How it all started
The top producing pattern in Maine is copper and always has been.
The Mooselook Wobbler was always the claim to fame of the J. A. Greene Company. A trout and salmon classic throughout the Northeast and eastern Canada, it’s arguably the favourite spoon for trout and salmon fishing in the state of Maine. The top producing pattern in Maine is copper and always has been.
The Mooselook was developed for use on the fabled salmon and trout of Northern Maine’s Lake Mooselookmeguntic from whence it takes its name. It is equally as effective on a variety of other species. Spoon feed them with Mooselook. The Mooselook Wobbler got its start in the mid 1930’s when John Zelonka, an insurance sales representative and his wife Annie, also an accomplished angler, developed the lure.
Local lore had it that John changed his surname to avoid confusion with another insurance salesman in the region of the same name, and because of the many varied spellings of his name. His choice of Greene honoured his roots, as Zelonka in the Slovak language means “green.”
Thus was born the J.A. Greene Company that manufactured the Mooselook Wobbler.
John ran the company until 1958 when his health failed and his half brother Mike Yerka joined the business to help him run it with John’s wife Annie. In 1960 John passed away and Mike took over the running of the company for Annie with the help of his brother Joe and their respective wives. Joe’s wife Helen did the accounting for the business while Joe became the public face of the company. He attended trade shows and connected with small sporting goods and bait store owners and the many sports writers in the New England area. Joe was very active in the community and organizations that promoted the outdoors. NEOWA, The New England Outdoor Writers Association still to this day presents a bursary in his name, aptly titled the Joe Yerka writing award, to a student studying in the outdoors field. Mike was in charge of production and his roles were many and varied. He took care of inventory, ordering and arranging for finishing of the raw metals. He regularly visited the manufacturing companies in the area who stamped, tumbled and buffed the lures, and others who plated or painted them. He boxed the lures, packed and shipped orders, and even tried his hand at assembling the Mooselooks.
But it was Mike’s wife, also named Helen, who became the real star of the production side of the company. She joined the company in the early 1960s to “put up the wobblers.” Each of the lures was hand assembled step by step by Helen using jeweler’s pliers and a twist of the wrist to manually attach the rings and hooks. When packaging was changed to include single blister cards of the lure, she took on the task of running the blistering machine as well. Helen assembled all the Mooselooks for over 40 years well into her 80s.
When Annie passed away in 1982, Joe and Mike and their wives continued on with the business. They ran it together until Joe passed away unexpectedly in 1994 and Mike and Helen took over the company. In the latter years, son-in-law Alan Bourgeois stepped in to help, taking on the blistering process and working with Mike packing and shipping orders. Longevity ran in the family. Mike and Helen produced the Mooselook Wobbler until 2002, when at the age of 85 Mike sold the company to Brecks. J. A. Greene Company was truly a family endeavor. It is a testament to the spirit of the man who created the company and to the respect and love his brothers and family had for him in continuing his legacy for over 40 years.
Brecks has honored that legacy by retaining the precise shape, size, curvature and weight of the Mooselook. The selection has evolved over the years to include additional sizes, styles and colors. Finishes have been improved upon to include genuine silver and 24 carat gold. Stamped in premium polished brass, it will not rust. They are plated with a proprietary multi-step plating process and include airbrushed finishes. The Mooselook is a quality lure that has stood the test of time. It continues to provide the dedicated angler with an enjoyable fishing experience.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Bourgeois, daughter of the late Mike Yerka.