Let’s Look Back: Too Old To Forget – Part 1

This old Heddon Vamp Spook has almost as many scars as I do.  Some of the scars she wears also brought some of my most loved bass fishing memories.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

This old Heddon Vamp Spook has almost as many scars as I do. Some of the scars she wears also brought some of my most loved bass fishing memories. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Hardly a day goes by these days it seems that we don’t hear, see or read something about advanced age and declining memory just waiting to kick you in the butt!

Don’t you believe it!  I maintain that there are often just as many things – sometimes more of them – that the old never forget.

Certainly there are things old guys like yours truly who may have a tendency to forget where the wife wants us to always put the salt and pepper shakers or the sugar bowl. But buddy don’t try to tell me where I was or what happened away back at the height of World War II when I was with an infantry rifle company out there in the jungles of the South Pacific.

There are certain of those memories I’d love to forget.  That ain’t gonna happen.  Today one or another of them will creep up and pop out somewhere just as they’ve been doing ever since they took me off the hospital plane that finally brought me back.

Why do I mention this in connection with a fishing column?  It’s because some of the things I’ve had the wondrous opportunity to experience in a lifetime of angling always grab their own share of my memory’s archives.

Let me endeavor to explain.  I know darn well there are other old timers out there where not much explanation is required – they’ll have “been there and done that.”

For starters take a look at the first picture you see here with this column.  Chances are most newcomers to this business of putting bass in the boat won’t be able to tell you what it is or was.  It hasn’t been on the tackle shelves for years.

The lure is a Heddon Vamp Spook.  As has happened so often since companies like PRADCO, Pure Fishing, etc., etc., started gobbling up small companies that had once been around for years and years, many lures like the old Vamp Spook were dropped.

I expect this was undoubtedly do to a lack of sales.  I had already seen this happen a few times when those smaller companies were still around.  If you’ve been fishing since the 1930s, and I have, you’ve undoubtedly, had your own experiences in this regard.

As I’ve mentioned before in my Let’s Look Back columns, I had the wondrous good luck to spend decades living right on the shore of one of Washington State’s premier bass and panfish lakes.

For all that time my bass boat was about 60 feet from my front door.  Given that kind of opportunity you’d have to be a basket case not to learn where the bass are located in that water right out in front and what lures are most likely to get the results you’re after.

At the time I was there, and I expect much the same is still true today, Southwest Washington’s Silver Lake was loaded with yellow perch.  They were the primary forage fish for the lake’s bass.  It didn’t take long for even a newcomer to learn this.  The word didn’t get around as quickly then as these days but even then the few stores that carried bass lures quite early on in the Pacific Northwest often did have a few Heddon Vamp Spooks as well as Heddon Bassers.

As is generally true bass are most likely to have a tendency to grab lures that closely resemble those they feed on most of the time.  One of the Heddon Bassers was made in a perch finish.  It was by far the most effective.

I eventually wound up owning darn near all of the colors in which the old Heddon Basser was sold but about eight out of 10 fish I put in the boat on that lure all came on the one with a yellow perch finish.

There was a scattering of other experienced bass anglers who loved that old Basser as much as I did.  You can imagine our collective disappointment when right out of the blue Heddon quit carrying that lure.

I couldn’t figure out why in the world Heddon would drop a lure that had proven to be one of the very best for my own bass fishing.  I immediately contacted the Heddon Tackle Company to express my disappointment and to seek an explanation.

Here's a close up of one of those memories I'm talking about.  Photo tan Fagerstrom.

Here’s a close up of one of those memories I’m talking about. Photo tan Fagerstrom.

The answer I got was that the lure wasn’t selling well.  Sales were still all right in scattered parts of the country including our own.  Overall sales weren’t strong enough country-wide to keep the old Basser in the Heddon lineup of available lures.

My complaints didn’t do one bit of good.  I expect the same thing would undoubtedly be true if I was to contact the folks who still market products with Heddon’s name on them – lures like the old Heddon Vamp Spook I’ve previously mentioned.

I mention the old Vamp Spook in part because there was a special way to fish the darn thing that those bass often couldn’t resist.  I learned what that procedure was when I had opportunity to watch what a couple of old timers did with them when they let me tag along with on one of their evening bass fishing trips when I was still in grade school.

I’ll detail what they were doing with those Vamp Spooks in my next column.  And I’ll tell you something else.  I was doing the same thing while throwing one of my beat up old Heddon Vamp Spooks one morning at Silver Lake shortly before my wife and I sold the home we owned there in 1992 and moved to the Oregon Coast.

