Lew Childre was a man ahead of his time. Back in the 1940s, Lew and his father were blazing trails for others to follow, but they were very different paths. Lew Sr. was a Grand Ole Opry star, entertaining with his proven repertoire of songs and jokes. He spent a lot of time traveling from one appearance to the next, at county fairs and community social events. Lew Jr. was also a likable guy, making friends easily and always willing to listen to what they had to say. What Jr. wasn’t was a musician. When Lew Jr. spent time replacing strings it was on one of his fishing poles, because this Lew Childre was born to fish.
His passion for fishing along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, made for interesting times
growing up. No matter how his life progressed down one road or another, they always led him back to fishing. Lew Jr. and his wife Bebe encountered many bumps in the road of life during their early years of marriage. While scraping out a living selling shrimp to fishermen, the young couple had two sons- Craig and Casey. Bait sales evolved into a small tackle shop. Lew sold a lot of rods to his customers, but he was often disappointed with the inconsistency in quality from one pole to the next. This triggered a desire to find ways to build better fishing products- products better than anyone else’s products.
Lew began experimenting with homegrown bamboo, figuring out the best ways to grow, cut, temper and finish his fishing poles. He began to achieve a superior product and a reputation for making the same, but sources for bamboo in the USA were limited and the cost of the treating process for each pole was 4X the cost of the competition. Nevertheless, he was undaunted , convincing himself that “Fishermen will pay more for a better product,” this becoming the motto of the
Lew’s quest for better, more plentiful bamboo took him to Japan. There he found the desired grades, and a circle of businessmen who were interested in the market potential of the U.S. fishing market. Among them were leaders of a manufacturing company by the name of Fuji that specialized in fishing rod components.
Lew and the leaders of Fuji formed a friendship and a partnership that brought Fuji guide components to the American fishing market.
With the bamboo pole business taking off, Lew began to look into the technology trends bringing new materials to the rod making business. This resulted in telescopic fiberglass poles, and lighter, more sensitive graphite materials being introduced to the product line. Lew went on to develop his signature Speed Stick® graphite casting rods, spending lots of time developing and selecting the perfect Fuji® guides and reel seats to match his rods. He created a design for a “pistol grip” rod handle that he had made by Fuji. The design, made with graphite fibers and a molded rubber handle, became a staple for the emerging bass tournament anglers of the time. In fact, Lew traveled to early tournaments being organized by fellow Alabaman Ray Scott, where he gave some of the
entrants samples of his rods, challenging them to find “a better one than this.” It wasn’t long before Lew’s Speed Stick gave anglers access to a line of casting rods with the Lew’s/Fuji handle, performance-rated blanks, non-welded guides and aluminum oxide guide rings.
By 1973, Childre was also making his mark in the world of reels, too, introducing Lew’s
Speed Spool® baitcaster. Few thought the strange-looking teardrop-shaped reel had a chance going up against the popular Ambassador round reels of the time- until they tried casting it. The Speed Spool’s low profile, narrow spool, fully disengaging level-wind and unique no-knob palming side cover provided a new feel and performance American anglers had never witnessed- and they loved it. News of the Speed Spool traveled across the country like wildfire, and the Lew’s brand was rapidly gaining momentum as a company known for innovation. This notoriety resulted in a change in Company name from Lew Childre and Sons Inc. to simply Lew’s.
Lew, Bebe, Craig and Casey were beginning to realize their lifelong dreams when, in
1977, tragedy struck. Lew, a pilot of his own sea plane with countless hours of experience flying to fishing spots across the south, was killed in a crash. His two passengers, Casey and Casey’s son, survived. Bebe, Craig and Casey rallied the team and together they moved ahead, as Lew would have wanted, with the same faith, knowledge and passion for product development that Lew had instilled in them.
Finally, in 1989, after a 40 year run, the Childre family licensed the Lew’s brand to Browning® with promises that new Lew’s products would be true to Lew’s passion for innovation and lighter, faster, and stronger rods and reels. Today, the Lew’s brand and its many well-known trademarks like Strike King, are all under the ownership of Peak Rock Capital and longtime Childre family friend Lynn Reeves. Reeves has made the promise and commitment to return the Lew’s name to a place of prominence in the industry, keying on the same principles established by Lew Childre when he founded the company- deliver to fishermen innovative products that are lighter, faster and stronger.