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January 09, 2009

Southern California sportfishing industry loses two pioneers

Dick Helgren of Helgren's Sportfishing and innovative reel manufacturer Carl Newell pass during last days of 2008


This past year will be remembered by many for reasons - including the mortgage meltdown, plummeting 401K accounts and a poor overall economy.  For Southern California anglers, 2008 will also be known for another sad reason.  On December 29, two important pioneers in Southern California's sportfishing industry moved on to that "great tuna bite in the sky."

Richard F. Helgren, -or "Dick" as he was known to his friends, colleagues and numerous customers - passed away at 75 with his family at his side, almost two weeks after he was badly injured in an automobile accident,  For decades, Dick owned Helgren's Sportfishing in Oceanside, California - a small harbor town about 30 minutes north of San Diego.    Dick loved sharing his love for fishing, especially aboard his premiere boat, the Oceanside 95.  His life touched many and undoubtedly inspired generations of anglers, "hooked" on the great coastal, island and offshore fishing Oceanside offers.

As a Southern California native, I can remember when Carl Newell's first conversion kits for Penn Squidders, Jigmasters and Senators first hit the market.   The reduced weight and tighter tolerances enhanced the performance of any reel, and it wasn't long before all the "hot sticks" were using them.   Newell soon moved to building his own reels, and his lightweight Newell Graphite Series reels (still being made today), soon became a huge hit - especially with jig casters looking for superior distance and cranking power.

Newell recently succumbed to pneumonia at age 86.   An avid offshore and long-range angler who was never afraid to be unconventional, Carl will be missed by anglers in Southern California and across the country.