‘A junkie for tackle’: Rizzuto leaves legacy of lures, lessons

  • Jim Rizzuto’s legendary fishing collection required three separate sites at a garage sale in Waimea Saturday.

  • Jim Rizzuto was a legendary lure hunter but also crafted several of his own. (Max Dible/West Hawaii Today)
  • Chris Barela sifts through hundreds of lures at the Rizzuto garage sale Saturday. (Photos by Max Dible/West Hawaii Today)

  • Rob Engelhard checks out some of Jim Rizzuto’s legendary fishing collection Saturday. (Max Dible/West Hawaii Today)

  • Reiko Rizzuto (left), Tony Rizzuto and Kai Rizzuto display some of the late Jim Rizzuto's fishing handiwork at the family's Waimea garage sale Saturday. (Max Dible/West Hawaii Today)
  • Tony Rizzuto (left), Reiko Rizzuto and Kai Rizzuto display some of the late Jim Rizzuto's fishing handiwork at the family's Waimea garage sale Saturday. (Max Dible/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — As anglers go, the late Jim Rizzuto was the big fish on the Big Island.

An author and a columnist, Rizzuto didn’t need tall tales to tell stories. As his longtime friend Rob Engelhard put it, Rizzuto wrote about everything, then he went and tried it all. And the wealth of his knowledge exceeded that of his fishing collection 10-fold — a collection Engelhard said is so vast and elaborate that even the most avid of Hawaii anglers would be hard-pressed to match it.

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Rizzuto’s words spread his influence across generations of the Kona fishing community. His voice passed that same knowledge down through generations of his own family. And so it seems only right they all had equal opportunity to lay claim to a piece of his legacy over the weekend at a garage sale to end all garage sales.

Rizzuto willed the entirety of his collection to his 19-year-old grandson, Kai Rizzuto, who with the help of his family set up a three-station market across his grandfather’s estate in Waimea Saturday. Items ranged from rods to reels to lures, some valued at hundreds of dollars and others priceless, made by the hands of the man himself.

Kai said disseminating his grandfather’s collection, save for a handful of prized pieces he’ll keep for himself, was what the patriarch of his family, a legendary bargain hunter himself, would have wanted.

“My grandfather loved garage sales,” Kai said. “More than half of his collection came from that. Each time, he’d send the whole family an email and call it GSF — garage sale finds. ‘GSF number one.’ And I have thousands of those emails.”

“My uncle always told him that when he goes, he’s gonna leave us with a hell of a mess to clean up,” Kai continued. “And he responded, ‘No. I’m leaving you with the best garage sale ever.’”

Tremendous turnout

The sale in Waimea didn’t open until 9 a.m., but the first person showed up two hours earlier. By 8:30 a.m., more than 100 people waited to peruse and purchase gear from perhaps the most comprehensive accumulation of lures and tackle in the state.

“I just kind of came to see what was here,” said Dehzhur Green. “I’ve heard rumors for years … so I had to come and check it out. It’s a pretty incredible collection. Kind of stunning.”

A “junkie for tackle,” Rizzuto didn’t just buy — he crafted. And just as it was with his lifetime accumulation of angling knowledge, his inclination while creating was to spread out.

Reiko Rizzuto, Kai’s mother, said for as long as she could remember, her father’s creations were household fixtures. After he passed, his family for weeks found lures and tackle scattered across his property in all sorts of odd places.

“He picked up lure-making and then it just kind of started working its way out of the house and it was everywhere,” Reiko said. “There were lures on the porch, lures in the bathroom, lures in the lawnmower closet.”

For Kai, the value of many of those lures extend beyond any number he could write on a price tag.

“If you consider all the history out here and everything you can learn just by looking through all this stuff, you can’t really put a price on that at all,” he said.

And so, he’s not.

Sure, some Rizzuto specials are on sale, and will continue to be today until 4 p.m. when the weekend event closes down. But others are going hook, line and sinker to aspiring anglers who may still be casting them in Kona waters decades from now.

“I’ve been giving some of the lures he left in progress to younger kids and telling them if they ever catch anything with them to send me a picture,” Kai said. “It’s what he would have wanted.”

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Rizzuto’s legacy will remain on Hawaii Island in his books and in the tackle boxes of fishermen of all ages. It will also remain in the family he leaves behind, both in craft and in memory.

“Some (of the collection) we have history with,” Reiko said. “And then it’s just remembering him going to garage sales and putting together the books. It was fun for him to collect them all and find these amazing gems, but this was also his life’s work. It was his passion. So we’ve kept a core collection that Kai will have.”