Book Review – Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers

Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers, Fishing Facts magazine, 3rd printing, 1973.

Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers, Fishing Facts magazine, 3rd printing, 1973.

Okay, before you start throwing things at me for even mentioning the word “bait,” give me a second to explain something. In 1972 Fishing Facts magazine came out with the first printing of Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers – a book, by the look of the title, that was all about fishing the lowly nightcrawler. It was adapted from Bill Binkelman’s books, “Nightcrawler Secrets” and “Walleyes Love Nightcrawlers,” along with additional material supplied by a number of other experts – notably George Pazik, Jim Wrolstad, Don Woodruff, Ron Lindner, Spence Petros and Carl Malz.

If there was ever a book that the old adage, “never judge a book by its cover,” was made for, it was Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers. Yes, there was a lot contained within its binder that talked about how to grow your own nightcrawlers, how to choose a bait shop, how to fish them, how to store them, yada yada yada. What the cover hid from prospective readers was that this book was one of the first comprehensive dissertations on structure fishing. In fact, at the time there may not have been a better source of information on the subject that was contained in one volume.

AuthorsI was introduced to this book back in the 1978 timeframe by a close friend of mine who used to frequent the tackle shop. By that time the book was out of print but he graciously allowed me to read it – telling me to pay specific attention to chapters 19 on. As a 14-year-old kid wanting to learn everything I could about bass fishing I read the prescribed chapters, gleaned all the information out of it I could and gave it back.

Since that time I’ve utilized nearly all the tips and tricks talked about in the book but never had a copy I could call my own. Back in those days it was difficult to find out-of-print books – there was no eBay or Amazon.

About a year ago, I was perusing eBay in my constant quest for magazines and books about bass fishing when I saw a copy of the book. It was labeled to be in pristine condition and the initial bid was for something like $25. I placed a bid with a few days left in the auction and waited. By the time the book sold, the bids were up over $100 – and I lost out.

ContentsThen, about 3 months ago, I was back on eBay. There was one person selling a bundle of books – one which I was interested in – so I clicked on the picture to get a better look at it. When I zoomed in I noticed another book that had a paper-bag cover on it and on that cover was written “Fishing with Nightcrawlers.” There was no description of what the book was, no actual cover shot, but based on the “title” alone I placed a bid for all six books and got it. I didn’t even care about the original book I was interested in. A few days later I received the order, opened it up, went straight for the paper bag-covered book and voila, it was what I hoped it would be.

Since that time I’ve read the book, this time cover-to-cover and have come to the realization that top-notch research and writing never loses its place. This book is as relevant today as it was in 1972 when it was first compiled. Unfortunately, not many people are able to glean the bounty enclosed within its cover.

Chap 19 Map 1Anyway, enough of my reminiscing, you want to hear about what makes this book so important to us anglers.

Although the first 18 chapters deal mostly with tips on nightcrawlers, there are some decent tips on basic fishing that can help anyone. You do have to wade through a lot of bait-centric material but even that’s fun to look at from a historical perspective since a lot of it was written by some pretty stout anglers.

Where the book really gets interesting, though, is in Chapter 19. From there on out the book deviates from a nightcrawler perspective to “how to find and fish structure” in both lakes, rivers and impoundments.

Chap 19 Map 4Chapter 19, “Structure is Where the Fish Are,” starts off by giving credit to E. L. (Buck) Perry as the father of structure fishing and for also coining terms such as “migration route,” “Sanctuary,” “Scatter Point,” and “Breaks.”

The chapter then heads into descriptions of each form of structure, where one is most apt to find such structure and, with the aid of a topographical map, how to find such areas on your body of water. The chapter then shows an example of a fictitious topo map with specific spots highlighted and then goes into detail where the best spots are and why they are the best.

Chap 19 Maps 2 and 3Chapter 20 starts off with probably the best definition of what structure is that I have ever heard. They state that structure is: “That part of the lake bottom extending from deep to shallow water which has some unusual feature that distinguishes it from the surrounding bottom area.” They then go on to say, “The difference may be slight and not always easy for you to detect, at first, but the fish will detect the difference.”

