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.

But it wasn’t the John Day experience I had with Steve that I’d like to share.  What we were doing was fishing the small largemouth and bluegill lake not far from Fossil and to which Steve and his clients are the only ones that have access.

This small lake is loaded with both bluegill and bass and some of those bass are dandies.  On the trip I’m talking about I particularly wanted to show Steve how that lure I mentioned in the beginning had to be manipulated to get the job done.

Strange as it might grab you, I’m convinced the sound the lure makes when it’s manipulated just right is the key to the lure’s success.

I had the lure I’m talking about tied on when Steve launched our boat that morning.  We eased up about 25 feet away from some weed growth and I made my first cast.  “Steve,” I said, “I just want you to watch and listen for a minute.  If I manage to get the right sound out of this lure I’m probably gonna get a fish.”

I had no luck on that first cast.  I saw the water boil when I got the lure back out exactly where it needed to be on my second cast but the fish didn’t actually strike.

“Watch now, Steve,” I said, “there’s one in there that’s interested.  If I manage to get the sound I’m after when I work the lure this cast you’re gonna see what I’ve been talking about.”

Even though I knew it was probably going to happen, the strike still caught me with my drawers at half mast. Perhaps that was just as well because when I did snap my rod tip up and back the fish was solidly hooked.

And she was a dandy.

When I finally got her up close enough for Steve to get her in his net it was obvious she was close to or maybe in the 8-pound bracket.  Fleming told me later she was one of the larger bass he’d seen come out of the lake.

I held her up while my partner shot a couple of quick pictures.  Once we had the photos I unpinned the hooks from the worn lure she’d crashed and eased her back into the water.

When my heart finally quit thumping, I paused as thoughts came pouring out of my head as if an unseen hand was emptying a pitcher filled with memories.

I have some of those thoughts every time I look at that much used lure I mentioned.  Those thoughts aren’t only of the lure they are also of the valued friend who taught me how to use it.

You're looking at the type of lure Blackie Lightfoot favored most of all for largemouth bass – it’s a Cordell Red Fin. Blackie painted the belly of this one with a strip of red. Blackie gave me this lure once he gave it that paint job and then showed me how to use it. This is one heck of a lure when it's properly manipulated. You can see what the bass have done to this one but she's still catching fish! Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

You’re looking at the type of lure Blackie Lightfoot favored most of all for largemouth bass – it’s a Cordell Red Fin. Blackie painted the belly of this one with a strip of red. Blackie gave me this lure once he gave it that paint job and then showed me how to use it. This is one heck of a lure when it’s properly manipulated. You can see what the bass have done to this one but she’s still catching fish! Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The friend I’m talking about, and some of the anglers who read this feature are going to know of him, was Charles (Blackie) Lightfoot, of Conroe, Texas.  What treasured memories I have of when our trails crossed.

I mentioned in the beginning that one of the purposes of this column was to share memories of my time with Blackie.  What I said about him being one of the best bassin’ men I’ve ever met was especially true when it comes to using the lures like that on which I’d just caught that dandy 8-pounder.

I also write this story with sadness.  My friend Blackie is no longer with us.  He lost the battle he’d been fighting with cancer for a long, long time years ago.  Gone he may be, but he will be in my heart and thoughts every time I eyeball the lure I’m writing about.

When I first met Blackie he was travelling the country for the PRADCO company.  As you’re probably aware, the PRADCO people now market a tackle box full of different lure brands.  Those lures include names like Heddon, Arbogast, Cordell, etc., etc.

What an interesting job Blackie had.  What it amounted to was towing his bass boat from one area to another all around the nation.  At each stop he’d get together with a prominent bass fisherman or two. He invited the bass anglers he met to go fishing with him.

Once they were on the water he’d show them how to use the lures PRADCO was marketing.  Remember now, here’s a guy who was fishing bass from one end of the country to the other.  He fished a variety of lures under countless conditions.

Be that as it may, Blackie wound up favoring one lure more than any of the others.  His favorite of the bunch was the Cotton Cordell Red Fin.  I eventually shared a boat with Blackie on lakes in both Washington and Northern California.  Once I got a chance to fish with him, it was easy to understand why he was so fond of this particular lure.

Lightfoot was an artist with the Red Fin.  He nearly made the thing talk.  I’m serious.  I use the word “talk” because I’m convinced a primary reason for this lure’s effectiveness is the sound it makes when it is worked just right.

If it’s done properly, the lure makes a distinctive sound as it’s manipulated.  The sound is hard to describe.  It’s different than anything I’ve heard similar lures make.

Catch my next Let’s Look Back column.  I’ll get into more of the details on Blackie Lightfoot’s favorite Red Fins and how he handled them to produce their magic.