Vermilion Bait Co
Vermilion & Cleveland, Ohio
Frank K. Knill made his line of Vermilion lures and tackle out of the garage of his home in Vermilion, Ohio. , then later in Cleveland from the early 20s thru the early 40s He was a saloon operator and machinist in Cleveland Ohio prior to 1920. According to his family he retired to Vermilion Ohio around 1920. However he is mentioned as a resident of Cleveland fishing in Vermilion in 1916. He probably started making lures in this period. He applied for his first patent in 1922, the earliest confirmed date. At some point prior to 1935, he moved to a duplex home at 3908 Worburn Ave, Cleveland, OH - This address is printed on the Living Water Bug card and listed for his 1935 patent. He retired from manufacturing fishing tackle in 1941 and died in 1945.
Very little is known about his operation. His original house was on the corner of West River Road and South Street in Vermilion, OH. He hired children as part time workers. Four are known for sure, three brothers and a young girl. He assembled and painted lures in his garage. The metal pieces were stamped by local metal shops.
The location of Vermilion, Ohio, on the Vermilion river and Lake Erie, drove Frank to produce a variety of baits. He claimed his baits could catch black bass, pickerel, northern pike, salmon, white bass, catfish, and muskellunge. Best known for the Vermilion Meadow Mouse, he also made a wide variety of metal baits.
Some oral history has been provided by residents of Vermilion:
Albert Knill, his nephew, remembers he was known as "The Vermilion Spinner", after his popular lures. He was a renown sportsman in Vermilion.. He also recalls Pat Patterson was a friend and had a radio show that ended with "remember to keep your line tight".
John Trinter remembered fishing with Frank Knill as a boy. He often fished off a pier with Mr. Knill. He remembers Knill testing lures out the back of a row boat.
George Wakefield, Vermilion historian, watched Frank troll along Vermilion River and in Lake Erie in the 20s and 30s. He usually used a row boat and had two rods out the back. George offered this story: "Dad went fishing on a 45 ft yacht, the TOBERMORY, to bass island about 35 miles NW of Vermilion in Lake Erie. He didn't get a single bass. When he came back to the harbor, he met Frank with his little row boat. Frank held up a long string of the best black bass you will ever see on Lake Erie!"
Another source, who worked at Pepoy Sporting Goods indicated Frank couldn't drive. A fishing tackle representative named John Herman drove him to shows in the 20's and 30's to various tackle shows.
According to an interview with Marty Faust, his niece, he owned a saloon before moving to Vermilion (which is confirmed by the Cleveland City Directories). After he died, she remembers sinking his row boat in the Vermilion river. Albert Knill recalls his father sank the boat on purpose by rowing it out and shooting a hole in it after she had it out in a storm - apparently to avoid kids getting caught in a storm again.
At some point Charles W. Patterson purchased or assumed the business under Patterson Mfg. Co. This probably occurred around 1941 when its reported he retired. His last patent was filed in 1941 and issued 1943, the patent was assigned to Patterson. Ads for the Vermilion Shiner Minnow and Pan Fish Double Spinner appeared in the 1949 Fish, Fun and Game magazine under the maker: Patterson Mfg. Co. Cleveland Ohio. Charles himself had a patent for a fishing rod applied for in 1940 and issued in 1942
Dates associated with Frank Knill
1900 Census 6 Croton Street, Cleveland Ohio, occupation Machinist.
1910 Cleveland City Directory, Frank Knill, 3703 Croton Ave, Cleveland Ohio, Saloon.
1915 Cleveland City Directory, Frank Knill, 3703 Croton Ave, Cleveland Ohio, Saloon.
1916 Greenville Journal, Frank Knill of Cleveland Ohio catches a 28 lb catfish at the junction of the Vermilion River and Lake Erie.
