Fishing Pioneer, WWII Flying Ace, Bill Cullerton Sr. Dies at 89

A man many salute as one of founding fathers of the modern day fishing industry will be laid to rest Thursday in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Cullerton’s first exposure to the business of fishing began in high school, where he made lures for his grandfather’s company, the W.J. Jamison Co., and also guided fishing trips. He is known best for founding and operating the Cullerton Company, a manufacturing sales rep firm for iconic fishing tackle brands.

Bill fought tirelessly for angler’s rights, serving on the Chicago Mayor’s Fishing Advisory Committee. Introducing kids to fishing was also one of his passions. Between 1979 and 1999, he hosted a popular Saturday morning radio show (Great Outdoors) on WGN-AM radio Cullerton’s war record was as celebrated as his accomplishments in the fishing industry. He is credited with destroying five enemy aircraft in aerial combat and 15 planes on the ground. In April 1945, with his plane disabled, Bill was shot by a German officer and left for dead. He was later found by American forces, hospitalized and returned home.

Bill was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2003.

Long-time friend and colleague, Clem Dippel, publisher of Fishing Tackle Retailer, had kind words to say about Bill Cullerton: “I was extremely fortunate to have had Bill as a mentor in the early 1960s when I first became involved in the sport fishing industry. He was so straight- forward, open and helpful to me—as was his nature, and his relationships with everyone lucky enough to come in contact with him proved over and again. Bill had integrity, an incredible work ethic, and a deep-seated desire to help others enjoy the great sport of fishing; especially youngsters.”

“My first contact with Bill was at a Chicago Tribune-sponsored free fishing school. He came to me, and after a brief background check, asked if I would like to join the Instructor Staff and do the Kids class. I told him I didn’t think I was qualified. Bill said, ‘nonsense—you fish don’t you? Just start talking about your own family fishing experiences and drop in a few simple tips; never fake it. Be natural and sincerely interested in helping them; if you get a question you can’t answer, holler at me—I have your back, Bill reminded me.”

“After that day, Bill had my back for the next several decades, as he did with hundreds of others. The man always wanted to MAKE A DIFFERENCE. And he did. That was Bill Cullerton—his contributions to this industry are really beyond words. A good man, a great man, who will be sorely missed by all of us,” Dippel concluded.