To showcase the life of Nick Adams, head of the Brainerd-based Lindy-Little Joe tackle company for many decades, the following recollections from friends and business associates show how he influenced people to do their best.
He conducted his life and business dealings with dignity, humor and integrity. He willingly shared his knowledge. He was a mentor to many and some of the people whose lives he impacted are reflected here — memories that will never be forgotten. Adams passed away on Christmas Day.
■ Al Lindner: “Nick gave me a sense of how to run a business. He was a superb and organized business manager. He had people skills and as a great leader could motivate and encourage his employees. Lindy made its living off the walleye market and many top professional anglers today owe a big debt of gratitude to Nick. Most people don’t know that he was an extremely good fisherman.”
■ Ted Takasaki: “Nick put things in perspective when he told me the last time I saw him, ‘There are things in life much more important than making money.’ I served with Nick while I was president of Lindy for 10 years. Our relationship started with Lindy as my first fishing sponsor in 1989. When I won the 1998 PWT Championship, I had the opportunity to interview for the Lindy job. It’s exactly what I wanted to do and I know I can’t put into words how much I learned every day from this great man. He gave me the chance to achieve my dream and work the fishing industry from the inside. Since my days at Lindy, I continue in my role as a full-time pro angler but my success today is due to Nick’s mentoring while we worked side by side.”
■ Dave Maiser: “I met Nick when I made a cold-call on the Fishing Tackle Division of ESB Rayovac in 1976 to solicit business for my marketing communications company. We instantly connected and in June 1978 we formed a small group of investors and bought the business from Rayovac. My chance cold-call on Nick while in Brainerd for other business started a relationship and personal friendship that lasted for 37 years. Virtually everyone Nick met became a friend. His door and heart were always open. He was generous and always brought out the best in people whether family, friends, employees, vendors, customers or competitors. Nick will be greatly missed by me and everyone who knew him.”
■ Kristen Borders: “Nick Adams passed away on Christmas day from cancer. He married my grandmother in 1970 and took on seven children. Not only did he build a fishing empire he provided security, stability, compassion and advice to many. We’ll miss him very much but we are thankful he is no longer suffering. Catch a big one, Grandpa.”
■ Doc Roland Kehr: “As an owner of Lindy-Little Joe Tackle for 28 years and chairman of the board during its last few years of local ownership, I developed a great respect for Nick’s business knowledge and management skills. It was not unusual when he was president and even later as an on-site consultant to find Nick wandering through the production areas engaging in casual conversation with the employees. He took a real interest in them and they would reciprocate when evening and weekend work schedules dictated — with a willingness to pitch in and get the goods out the door.
“Nick and I developed a mutual respect for each other’s business sense. The two of us would often be lost in serious management and business strategy discussions. Often times Nick would suggest an afternoon of relaxed walleye fishing on Gull Lake. Of course Nick knew that owing to my ’A-type’ personality I was determined to either out-fish him or match his catch rate. He had decades of experience on Gull Lake and one time we were using Nick’s stealth Lindy Rigs (black hooks and black Lindy walking sinkers) to fool the walleyes. As Nick slowly trolled the weed line near Squaw Point, he proceeded to catch walleye after walleye while I went fishless. As we headed back to his house to clean fish, he casually mentioned with a straight face that he had actually maneuvered the boat so that my bait was out of the fish zone. Obviously, he was smiling inwardly.
“Nick was, for the most part, all business. But get him away and a different Nick would appear. Once, while fishing in Ontario with our board chairman at that time, Don Anderson, Nick and I came across Don casually sitting in his boat taking a break from casting for pike. Hanging from his line was a large Rapala crankbait. Nick quietly asked me to cut this competitor’s lure from Don’s line while Nick distracted him with idle chatter. I cut the line and we watched in amazement as the supposedly floating lure slowly sank beneath the water’s surface. We quickly headed up river without saying anything more. Forty-five minutes later, as we came back down river, we came across Don frantically searching the shoreline for his missing lure. It was a couple of years before we owned up to Don as to what really happened. That was Nick at his finest — dealing with people the way it was done by a gentleman.”
■ John Peterson: “Never did I hear a bad word about this legendary fishing tackle industry icon. Nick was a very well-liked and respected businessman who served the fishing industry, his employees, pro-staffers and fellow associates at a very high level for over 40 years. He was a compassionate ‘people come first person’ and would always take time to give his common sense advise to help solve business and life-in-general issues. Northland and Lindy were competitors for more than 30 years but instead of fighting against each other, Nick and I chose to work together professionally and focus our energies to promote the fishing industry. He was a true icon in the sport fishing industry and will always be remembered for his wisdom, his compassion and love for the great sport of fishing.”
