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.

I mention Arbogast especially because he was responsible for creating several of the bass lures that have put so darn many bass in the boat for me. Fred brought his Hawaiian Wigglers to market in 1936. He introduced his Jitterbug surface lure in 1938 and followed that up with his Hula Popper in 1941.

Those little strands of rubber Arbogast called his Hula Skirts were used on both Fred’s Hawaiian Wigglers and Hula Poppers. I’m not at all sure that many bass fishermen even today fully realize just what tremendous assets those little skirts can be with those lures when used properly.

I’ve written before just what one of those Hula Skirts can sometimes also do for an Arbogast Jittterbug. The Jitterbug didn’t come with a skirt it but it’s no big deal to add one to it. Maybe there are some other bass fishing nuts out there besides myself who do that but I’m not aware of it.

While I didn’t get meet Fred Arbogast, he passed away at only 53 years of age in 1947, I did get to meet the man who took over the Arbogast operation when Fred was gone. His name was Dick Kotis.

Kotis was a good guy. I never did get to fish with him but we did get well acquainted. I used certain Arbogast lures in some of the lure tank demonstrations I did at outdoor shows around the country for a time.

Mention of Kotis brings to mind why I made that comment in the beginning about missing not being able to talk to the man who knows the most about specific items of tackle. I say that partly because I’ve always felt one of the most effective methods of usually (please note I didn’t “always”) getting the most out of the Arbogast Hula Popper is to fish it sufficiently slow.

As far as I'm concerned this is old Hula Popper is still one of the best bass baits you can throw when conditions are right.  Fred Arbogast, its creator, is the guy I think of whenever I pick one up.  The Hula Popper is just one of several great baits Arbogast wound up making available to all of us. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

As far as I’m concerned this is old Hula Popper is still one of the best bass baits you can throw when conditions are right. Fred Arbogast, its creator, is the guy I think of whenever I pick one up. The Hula Popper is just one of several great baits Arbogast wound up making available to all of us. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

It was especially comforting to hear what Dick Kotis had to tell me in this regard. “Stan,” he said, “the best guy I ever saw with a Hula Popper was a fellow from Tennessee. He fished that darn thing so slow I couldn’t stand to be in the boat with him.”

I had the good fortune to attend all but two of the first 30 Bassmasters Classics. I participated as a press observer in most of these intensively competitive events. As effective as Hula Poppers have been ever since they were introduced, I don’t recall ever having seen one used by a Classic contestant.

What I sure as heck do recall is being in the boat with the guy who was leading the pack on the second day of competition in the very first Classic held on Lake Mead back in 1971. The last thing I wanted as a press observer was to do anything even resembling attempting to compete with the Classic contestant fishing from the front of the boat.

In those days those of us who were press observers were permitted to fish from the back of the boat if we chose to do so. We even had our own press observer competition. The writer who caught the largest bass won the bucks. We were warned, of course, not to compete with the contestant.

That was why in mid-afternoon on that second day I got into my tackle box and picked out a black Hula Popper. I threw that thing up toward the Lake Mead shoreline and just let it set there. If I’d been at all serious about putting fish in the boat, I’d have at the very least picked something besides a black surface lure with the sun overhead on gin clear Lake Mead.

If you know beans about bass, you’re well aware they ain’t gonna always do “anything” for certain. They’ll upset the old apple cart
faster than a Bourbon Street blonde can knock old Jim Beam off his balance.

If you ever run into Bobby Meador, the Louisiana Classic contestant I was with that second day of the first Classic, ask him what happened. He’ll tell you a bass just a shy short of 4-pounds, came busting up out of the Lake Mead shallows as if it had been waiting for that black Hula Popper for a month of Mondays.

Bobby, in my opinion one of the better bass anglers I ever shared a boat with in all those years of Classic competition, was just as surprised when that fish hit as I was.

Despite throwing a black Hula Popper into clear water without a trace of cover I wound up that second Classic day bringing in the second heaviest fish. You explain it, I can’t.

Keep an eye out for my October Let’s Look Back column. I’ll have some additional tales to tell regarding tackle makers with names familiar to us all.
To Be Continued-

  • William Sonnett

    Love these pieces Stan — Can’t wait for
    more