In the world of bass fishing there’s huge controversy over who and where finesse fishing got its start. There are good arguments for many parts of the nation and who played their part, but personally it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Necessity is the mother of invention and when it comes to fishing, there is no group more ingenious than bass anglers who want to catch more fish.
That’s what this story is about. A man who loved to catch fish and would go to extreme lengths to do so and in the process, develop a whole new philosophy pertaining to bass fishing.
That man was Charlie Brewer – his invention, Slider Fishing.
Over the course of the last couple months I was fortunate to meet Charlie’s grandson, Jimmy, through work. One day while working together, Jimmy came up to me and we started talking. We hadn’t met prior to this but he knew I was an avid fisherman. The conversation went directly to that subject and then he said, “My grandfather owned a small tackle company in Tennessee.” My initial thought was, “Yeah, I bet a lot of people’s grandfathers owned tackle companies in Tennessee.” I asked him, “Oh yeah, what company was that? I may know of it.”
What he said next made my jaw hit the floor.
“He owned Crazy Head Lure Company,” he said.
After picking up my jaw, I said, “Charlie Brewer is your grandfather?”
At that point he had all of my attention. Instead of taking about work, all I wanted to do was talk about Charlie and fishing.
Since that time Jimmy’s introduced me to his uncle, Charlie Brewer Jr., and I’ve had a chance to delve into the company and Charlie Sr.’s past.
The Do-Nothing Concept
Brewer was born in 1920 Lawrenceburg, Tennessee and grew up fishing with his father. After a stint in World War II, he was in the Pacific theater, he came back to Tennessee and picked up where he left off – fishing the local haunts.
Always the tinkerer, Brewer and his fishing buddies were constantly trying to make the “Magic” lure. Then one day on his way home from fishing, Brewer came upon some young kids with a large stringer of fish and asked them how they caught them.
Here is an account written by Charlie Brewer Jr. at the time of his father’s passing in 2000.
One day Charlie saw some boys walking down the road with their fishing gear and a string of fish. He stopped them and asked how they caught [them]. It was a nice string. The boys had light rods, line, and small lures. This was not the way men fished but there must be something to it.
Charlie decide to take what the boys had told him and try experimenting with light tackle. His first light tackle rod was a fly fishing rod cut down in size. Charlie watched minnows in clear water, move through the water in a smooth way with no action. They were just sliding through the water with ease. Then an idea came to him. He knew that live bait was usually best. He needed to imitate live bait as close as possible.
Watching the minnows, the rubber worms, and the methods the boys were using lead to a new method of fishing. Charlie cut the worms down to the size that most fish seem to eat. Then he worked with hook and head designs to fit this new way of fishing. He wanted a method that would imitate nature. He wanted the lure to slide through the water with very little action like the minnows.
He needed to vary the depth and speed of retrieval. He designed and experimented until everything was in balance. Charlie designed, made, and modified a jig head to work with this type fishing. The head was flat with the hook exposed. This design kept the hook turned upward and allowed the rubber worm to slide through the water. The size of the rubber worm was adjusted downward to 4 inches. This seemed to be the right size. This method of fishing was called “Slider Fishing.” This was completely different from conventional methods at the time but it proved to be a way to increase fish catches especially during tough conditions. Also, this method was easy to fish. It was a “Do Nothing Method.” No extra action was necessary. Just fish this lure in a way to imitate nature.
A New Technique Meets the Masses
In Brewer’s book, Charlie Brewer on Slider Fishin’ (published by Bass Anglers Sportman Society, 1978) he talks about the year 1967 as the year he and his fishing buddies discovered the Slider method of fishing. He also writes that he formed his lure manufacturing business in 1970. In order to get the word out about the concept, he sent sample packs of lures and pamphlets on how to fish the system to a number of anglers and magazines.
His first response came from non-other than Billy Westmorland and Jerry McKinnis. Here again are the words from Charlie Brewer Jr. on that occurrence.
Charlie Brewer had proven to himself that this method was a true means to catch more fish [so] he decided to start a lure company. He called the company “CRAZY HEAD LURE COMPANY” because of the unique and crazy looking head design. The company was literally started on the kitchen table.
Now Charlie had to educate and promote this new technique. He was always putting the fisherman first. Education, demonstrations, and talking about HOW TO slider fish was an obsession. Charlie [would] travel [to] areas out from his home talking to anyone who would listen. He sent samples with instructions to many people. A first bit of luck came when Billy Westmoreland [sic] was fishing with Jerry Mckinnis [sic] on Dale Hollow lake. They had fished with almost no results when Billy decided to use these samples sent to him. Their fishing trip became a success. Charlie was contacted and later joined the two. He showed them the technique and then operated the camera while the two produced a TV show. This support opened more opportunities.
It All Works Together
As mentioned before, Brewer’s method of fishing is more of an entire philosophy rather than just a lure. From rod selection to line size, head weight and design, to bait size and retrieve, it all matters when utilizing the technique.
At a time when pool-cue stiff rods, 20-pound mono and large lures were in most anglers’ boats, Brewer was touting 4-pound line, ultra-light spinning rods and 1/16-ounce baits. The light line enabled the light baits to fall properly to the desired depths and allowed the angler precise control. Limber rods aided in fighting fish on the light line but also helped the angler not to impart too much action into the retrieve. The bait was to be cast out, allowed to sink to the proper depth, and slowly worked back to the boat, either with smooth sweeps of the rod or constant slow retrieve of the reel. Brewer was dead against popping the rod tip, much like anglers would do with a jig or standard worm retrieve. He was definitely part of the crowd that said, “less is more.”
Here’s an excerpt fro his book describing why.
“Hold the plastic worm out in front of you, and let the body and tail of the worm hang down. Try to hold the worm perfectly still. Observe. You will quickly discover that it is impossible to hold the plastic worm perfectly still. In fact, if you should hold the worm forever, the tiny bit of wiggle, weave jiggle or motion will never, never leave the body or tail of the worm, Why? This is due to the slight, nervous energy of your body transferring to the soft plastic material.
“Next, take your fishing rod, and hold it out in front of you. Observe the tip of the rod. You will find it the same way. It’s also impossible to hold the rod tip perfectly still….”
“Now, imagine yourself fishing, holding your rod perfectly still as you slowly crank or retrieve the SLIDER lure in perfect rhythm, being as smooth and steady as possible. In other words, you are trying to do everything in your power “NOT TO ADD ANY EXTRA ACTION TO THE LURE.” But you will find that it is impossible to keep the SLIDER lure (flat leadhead and four-inch plastic worm) from having some action.
Charlie Brewer and his Slider Fishing techniques have been a part of our fishing since the early 70s and anglers worldwide have benefited from his unconventional thinking. Not only that Brewer added another method to that which is called finesse fishing and will forever have a place in the annals of fishing. Did he invent finesse? I’m not going to argue that but he sure invented a neat way in which to catch a lot of bass on light tackle.
I would like to thank Jimmy Matthews and Charlie Brewer Jr. for the help with this article. Without my chance encounter with Jimmy this past year and he introducing me to his uncle, this article wouldn’t mean as much as it does.
For those interested in reading the whole story on Slider Fishing and how to do it, the book is still sold by Slider Fishing and can be purchased through www.sliderfishing.com.