Floyd Johnson and Warren Denison built their first reel in a basement in Mankato, Minnesota in 1949. Denison- Johnson, Inc. was formed shortly after. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Johnson Wax (S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.) initiated a diversification strategy to acquire a group of small to medium-sized firms. Based largely on the fact that Samuel C. Johnson the owner of the Johnson Wax empire, was known as a sports enthusiast, the company initially purchased a small electric motor boat and fishing reel manufacturer located in Minnesota.
In the early 60’s Johnson came out with the Original Beetle Spin® lure, a lure that is still in production today and can be found in every tackle box. There have been many imitations over the years, but none have ever matched the action and simplicity of Johnson’s Original Beetle Spin.
In 1985 it was decided that it was time for the division to function as an independent company. Johnson Worldwide Associates (JWA) was spun off from the parent company.
By the end of the 1980s, the company was making its brand-name Johnson fishing reels, Minn Kota trolling motors, Old Town canoes, Eureka! tents and Camp Trail backpacking gear. In 1989, JWA was named one of the best small companies in the U.S. by Forbes magazine.
JWA made one of its first overseas acquisitions, a fishing reel manufacturer in Cluses, France, named Mitchell Sports. Mitchell Sports was one of the most revered manufacturers in the sporting goods industry, mostly due to the regard with which serious fishermen held the company’s Mitchell 300 fishing reel. Johnson initiated new marketing plans to introduce the Mitchell 300 reel to the United States. Not surprisingly, it became one of the bestselling items in the company’s history.
In 1995, Johnson entered the line market by acquiring SpiderWire.
In 2000, Pure Fishing acquired the Johnson Fishing Tackle Division from JWA.
The Johnson brand continues to include fishing reels, rod and reel combos, and lures.