One of the bass that smashed my Spook that morning was a beauty.  She weighed 8-pound, 13-ounces.  Bass that size don’t come often in the Pacific Northwest.

And that fish wasn’t weighed on some digital scales job that might give you three different weights for the same fish.  The one I’m talking about was weighed on state registered scales at the Silver Lake Store before she was put back in the water.

Catch my next Let’s Look Back column.  I’ll share what that Heddon Vamp Spook could sometimes do for you when it was properly presented at the right time and place.

Let’s Look Back: “You Gotta Make ‘Em Talk” – Part 2

The late Blackie Lightfoot travelled all over the United States showing bass anglers how to use lures the people he represented were selling. Out of all the different hard baits he fished, the one he holds here was his favorite. It is a Cordell Red Fin. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The late Blackie Lightfoot travelled all over the United States showing bass anglers how to use lures the people he represented were selling. Out of all the different hard baits he fished, the one he holds here was his favorite. It is a Cordell Red Fin. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I wish the words I want to share in this column were easy for me to write, but they aren’t.  They will deal with the bass lure I told about in my previous Let’s Look Back column.

The lure, of course, is the Cordell Red Fin.  I detailed how my Texas friend Blackie Lightfoot once traveled the whole country showing writers and guides in different areas how the lures being marketed by the PRADCO people were best used.

As it turned out, after fishing all kinds of baits all over the place, Blackie’s favorite hard bait of the whole bunch was the Cordell Red Fin.  What he personally showed me on fishing trips we made together from Washington State to California wound up revealing why he felt as he did. [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back: “You Gotta Make ‘Em Talk” – Part 1

My friend Blackie Lightfoot pulled the bass boat you see here all over the United States. He'd get together with writers and guides along the way and show them the different lures available from the PRADCO people he was working for. Here I boat a nice bass that Blackie had hooked on one of his favorite lures. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

My friend Blackie Lightfoot pulled the bass boat you see here all over the United States. He’d get together with writers and guides along the way and show them the different lures available from the PRADCO people he was working for. Here I boat a nice bass that Blackie had hooked on one of his favorite lures. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

[Editor’s note:  This submission was to be posted April 1, 2016.  I light of my travel schedule and the fact I had very intermittent internet access the last month, I was unable to post it.  Stan’s May submission – Part 2 of this series – will post tomorrow.] 

This column has a dual purpose.

One is that I want to tell you about a guy whom I always felt was one of the best bass anglers I ever met.  The second is to tell you about his favorite lure and exactly what he had to do with it to get the results he was after.

Probably the easiest way for me to do that is to share an experience I had once while fishing with my good friend Steve Fleming, of Fossil, Oregon.  Steve operates the much respected Mah-Hah outfitters operation out Fossil.  For years he has been a top guide on Oregon’s John Day River. [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back: Columbia River’s Warm Water Fish Populations Face Problem

My friend Bruce Holt displays the kind of smallmouth bass anglers are now finding in the Columbia River. The larger fish always show up early in the season. Bruce nailed this beauty in February. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

My friend Bruce Holt displays the kind of smallmouth bass anglers are now finding in the Columbia River. The larger fish always show up early in the season. Bruce nailed this beauty in February. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The Pacific Northwest is salmon and steelhead country.

Anybody who fishes and doesn’t know that hasn’t got all his marbles. But let me share something you very well might not be aware of. It’s this: That part of the world now also has some darn good bass fishing. It is also producing record size walleyes. But as hard as some of the fish officials in states like Oregon and Washington have tried to destroy the big river’s warm water fishery it’s a wonder it’s still there. [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back: “Fishing Can Be Funny” – Part 1

Darn few fishermen have more of the details about the history of bass lures than does the guy pictured here. He's R. L. (Dick) Streater, a resident of Mercer Island, Washington. Streater is a long time memberof the Western Bass Club. This club, based in Seattle, is thought to have been the first bass club organized in the United States. It was formed in 1938.

Darn few fishermen have more of the details about the history of bass lures than does the guy pictured here. He’s R. L. (Dick) Streater, a resident of Mercer Island, Washington. Streater is a long time member of the Western Bass Club. This club, based in Seattle, is thought to have been the first bass club organized in the United States. It was formed in 1938.

There’s one thing I especially enjoy in writing this column for the Bass Fishing Archives. It’s the opportunity it provides to share thoughts about some really outstanding individuals who have contributed so much to this business of bassin’.