Chap 20 Map 1Again, this chapter is all about how to find structure and one of the most important keys in being able to do this is to have a good topo map. The authors name a number of sources to find maps, many of which I expect no longer exist.

In Chapter 21 the authors then go into detail about first learning one lake. Pay attention to the major structural features such as major breaks seen on maps or weedlines, etc. From there expand your knowledge by looking for subtle breaks on these major breaks or even small structural features where there appears to be nothing. Once you learn to spot features on one lake, it becomes easier to find them on other bodies of water.

Chap 20 LowranceChapter 22 is a short 3-page explanation that deals with fishing the edges of deep water and why big fish hang out in these areas. It talks about why fish use these breaks near deep water for staging areas, migration routes and weather changes. It also talks about what deep is with respect to what type of lake you’re concentrating on.

The meat of the subject really gets rolling in Chapters 23 and 24. These chapters are dedicated to the tools used in structure fishing, namely the depthfinder, temperature gauge, marker buoys and anchors. Obviously today’s GPS and trolling motors will, in most instances, replace the latter two but if you’re just starting out and don’t have the luxury of a bass boat and state-of-the-art electronics, the methods taught in this book would be a wealth of information.

Chap 23 Line UpChapters 25-27 teach the same basic concepts as in the previous chapters but focus on rivers, man-made lakes and small bodies of water.

Chapters 29 through 33 deal with fishing during and after a cold front along with effects of light and have important guidelines within them all anglers should pay attention to. Chapter 28, although it is titled, “Techniques of Boat Control,” is about back trolling and not really pertinent to classic bass fishing.

Conclusion

As stated in the beginning of this article, Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers may at first appear to be a book only for those intending to dunk worms. Again, this cannot be further from the truth. Even though the book is out of print, it was reprinted in 1988 but again went of out print shortly thereafter, copies can still be found on eBay and Amazon. If you haven’t ever read the book, I highly suggest getting a copy and checking it out. Even at the prices I’ve seen on the internet, it’s worth it.

  • Back in the days when the info in that book wasn’t easily available anywhere else, every fisherman who cared about getting really good at it had a copy, or had a buddy he could borrow a copy from. Either that book or the original Nightcrawler Secrets. I still recall lending mine to someone who ended up getting it soaked. I got it back with the pages all stuck together. Made a lot of jokes about how he got the pages all stuck together, and how excited he apparently was to finally start catching some fish. I was writing heavily for Fishing Facts at the time, and thought I’d have no trouble getting a replacement. Of course ‘Secrets” was out of print by that tme, and I ended up with “Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers.”

    • Ya know Rich, as a 14 y/o kid, I can remember how ‘excited’ i was to read it. LOL. I hope you washed your hands after touching the stuck together book. 🙂

  • BIG BOB

    I grew up with the original writers of this book.. nightcrawler secrets.. the man who should get the most credit is BILL BINKLEMAN.. or Binkelman.. ..one is the correct spelling.. He originated Fishing Facts.. George Pazek was an underling.. the guys who also contributed a ton were Jim Wrolstad, Glenn Runge, and the original FISHING FACTS writers.. Dan Sura, many years before working for In Fisherman , and Dave Csanda were a part of this group. Ray Balcerzak, Don Helwig, Don Woodruff, were other major contributors.. and then they had some guy from “out east”.. this Rich, guy.. Zelinksi… ( roflmao).
    and this is were Al and Ron did their earliest writing.. Roland Martin also wrote a number of articles.. but the guys in the trenches.. the guys that did the most of the writing for the basis of this book.. was Bill Binkelman.. and a local camera shop owner.. ( who’s name somehow escapes me) I was only 14 back in 71..

