Darrell J. Lowrance

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Darrell J. Lowrance1938-
2012 Inductee

When Lowrance Electronics introduced their “Little Green Box” in 1959, it was the world’s first portable, sonar-based, fish-finding instrument, and over the next 25 years it would become the most popular, selling more than a million and in the process transforming the sport.

Carl Lowrance shared his love of fishing with his two sons, Darrell and Arlen.  In the 1950s, catching fish remained a hit-or-miss proposition, even with improvements in tackle.  Darrell, one of the first inland skin divers, knew that in any given body of water fish were generally found in schools, and usually positioned themselves near underwater structure and/or baitfish.  That information convinced father and son that an instrument capable of showing anglers where to concentrate their efforts was possible – and made a lot of sense. 

During the summer of 1957, using relatively new transistor technology, Carl and Darrell conceptualized a portable depth sounder with the ability to clearly show individual fish.  By December of that year they had in hand the world’s first transistor sonars built to their specifications, but there were serious problems with the quality of the units produced by a West Coast company.   In June 1958 the Lowrances contracted with another electronics firm to build and deliver 1,000 units before the end of the year, and these products also were plagued with major reliability and performance problems.  So Darrell and Carl decided to redesign the sonar fishfinder and manufacture it themselves, and by September 1959 they were shipping out their green “Fish-Lo-K-Tor,” also known as the “Little Green Box (LGB).”

Darrell became the President of Lowrance Electronics in 1961, and a few years later the company moved from Joplin, Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  In 1968 he made his first trip to Europe to investigate distribution opportunities.  Ultimately Lowrance Electronics had distributors in 68 countries worldwide, employed 2,500 people, and manufactured and sold over one million units per year, making them the world’s largest marine electronics manufacturer.  Darrell pioneered many significant “firsts” and received numerous patents as he introduced new breakthrough marine electronics technology.  In 1982 both Lowrance’s “Eagle” line and the first computerized, paper-graph fishfinder appeared, in the late 1980s devices using Loran-C radio-navigation receivers were introduced, and in 1991 the first receivers incorporating Rockwell GPS technology were released.

As more and more effort went into research and development, Lowrance Electronics strengthened its leadership position and set the pace for the entire industry in volume, technology and quality.  New innovative systems were introduced every few years, all made with a fanatical dedication to excellent performance, long-lasting reliability and exceptional value.  Darrell was totally involved in the company, the products, and the customers.  At Lowrance, both executives and engineers worked on in-water testing of current products, and developing others for future release.  Realizing that most equipment problems resulted from installation and operation issues, Darrell ran educational seminars to ensure that dealers knew Lowrance’s products inside and out.  And he frequently met with outdoor writers so they could accurately explain – and promote – Lowrance’s products in print.

A member of ICCAT’s Advisory Committee and a leading advocate of the U.S. tackle industry, Darrell championed the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association’s move to Washington, DC, which increased their involvement in fishery management issues.  In 1986 Darrell received the Miami Billfish Tournament’s Pflueger Achievement Award acknowledging his conservation and fishery enhancement projects.  One of those projects was the 1984 sinking of the 435’ freighter LOWRANCE for the Pompano Beach (Florida) Fishing Rodeo’s artificial reef.  At the time, the LOWRANCE was the largest object ever sunk for a reef off the U.S. East Coast.

In 1987 Lowrance Electronics played a role in OPERATION DEEPSCAN when their X-16 paper graph recorder was selected by a team of scientists for research in Scotland.  Though the stated purpose was to gather data about the ecology of Loch Ness, fascinated people around the world were convinced that the real purpose was to prove – or disprove – the existence of the Loch Ness Monster.  During a two-day “sweep” of the Loch, a line of boats equipped with X-16s detected numerous strong sonar “contacts,” all of which appeared to be moving.  In each case, however, the objects disappeared before follow-up boats arrived.   

Although Darrell sold the company to Navico in 2006, he remains an active spokesman for conservation, and for the tackle and marine industries.  And to this day anyone even remotely familiar with electronics knows the Lowrance name, and that the company pioneered much of today’s technology.  For his visionary contributions to individual anglers and the sportfishing industry, the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame recognizes Darrell Lowrance.