■ Tommy Skarlis: “Nick will always be one of the most influential people in my life. My wife and I named our son after him. When we first talked in 1995, I only had one other sponsor to help me as a pro angler. Nick told me, ‘Son, you’re a nice Greek kid and you came highly recommended.’ He asked and apparently was satisfied that I could show integrity, be honest and sell Fuzz-e-Grubs. It was the whole world when he offered me a cash retainer. In fact, I dropped the phone. I wanted to be around him just to talk business. He taught me about sales, ROI, common business sense, about the old days, the beginnings of Lindy and always being positive. Nick came with benefits and the best was his wife Idalene. I could never go through Brainerd without stopping, something I will continue to do. I plain loved the guy.”
■ Ron Lindner: “I met Nick in a poker game back in 1968. He drove me home that night and we talked about the rigs my brother and I were making and selling. He wanted to see them and learned we needed funding to continue production and distribution. In fact, I had a fist full of orders but the bottleneck was paying for the components to make the Lindy rigs. With a handshake, we went into business and he financed us. I did sales, Al did publicity and Nick handled production. He was the steady man at the helm. If he told you something, you knew that was that. What he did those many years ago meant everything to Al and me. He was the work-horse and gave us the freedom to do what we did best — promote and sell. It was a pleasure to see him guide Lindy after Al and I sold the company and branched into our media pursuits.”
Bob Slaybaugh: “It was obvious Nick’s passion for fishing and the outdoors reached far beyond personal or business interests. No matter how our conversations started, he always ended with questions about Camp Confidence and our campers. At the 2012 Fishing Classic, while Nick lounged in Gary Roach’s boat with several other anglers pulled up on either side, the talk was not about the day’s action, it was about the impact the Classic had on persons with disabilities. We took turns telling stories about introducing campers to the outdoors. Nick had a sparkle in his eye when he could share the outdoors with youth, and he motivated us to continue pursuing the mission.”
■ Jeff Olson: “To quote Camp Confidence Fishing Classic Founder Nick Adams, ‘A great day of fishing for a great cause; lots of camaraderie with great people help make Camp Confidence a continuing success in helping the less fortunate. Join us for a day of fun.’ 2013 is our 30th Classic, which we are now proud to call the ‘Nick Adam’s Memorial Fishing Classic.’ Nick was a co-chair of the Classic in 2012 and under his leadership over the years, more than $400,000 has been raised. As a past board member and board chairman of CLC, Nick found a way to combine two of his great passions; fishing & Confidence Learning Center.”
■ Ron Kiffmeyer: “Nick was born Nicholas Stavros Adamopolus. His father Steve came over on a boat from Greece, got settled and then his wife Kaliopie joined him. He worked his way thru the University of Minnesota, with dad covering tuition and books; Nick had to support himself. He went to post-graduate school in California and told me, ‘Dad gave me his checkbook. I had proven that I knew the value of a dollar.’
“Nick followed this pattern and was always there for family, as well as his ‘Fishing Family.’ He assisted many whether it was helping them buy an outboard, a car or a computer. He did these things with little or no notoriety and really tried to insure that he was ‘assisting.’ He helped those who helped themselves. The multitude of different folks that dropped in when going through town, most times unannounced, was pretty incredible. They were all welcomed with open arms, open kitchen — heck, open anything, mostly just an honest “good to see ya” attitude that made each guest feel like they were at home. He cherished his many life-long friendships.
“When it came to charity his heart was in Camp Confidence. Back in the early days of the Camp Confidence Celebrity weekend he worked hard to garner the support of friends to make the annual trek to Brainerd.
“He made it a point to hunt and fish with the grand kids, from Canadian moose hunts to fly-in fishing trips and motoring around Gull Lake. He loved being outdoors, going for drives in the fall woods, scouting geese in Canada where he would drive around the grid roads from noon til dark finding that spot in that field to set up the next morning. Wow! He loved to do that. Probably his favorite hunting partner was his nephew John. This past October Nick and John made their annual All Canada Goose Shoot to Manitoba.
“My memories are no different than everybody I’ve talked with for many decades. Nick was a great guy whether in the boat or driving the business. His friendships, leadership and mentoring will continue to influence future generations.”