May 14, 2022
Correspondent photo / Nancilynn Gatta These are some of the completed lures in Russell Accordino’s workshop in Howland.
HOWLAND — Russell Accordino of Howland discovered his love of fish and everything surrounding the sport of fishing at a very young age.
“I was 5 years old when I went fishing for the first time with my grandpa, Frank Ledenko Sr. We went to Mosquito Creek,” Accordino, 35, said.
They continued to fish at Mosquito and on occasion at Pymatuning Lake and Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada.
“When I learned to use the phone, I would call him to take me fishing. We went almost every week, sometimes two or three times. I would sleep over at his house, wanting to fish every day,” he said.
He fished with his grandpa until he got his driver’s license. Then, he drove himself or went with his friends.
Ledenko died in January, but Accordino had one final trip with the man who taught him everything about fishing.
“I took him out for the last time last fall. He was 87, and we fished for seven hours,” Accordino said.
The 2004 John F. Kennedy High School graduate began his college career at Otterbein University as a placekicker on a football scholarship.
“I went for a general art degree. I knew I wanted to pursue art as a career, but I didn’t know which field,” he said.
“I met a friend at Otterbein, whose sister went to Columbus School of Art and Design. He took me there to visit, and I knew that was where I wanted to be. I was accepted, and I fell in love with industrial design. I chose it because it is always changing. One week, you could be designing cars. The next week designing toys, shoes or architecture,” he said.
Industrial design involves working with your hands, and his paternal grandfather, Russell Accordino, was a carpenter.
“I never met my Accordino grandfather. He passed away before I was born. He was a carpenter, and that is closely related to industrial design. He also worked with his hands to make things,” Accordino said.
Artistic talent runs on both sides of his family. His great-uncle, Frank Cordy, had a chance meeting with Walt Disney and was offered a job before leaving for World War II, but he died in the war. His uncle, Frank Ledenko Jr., is an Art Institute of Pittsburgh graduate.
After graduating in 2009 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, he combined his industrial design background with his love of fishing to make artificial fishing lures.
“I started making lures in 2008 in college because I studied product design. I learned how to cast and mold my own objects. I could produce my original ideas from scratch. Almost every project I did was fish-related in some way. It is what I enjoy,” he said.
He began fishing for carp as a child but became fascinated with pike fish because of their aggressive nature and sharp teeth. He fishes for fun, and whatever he catches is thrown back in the water.
Accordino explained the process of making the pike and musky lures.
“I’m old school. I do everything by hand,” he said. “I start off with sketching. I hand carve the wood. I make the form out of silicone. Then, I cast the lure out of resin and rubber, and I paint them.”
He and his wife of four years, Danielle, met as students at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Niles.
“She has gone fishing with me, but often I go alone,” Accordino said. “It’s relaxing. I fished almost every day during the pandemic.”
He joked it was one of the best years of his life.
His 2-month-old son, Russell, could be the next generation of fishermen.
“I can take him in the chest carrier when he is 6 months old. I plan on taking him fishing when he is old enough,” he said.
Even with a newborn, he finds time to fish.
“I fish at least once a week. I stay two to six hours at a time. I need to test new designs / lures so it’s a good excuse to go fishing. I don’t settle for any design that doesn’t work. There’s always improvement to be made to create the perfect lure that catches multiple fish consistently,” he said.
What began as a bonding experience with his grandfather has become a lifelong pursuit and profession for Accordino.
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