Marketing Manager Michael Sheldon said.
Michael Sheldon represents the third generation to be part of Sheldon's Incorporated.
"To think that it's made in a town of 8,500 people in Northern Wisconsin," Sheldon said.
"It isn't something we've taken overseas or to a big city."
Sheldon and his dad, also named Michael, run the business that Todd Sheldon kick started in the late 1950's.
"A lot of lures have come and gone in the time we've been in business," Sheldon's/Mepps President Mike Sheldon said.
"One thing about Mepps Spinners is they really haven't changed in the last 50 years. By that I mean the quality available. We still manufacture almost all of our parts ourselves. We do all of the assembly here, that's a rare thing now-a-days."
The original Mepps spinner, or the Aglia, is still manufactured in France, but the newer product lines are done in Antigo.
"Quality is so important," Michael Sheldon said.
"We really want to be able to control that and the best way to do that is right here."
And many employees find their role unique.
"It is very unique in that we're the only place in the United States that makes the Mepps lures," Spencer said.
"That's kind of a neat idea knowing that there's no other place that makes these Mepps lures."
The Antigo operation assembles, paints, packages, and ships all the lures.
And what about that sign you can't miss along Highway 45 - squirrel tails wanted.
Squirrel tails are all hair, whereas other tails are mostly fur - perfect for Mepps lures.
"It gives the lure a larger profile," the younger Sheldon said.
"There is some action with the hairs on the tail when the lures pulled through the water. And for some species of fish they've got a lot better sight and look the lure over more before they strike it and the hair is kind of a way of covering the hook."
Just like so many fish, you could say the employees are, well, hooked. More than half of them have been here more than 25 years.
"I'm often amazed at the pride they have in their work," the elder Sheldon said.
"To think that you may sit and assemble 1,000 lures a day for years and years and you're still attentive enough that you're watching the quality control, making sure the right pieces go on in the right order. We don't have problems with the final product as a result of it."
And the results are hard to argue with.
The company still offers tours if you’re interested.
Although most retailers can’t come close to carrying all Mepps products, you can still order any from the office and get what you want.