Let’s Look Back – Part 11

Stan Fagerstrom holds a hefty Silver Lake Largemouth. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Stan Fagerstrom holds a hefty Silver Lake Largemouth. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I never will understand for sure why the Heddon Tackle Company quit selling a wonderfully effective lure called the Basser.

As I mentioned in the first column I did about the wonderful old lure, my friend Homer Circle was working with Heddon when that decision was made.  That Homer let it happen surprised me.  Homer was just as hooked on bass fishing himself as you and I are.

All this transpired, of course, long before the Heddon Tackle Company was purchased by a larger tackle company.

If I remember right, the lure was dropped from the company’s inventory around 1960.  I endeavored to find out exactly why the lure was dumped, but never did get what I considered an answer that made much sense.

The Basser and the Lucky 13 were both in the Heddon catalog for a time back in the days I lived on the Silver Lake.  Then the Basser was dropped.  Today, long after Heddon was sold, the Lucky 13 is still available in the current lineup of lures carrying the Heddon name.  I suppose no company is likely to keep making a lure that’s not selling well.  Maybe, despite what I wanted to believe, the Basser wasn’t.

Being told the Basser wasn’t selling well surprised the hell out of me.  I caught six times more fish on the Basser than I did on the Lucky 13 at Silver Lake.  So did other old timers who were using it as I did.  I visited with several local tackle stores that told me the Basser had always been one of their best selling bass lures.

I hadn’t yet met Homer Circle when Heddon dropped the Basser.  We had corresponded at length and visited a time or two on the phone.  I suppose I was a tad angry besides being surprised and disappointed when I learned the Basser was long gone.  I made that very plain to Homer at the time.  I also told him that if I ever got a chance to take him fishing on Silver Lake I’d prove what I was saying.

Here's a side view of the Heddon Basser.  Note the glass eyes that came on the original models of this wonderful old lure. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Here’s a side view of the Heddon Basser. Note the glass eyes that came on the original models of this wonderful old lure. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

It was years later that I finally did get to meet Homer.  It happened when I was one of the 24 writers invited to attend and take part as press observers in the first Bassmasters Classic held at Lake Mead back in the fall of 1971.  I knew Homer had visited with Ray Scott, the founder of BASS, about which writers should be invited to the Classic.  I’m satisfied Homer probably had a great deal to do with my being there.

It also set the stage for what was to follow – I was to eventually get to fish a sizable area of the world with Homer.  As I’ve mentioned in these columns he was a wonderful friend.  That friendship was also to eventually let me get him into my bass boat on Silver Lake.

That finally happened after Homer and his wife came to spend a few days with us after they had attended a meeting in Spokane.  I got him in my bass boat just as soon as it could be arranged.  I put Homer up in the bow of my boat and had him fish spots I knew held bass.

The fishing wasn’t red hot but how sweet it is for me to remember what happened the first day we were out.  Remember now, Homer is getting first shot at those Silver Lake fish.  I kept our boat about 20 feet off the outside edge of one of the lake’s many big fields of lily pads.

Homer hooked a fish or two while I just kept the boat where I wanted it to be.  Finally, I quit rowing – yes I said “rowing”, trolling motors hadn’t yet hit the market – and picked up my rod.  I’d rigged it with a Heddon Basser in a yellow perch finish before we started.  I cast that lure up into one of the little pockets at the pad-field edge.

I waited long seconds until the lure swung around and the strip of metal on its lip was looking right at me.  Then I gave it a twitch.  The lure gave me the sound I was after as it dug down into the water and wham!  Fish on!

Homer swiveled around to see what was going on.  “That sounded like a good one,” he said.

I managed to move the sizable bass that had hit my Basser a couple of feet away from the edge of the pad field before I answered.  When I did all I said was, “Watch this.”  Then I dropped my rod tip and gave the fish a completely slack line.

I knew what was about to happen.  Another heartbeat or two and a bass that had to have been close to four pounds burst through the surface savagely shaking its head as it broke the water.  A couple of heartbeats later, the Heddon Basser that had been pinned to its mug came sailing back toward the boat.  The lure splashed down into the water just a few feet away.

“Homer,” I said, “I just wanted you to see why I was raising hell when you let those dummies quit making the Heddon Basser.  As far as I’m concerned it’s one of the best bass baits ever made.”

Homer didn’t say much at the time, but when he wrote to me later he did.  He said he’d never forget that fish I’d hooked and that it would always share a spot in his fishing memory book.  Be assured it is also in mine.

So are my unforgettable memories of the time Homer and I were to spend together fishing salmon in Alaska, catching peacock bass in the Amazon and fighting largemouth bass in Honduras.  And all this was in addition to fishing from New York State to Washington State, too often being roommates at the annual Bassmasters Classic.  Homer was one of the best friends I’ve ever had.  I continue to miss him.

The Basser isn’t the only one of the great old Heddon Lures that’s no longer available.  Another is the Heddon Vamp Spook.  On down the line sometime I’ll tell you about some of my experiences with that one.

In my next column I’ll tell you about another old lure that’s no longer available.  Like the Heddon Basser, it just knocked the bass for a loop once you learned how to use it.  It will still do the same thing today for those fortunate enough to still have one.