It’s also one of the benefits of having been around as long, or longer than most, of the veteran outdoor scribes who are still whacking out stories of one kind or another. I particularly enjoy sharing those thoughts I’ve mentioned when they are about a man who has been around quite awhile himself.

Ever hear of a guy named Dick Streater? If you haven’t you should. That’s especially true if you want to put a little fun into fishing. It’s also of special interest if you belong to a fishing club or group that brings in speakers or entertainment of one kind or another. [Read more…]

Lets’ Look Back: A friend Named Bill – Part 2

I hope some of my favorite Bill Norman lures don't eventually get dropped now that the company has been sold.  I'm still using some of Norman's early baits to put bass in the boat.

I hope some of my favorite Bill Norman lures don’t eventually get dropped now that the company has been sold. I’m still using some of Norman’s early baits to put bass in the boat.

The more things change the more they become the same.

Odds are you’d heard that comment before. I agree that it’s sometimes true but by golly don’t expect it to happen the day after tomorrow. Sometimes it takes awhile.

If you read my last column you know I told about my long time friendship with Bill Norman, the founder of Norman Lures.

If you did read that column, you’re aware I told about Norman having started his own lure company back in the 1960s. Not long afterwards he quit doing things on his own and went to work for another Arkansas bait making company named the Plastics Research and Develop Company. [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back: A Friend Named Bill – Part 1

Having Bill Norman for a friend meant a great deal to me.  If this picture doesn't show a couple of guys having fun, I don't know what would. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Having Bill Norman for a friend meant a great deal to me. If this picture doesn’t show a couple of guys having fun, I don’t know what would. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

[Editor’s Note: The recent sale of Norman Lures to the PRADCO organization hadn’t yet been announced when Stan wrote the following column. The sale was announced in late November. Stan will bring things that the late Bill Norman started up to date in his Let’s Look Back column for January, 2016.]

Whenever we take time to look back over the high spots along the trail we’ve followed, we’re certain to remember especially well some of the special events that have transpired.

If certain of those events happened to involve special friends, they’re even more certain to be up close to the top of your tackle box of memories. One of mine took place eight years ago in Birmingham, Alabama.

The annual Bassmasters Classic back in 2007 was headquartered in Birmingham. There will be those reading this who undoubtedly were there. I was there too, but it was another event held in concert with the Classic that brought me. [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back: Just Let it Sit

She's beat up a bit and some of her paint I gone but this old girl started catching bass for me a long, long time ago - and she still does. Note the sizeable double hook on the rear of the lure instead of the usual treble. One barb of the belly hook has also been clipped off. One of the workers at the Arbogast factory made these changes for me early on. I love it! Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

She’s beat up a bit and some of her paint I gone but this old girl started catching bass for me a long, long time ago – and she still does. Note the sizeable double hook on the rear of the lure instead of the usual treble. One barb of the belly hook has also been clipped off. One of the workers at the Arbogast factory made these changes for me early on. I love it! Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Some experiences just don’t fade away.

This applies every bit as much – maybe more – to fishing as it does to anything else. It’s certainly true where certain of my wondrous old lures are concerned.

If you read my last column you’ll recall I promised to tell about an experience that finally got me on the right track to get my Hula Poppers to do the job for me.

Goodness knows I’d had plenty of advice from experts regarding these old Arbogast baits. That advice was almost always much the same. It consisted of two words – slow down!

Maybe, like me and lots of other bassin’ men, you want to get your lure out there exactly where it needs to be but then you want to do something with it. What good is it gonna do just to let it set there? Why not start it dancing its way back to the boat and maybe get one of those bass you know is out there excited enough to smack it? [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back – Tackle Industry Friends Part 3

As you can see in this picture, that Hula Popper I threw into a hole back in pad cover minutes ago is still fishin' all by itself.  If you've taken good care of its Hula Skirt your lure is going to do the same thing the one in this picture is doing.  Don't lay your rod aside no matter how long the lure has been out there.  You just never know when the water might explode.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

As you can see in this picture, that Hula Popper I threw into a hole back in pad cover minutes ago is still fishin’ all by itself. If you’ve taken good care of its Hula Skirt your lure is going to do the same thing the one in this picture is doing. Don’t lay your rod aside no matter how long the lure has been out there. You just never know when the water might explode. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I doubt anybody knows quite as much about specific bass baits as the guys who come up with them in the first place.

In last month’s column I mentioned having had the chance down through the years of getting to know personally some of the nation’s leading lure makers. I’ve always felt pretty darn lucky to have had that opportunity.

