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.