Toivo Pylväläinen – the man who taught Lauri Rapala to make wobblers

Lauri Rapala and Toivo Pylväläinen.

Toivo Pylväläinen was born in Leivonmäki in 1894. Family included three sisters and two brothers. Two younger brothers and Toivos mother died in 1902.

Apparently at age 11 Toivo set out to the world, as was often customary at that time. He worked as a hired man on farms, but usually after a few days the road called again. He also worked as a travelling vendor, or “laukkuryssä”.
During civil war in 1918 Toivo was in military service in Rantasalmi for one and a half years working on the fortifications.

For almost the whole 1920s, Toivo was overseeing firewood chopping for The Railway Board in Heinola. He was also working at Heinola railway bridge construction site. At some point, a canteen keeper was in blessed state (pregnant), and Toivo was asked to take the responsibility of making the lady an honourable woman. Whether Toivo was behind the pregnancy or not, he disappeared the next night.

Toivo Pylväläinen came to Päijänne in the early 1930s. He lived at least in Hinttola, Hirvisaari and Lehtistensaari. In 1936 he moved to Koreakoivu (Beautiful birch in English). The island, also called as Harhu, is located in the middle of Tehinselkä. Distance to the nearest shore in Suopelto, Sysmä, is 8 kilometres. In Harhu he lived year-round for about 40 years.

Toivo was quite the story teller – listener had always the responsibility. He was hearty and friendly towards friends, but could not stand arrogance. He had local houses to visit and the local people were helping him and kept company.
Toivo made a living from fishing by nets, hooks, and lures and selling the fish. He also started to develop wobblers. The idea came from American wobblers – and Tampere Tuulos wobblers.
At the beginning materials were wood and bark, later cap. The blank, which was prepared with wire and hooks, but without the rings, was painted white, coated with acetone and fused with cellular. Fish scale patterns were made by hand on the inside of celluloid, giving a translucent appearance.
He made wobblers with simple tools, often in candlelight. When the lure became somewhat famous, he began making them for sale. Toivo was able to say based on the floating test what came of fish lures. Poorly floating lures he sold to tourists, good specimens were sold to real fishermen.

Also, Lauri Rapala made a living from fishing. Trolling lures used vendace as bait fish. Bait was hard to play with, so he also became interested in the work crank baits. Toivo taught Lauri how to make wobblers. Lauri, who had a family to feed, realized that crank baits sale would be a more reliable income than fishing. Lauri received help from other anglers for the development of manufacturing technology. Toivos ingenious technique was not suitable for high volume production. Also Lauris sons operated in the manufacturing technology and developer tools.
Just as always in life, great things often arise when matching the right pieces in place. When Rapala opened the market to the world, Kalkkinen became the wobbler-makers ”Silicon Valley”. There were several manufacturers.

Rapala has become the world’s largest manufacturer, but Finlandia Uistin is also a major one. LGH brand lives strong and Rapalas ownership remains in the hands of the younger generation.