Let’s Look Back: There’s More than One Way – Part 1

When producers of the world's top outdoor shows bring you in to do casting exhibitions they expect you to be able to hit your targets.  Working out the casting techniques that enable you to do that is essential.  Here I'm pictured doing my thing at a big outdoor show in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  I gave casting exhibitions there on three successive years. Photo Stan Fagerstrom

When producers of the world’s top outdoor shows bring you in to do casting exhibitions they expect you to be able to hit your targets. Working out the casting techniques that enable you to do that is essential. Here I’m pictured doing my thing at a big outdoor show in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I gave casting exhibitions there on three successive years. Photo Stan Fagerstrom

I gave my first casting demonstrations that really amounted to anything at the old Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles way back in April of 1952.

Since that time I expect I’ve probably given about as many demonstrations of level wind rigs, both open and closed face spinning reels and rods as well as the techniques of flipping and pitching as darn near anybody.  My demonstrations have taken me all over the United States and from Tennessee to Tokyo as well as from Nevada to New Zealand.  And there have been numerous other spots both in and out of the USA.

If I’ve learned anything over having spent those countless hours trying to help my audiences learn more about casting – it’s this.  There is more than one way to do darn near anything.  And that certainly applies where various types of casting are concerned. [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back: I’m Too Old To Forget – Part 2

This old girl is as beat up as I am---but she has provided me with some of my very best bass fishing memories.  She is a Heddon Vamp Spook.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

This old girl is as beat up as I am—but she has provided me with some of my very best bass fishing memories. She is a Heddon Vamp Spook. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

If you read my previous Let’s Look Back column you know the subject dealt with a wonderful old bass bait called the Heddon Vamp Spook.

I also made some comments about not being in agreement with that hog crap we hear so often about the old guys like me not being capable of remembering their early day experiences.  It was, incidentally, the memories of the first time I ever saw the Heddon Vamp Spook actually being used for bass that’s the reason for this column.

Those memories took place way back when I was in my early teens and just getting into bass fishing.  I lived in the city of Longview, Washington at the time.  Longview is located in the southwest portion of the Evergreen State and borders the Columbia River.

One of the kids I went to school with was from Alabama.  His dad and his dad’s brother were experienced bass fishermen.  They’d had lots of bass fishing experience down South.

My classmate asked if I’d like to go along when he and his dad and his dad’s brother went to one of the nearby log ponds to do some bass fishing.

These ponds were backwaters of the Columbia River and used by local lumber mills for log storage.  At the time these ponds contained an abundant population of both bass and panfish.

I was brand new to the Pacific Northwest having just arrived there a year or so before from North Dakota.

I didn’t know beans about bass fishing but I’d been reading every darn thing I could find about it.  I was really interested in how my friend’s father and his brother would go about trying to catch a few.

The first lure they both used when we reached the log pond was one called a Heddon Basser.  They threw this lure out to the edge of the log pond and then left it alone for a few seconds before twitching it around a bit.  Keep the name of this lure in mind because I’ll be mentioning it again.

It was what the two men did a little later that really got my attention.  The water in the log pond as late evening came was completely quiet and flat.  Long shadows were moving out from the western side of the pond’s shoreline.

One of the first things I learned about the Heddon Vamp Spook early on was that in quiet water often one of the most effective ways to fish it was to reel slowly so it could leave a wake that bass just had to check out.  I'm not throwing a Vamp Spook In this picture but the photo does show me using another lure in a fashion similar to what I'm talking about.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

One of the first things I learned about the Heddon Vamp Spook early on was that in quiet water often one of the most effective ways to fish it was to reel slowly so it could leave a wake that bass just had to check out. I’m not throwing a Vamp Spook In this picture but the photo does show me using another lure in a fashion similar to what I’m talking about. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I watched as the two men now changed lures.  What they did with these lures was to cast them way out into the pond and just leave them completely alone until all of the disturbance of their splashing down had gone away.

Once that had transpired they then started reeling them back ever so slowly.  Their lures were just barely wiggling as they started back but that movement was sufficient to leave “V” shaped wakes behind them on the pond’s quiet surface.

I had just about made up my inexperienced young mind that those two old guys didn’t know what they were doing.  Wrong!

The lure my friend’s father was using was about halfway back to the bank when – Wham!  The bass that had exploded under it turned out to be just a tad less than 4-pounds.  That fish branded a memory into my brain that’s every darn bit as clear today as it was all those years ago.

I made sure to find out the name of those wake-leaving lures those men were both throwing.  Both turned out to be those called Heddon Vamp Spooks.  Both were made with a yellow perch finish.

You won’t find either the Heddon Basser or the Heddon Vamp Spooks being marketed today.  As far as I’m concerned they can still be every bit as effective as many present day bass baits when used in the right water by someone who knows how they have to be handled to get results.

In my opinion the “right” water for the Vamp Spook are those lakes where yellow perch are the primary forage for largemouth bass.  That was certainly true at Washington State’s Silver Lake in the decades I lived on its shore.

Here's another picture of a Vamp Spook that's almost as old as I am.  I wound up having to change its hooks because some really sizeable northern bass wound up ruining the ones that came with it.  The last sizeable Pacific Northwest bass I caught on this beautiful old bait just before I moved fromthat part of the country weighed 8-pounds, 13-ounces.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Here’s another picture of a Vamp Spook that’s almost as old as I am. I wound up having to change its hooks because some really sizeable northern bass wound up ruining the ones that came with it. The last sizeable Pacific Northwest bass I caught on this beautiful old bait just before I moved fromthat part of the country weighed 8-pounds, 13-ounces. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

As it turned out, using the Vamp Spook only as a “wake” bait was also a mistake.  Sometimes it was more effective to cast it right next to cover and just leave it alone.  The next step was to get it looking right at you before giving it a couple of light twitches with your rod tip.

I learned that the hits I had with this type of retrieve almost always didn’t come until I made the lure actually dive and start swimming back to the boat.  Then they’d usually come after the lure had only moved a few feet.  That’s how I nailed that 8-pound, 13-ounce Silver Lake beauty I mentioned in my previous column.

I treasure the few old Heddon Vamp Spooks as well as the Heddon Bassers I still have.  The day I no longer can remember the wondrous memories these old beauties have created for me will be time for me to hang up my bassin’ gear and call it a day.

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…]