1920 Census 97 South Street, Vermilion Ohio, Wife Bertha, occupaton Lake Fisherman.
1,489,035 - patent filed Sept 28, 1922: a spinner with windings simulating a grub found on the Metal Minnow and Wobbler
1,603,118 - patent filed Nov 12, 1923: an opposing twin spinner arrangement that causes the lure to zig zag.
Chronicle Telegram Ad July 27 1923 -"Vermillion Spinners, made by Frank Knill, the boat man, are good for both black and white bass. Drop a couple in your tackle box."
1,549,121 - patent filed July 3, 1924: a fishing sinker adapted for use with fishing tackle. Two lead halves secured together with a cotter pin. The idea was to make the weight of the sinker changeable by switching sections. The weight was used on the Weedless 2 in 1 Bait, Come-a-Part Sinker, un named minnow harness and twin spinner variant.
1,609,090 - patent filed June 15, 1925: a corregated spoon with 3 holes and sheep skin bucktail that moves with an irregular pattern, used on the Wobbler and Knill Spin
1930 Census - 529 West River Street, Vermilion OH, occupation manufacturer.
2,038,940 - patent filed June 12, 1935: application of fluffed wool to a hook, used on early Knill Spin, Living Water Bug
1940 Census - 3908 Woburn Ave, Cleveland OH, occupation, fishing tackle manufacturer.
2,313,647 – patent filed Oct 27, 1941: swivel sinker combination, the original assingee was Charles Patterson in 1943
The Cleveland Pres - May 8, 1945 "Frank Knill, former Cleveland bait maker, now a resident of of Vermilion, had some good bass days too."
Sandusky Register - Dec 6, 1945, announces a memorial the following Saturday. Also indicates he had been retired for four years.
Ad 1947 - Vermilion Baits & Spinners ad by Patterson Mfg. Co., 1721 Noble Road, East Cleveland 12, O.
Fish Fun and Game ad, April 1949 - Vermilion Shiner and Panfish spinner double advertisement, Patterson Mfg. Co.
Frank Knill paper
Paper and boxes have been marked: "Frank K. Knill, Mfr. Vermilion, Ohio", "F Knill, Vermilion, O.", "The Vermilion Bait Co.", and the "Vermilion Spinner Co." The spelling of Vermilion is found with two Ls in some of his paper. The city of Vermilion, Ohio dropped an L in the late 1800s to avoid confusion with another city. (This is not meant to imply the age of his lures).
Frank Knill lures identified
need the number:
Come-a-Part Casting Sinker
Double Hook Bucktail
Metal Minnow - mcginty (four colors)
Pearl Sparkler/Vermilion Sparkler
00 spinner - double pearl blades
2 spinner - single pearl blade
2 Wobbler (also spelled Wabbler on an early card)
2 1/2 Silver Minnow Spinner
5 Pearl Spoon (single blade pearl spinner)
5-0 Vermilion Spinner brass single blade spinner
8 1/2 Weedless 2 in 1 Spinner
9 Spinner combo - opposing spinners, come-a-apart weight, single and double hooks with bucktails
11 Spinner - single brass blade
12 Spinner - single pearl blade
14 Pearl Spinner - double bladed pearl spinner
14 1/2 Spinner - single nickel blade
22 Avon Fly Spinner
33 Meadow Mouse (four colors)
44 Spinner - single brass blade
46 Spinner - chugging or casting
53 Spinner - single brass blade with string bucktail
83 Bass Bug (black body, white w/red)
84 Bass Bug (white body, black)
85 Bass Bug (all red)
88 Double Trolling & Casting Spoon or Musky Spoon
700 Series Living Water Bug
Thin mouse above, fat mouse below
Tighter ripples than the Wobbler above
patented wool bucktail
Also, pat date not printed
Courtesy Doug Carpenter
Early mouse with red painted brass screw eye.
Metal Minnow with patented fabric tails on hook
un named minnow harness w/patented weight
twin spinner variant of Weedless Casting Bait
with patented weight
Weedless Casting 2 in 1 Double Spinner