Sometimes my own nostalgia overcomes me. Regular readers immediately recognize my love for the old-school aspects of bass fishing, especially tackle. I guess every hardcore fan has similar feelings. For some, Jelly Worms are classics; for others, itís original Lucky Craft square-bills.
In any case, I canít get away from a number of things that shaped my bass fishing passion, whether they catch fish or not. I still find myself fruitlessly trying to cast a rig called a swimminí worm, though I could probably catch more fish under the same conditions on a Skinny Dipper.
A number of items, though, stay in my stash due to their sheer effectiveness. Try as they may, modern tackle manufacturers just canít seem to match the hidden variables that make these winners, despite decades of attempts. We see a few poke through on the pro tours from time to time; baits like the Original Shad Rap and Wiggle Warts immediately come to mind.
But Iíve got several others that I donít hear much about. Take a quick stroll with me down memory lane as I wonder whatever happened to these solid fish-catchers.
Quick Clip Tube Hooks and Weights: Remember these? Developed or popularized by tube wizard Shaw Grigsby, these little cylinder weights went inside the hollow-bodied lure rather than in front of it, and clipped to a wire on the wide-gap hook. The result was a lure that spiraled on the fall Ė the original intention of the tube lure Ė creating a fish-catching action that couldnít be denied. I see little airplay for these gems in todayís media. I wonder who, besides me, still keeps the little clip rigs around?
The Five-Bladed Spinnerbait: I vividly remember George Cochran stealing a bunch of money from me and other competitors with a spinnerbait no one had ever seen before, featuring five or more small willow-leaf blades. This invention was intended to better mimic a school of shad and was crazy effective when fished ultra-shallow in the fall. For a year or two, similar creations were all the rage. A few still hang on the peg board in my shop, collecting dust. I wonder, did this bait fall victim to Alabama Rig rage?
The Worm Rattle: Remember when rattles were mandatory? For several years, top pros insisted rattles were imperative to their success, as bass could hone in on plastic offerings flipped around shoreline cover. Soft-plastic manufacturers created entire lineups of lures with rattle pockets specifically for this purpose. I canít remember the last time I heard of anyone using a rattle in similar fashion.
Mannís 1-Minus Crankbait: Oh my goodness, this was a great lure Ė especially the smaller size when fished in northern natural lakes. The 1-Minus family filled a niche no other crankbait could, staying up above grass and cover no matter the speed of retrieve. Today, wakebaits fill a similar role (although often priced four times more), yet Iím living proof that a 1-Minus still catches fish. Will this lure ever make a comeback?
The Zoom Lizard: There was a time when half the field of a major tournament had a Carolina-rigged Zoom Lizard tied up, and 99 percent of those were pumpkinseed with a chartreuse tail. Search the pros' rod lockers today and youíd be lucky to find one. What happened? Iím really not sure here. Other techniques began dominating the offshore game once owned by the ball and chain. Shaky-heads became all the rage, then deep cranks and flutter spoons got hot. The lizard was also a springtime flipping staple at one time, now simply ignored.
The Johnson Spoon: Okay, Iím digging pretty deep with this one. But it may really surprise many BassFans to know that, way back when, a Johnson Spoon was one of the most popular baits for fishing around grass, and possibly THE most popular hard bait in Florida. Still a favorite among redfish anglers, the spoonís biggest downfall continues to be a laughably dull hook that never takes a good point, leaving many heavy-cover bass anglers frustrated when a giant blows up and fails to get pinned. But gosh, are they exciting lures to fish, and truly unique choices for thick grass.
Digging deeper into my stash, I come across more lures that once seemed like miracles. Reapers. Ring worms. Weed Walkers. Inline buzzers. The list goes on and on.
I continue to resist ditching these sentimental favorites. Sure, modern baits cast and hold up better, look more realistic and often catch more fish.
But not every time.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)