I also mentioned that one of the guys I’d always wished I could have met, but didn’t, was Fred Arbogast. Fred, of course, was the guy who gave us lures ranging from the family of Hawaiian Wigglers to familiar surface baits like the wondrous old Jitterbugs and Hula Poppers.

I didn’t get to connect with Fred because he had almost come and gone before I wrote my first piece about bass. Now I’ve been around what sometimes seems almost since the fall of the Roman Empire. Actually, I entered the scene away back in 1923 but Fred, an expert bait caster besides heading up a terrific lure company, was already a national bait casting champion in 1922, 1923 and 1924. He passed away in 1947. [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back – Tackle Industry Friends Part 2

When I found lures that would catch fish for me it was great to be able to share a boat with the guy who was bringing those baits to the tackle shelves.  The late Bill Norman was a friend of mine.  I learned a good bit about his baits on the fishing trips I made with him. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

When I found lures that would catch fish for me it was great to be able to share a boat with the guy who was bringing those baits to the tackle shelves. The late Bill Norman was a friend of mine. I learned a good bit about his baits on the fishing trips I made with him. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I miss those days. If you’ve been around as long as I have, I expect you do too.

What days am I talking about? I miss those days when if you had a question about a specific item of fishing tackle you could usually go right to the guy who had his name on it to get the answers. Even if he didn’t actually have his name on it, it wasn’t hard to find out who he was.

I didn’t, of course, have a chance to meet all of them back there 69 years ago when I first started writing but by golly I did get to meet quite a few. I’m talking about guys like Bill Norman, Cotton Cordell, Dick Kotis, Jim Bagley, Gary Loomis, Tex Reeder, Phil Jensen and a number of others.

One of the lure manufacturers I’ve always wished I’d had opportunity to meet was Fred Arbogast. That didn’t happen because Fred was already producing the first of his famous to be line of bass lures about the time I came into the world away back in 1923. [Read more…]

Your Legacy Will Live On Harold

Harold Sharp B.A.S.S. Tournament Director 1970 to 1986.

Harold Sharp B.A.S.S. Tournament Director 1970 to 1986.

Without fail, it seems every year one of bass fishing’s forefathers passes to the great lake in the sky and the sport is left with a gaping hole. In 2012 we lost Homer Circle and in 2013, Doug Hannon. In January of this year we lost lure giant Cotton Cordell and I was hoping that would be it – there just aren’t many of the old-timers left – and from my selfish perspective, they have so much to offer with respect to the history of our beloved sport.

Then last week, we lost a man who helped change the sport of bass fishing to make it what it is today. That man was Harold Sharp. Yes, Ray Scott gets the credit for starting the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society – that fact will never be argued. And, Ray started the sport the right way, by making sure there was a firm set of rules and that every angler adhered to them. But it was Harold Sharp who, along with Ray Scott, wrote the B.A.S.S. rules, regulations and bylaws, started the B.A.S.S. Chapter (what would eventually become The Federation/Nation) and started the Chattanooga Bass Club – all in the same night. (if you’d like to read the story, click on this link from one of Harold’s columns back from March, 2013) [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back – Tackle Industry Friends Part 1

I didn't have any white in my whiskers when I first started corresponding with Homer Circle way back in the middle of the last century.  Over the years he was to become one of my closest friends.  Homer was working for the Heddon Tackle Company when our friendship first developed. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I didn’t have any white in my whiskers when I first started corresponding with Homer Circle way back in the middle of the last century. Over the years he was to become one of my closest friends. Homer was working for the Heddon Tackle Company when our friendship first developed. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

[Editor’s Note: Due to unforseen circumstances, we have not been able to post any stories for the better part of three months.  With this, we will be running two of Stan’s posts from August and September today and tomorrow in order to try and play catch-up with his column. We will also try and get back to posting on a more-regular basis.  We apologize for the lack of articles but the day job had severely hindered the time needed to provide meaningful pieces.]

There’s been a heap of change in this business of marketing baits designed to put bass in the boat since I did my first writing about it.

It was way back in the middle of the last century when I turned out my first fishing columns for a daily newspaper. The exact year was 1946. The way I went about getting details on new products I wanted to write about back in those early days provides one of glaring aspects of the changes I’m talking about.

And even more important, as far as I’m concerned, is how the tackle industry in those early days put me in touch with some lifetime friends. Some of those friends were instrumental in opening doors that led to me eventually having experiences I’d previously not even dreamed about having. [Read more…]