    • Bob, that list of names is pretty amazing and one of the reasons I subscribed to Fishing Facts magazine. 🙂

    • Bob, the recollections on the old Fishing Facts staff really got my memory juices flowing. Can’t forget that Charlie Brewer was a regular contributor, as well as Doug(?) Ritchie. I believe he was a guide from Lake Tannycomo in MO. And of course the full time editors once they went to a full blown magazine were Carl Malz and Spence Petros. I know Spence is still around, doing musky seminars and such. We lost Spence’s buddy Tony Portincasso a few years back. Tony was a great guy, and did some of the most detailed work on fishing vegetation. Got to fish with him years later, when we were both writing for In-Fish quite a bit. Also can give short shrift to Tom Seward, who came along later, and wrote and illustrated some of the most detailed structure fishing articles either Fishing Facts or In-Fish ever published. He’s in the Pacific Northwest now, and we correspond occasionally.
      I still recall a bass fishing seminar at a boat dealer in upstate new york that featured Al Lindner, Jim Wrolstadt, Helwig and Woodruff. That was a great time.

      • CAN’T give short shrift to Tom Seward.
        Damn, I wish this thing would let you edit your own comments!

  • Clyde Drury

    What a wonderful review Terry. Bill was the editor of the tabloid size paper that was originally titled “Boston Store Fishing News and Wisconsin Spoonplugger” First issue was Dec. 1965. Later Bill dropped the Wisconsin Spoonplugger part of the name but remained loyal in his support of Buck Perry. Since Bill preached that any good walleye method will clean up on Black Bass I asked for his catalog and started buying his “Catching Fish Blue Books.” Trying to document his books was tough because he kept adding things and reprinting them and usually he didn’t change the date. That is common with people who write and print their own books. In December 1967 Northwoods Publishing (George Pazik) took over as publisher of “Fishing News.” Bill remained the editor. In June 1968 they changed the name to “Fish Facts and Secrets” and the paper grew from 4 to 8 pages. The last issue, No. 74, January 1970, was followed by a magazine version titled “Fishing Facts. Northwoods Publishing did Bill’s first two books, “Nightcrawler Secrets” and “Walleyes Love Nightcrawlers.” Without any advance notice Bill just walked out of the company and didn’t say why. I wrote and asked George one time why he left and he said he didn’t have a clue. Bill wrote in one of his later books “I left my desk as Editor of Fishing Facts to recharge my outdoor batteries and to get reacquainted with Mr. Average fisherman as he is today. He is as great today as he was when I founded my Fishing News in 1963.” I’ve always felt he got tired of a desk and regular hours and wanted his freedom back. After he left Northwoods they took his first two books and added additional information for the new book “Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers.” Bill kept publishing his little books and I ended with 10 of them although several were revisions. Back when I had my web site, “Books of the Black Bass,” the Binkelman page was the most popular of over 20 pages. It received the most eMail and in one case, a book I hadn’t heard of before, “Nightcrawler Magic.” In that book he talked about a five year underwater study that just finishing. Too bad he never got to finish books based on the results of that study. His plan at the time was to publish 11 different titles in his fish catching book series but he fell far short of that. His books turn up every once in a while on eBay and you can always check http://www.bookfinder.com to see if any are available. .

    • Thanks for the nice words Clyde. I didn’t know any of this history until I had an email conversation with RichZ a few weeks ago about this. Like I said in the article above, I’d never read it cover-to-cover until a few weeks ago – only concentrating on Chapters 19 on back in 78. It wasn’t until I talked with Rich that he informed me that the originals were written by Binkelman – and then I read the entire book where Pazik credits Binkelman.

      Since then I’ve been looking for the original two books mentioned in LLN but haven’t come up with anything so far. I guess they’re like trying to find a first print of Jason Lucas’ book, Lucas on Bass.

      Thanks so much for the great comments on the history of Binkelman and the other books he wrote. Please feel free to fill us in on the history as I am only 49 years old and a lot of the things that happened pre-1970 I’m ignorant of.

      Sincerely,

      Terry