Let’s Look Back – Part 12

See that skinny young guy on the left?  He (it's me) put every dang one of these bass in the boat using an Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler.  I had to have another guy who was also working at the newspaper where I was employed at the time help hold 'em up so they could take this picture.  This picture was to appear later in an early day advertisement in Outdoor Life magazine. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

See that skinny young guy on the left? He (it’s me) put every dang one of these bass in the boat using an Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler. I had to have another guy who was also working at the newspaper where I was employed at the time help hold ’em up so they could take this picture. This picture was to appear later in an early day advertisement in Outdoor Life magazine. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I flat fell in love with her!

That most certainly applies to the lady who has shared my life for the past 70 years.  And yes, that 70 years is the correct number.  In just a few weeks my wife and I will observe the date of our wedding that took place way back on Oct. 10, 1943.

But it’s not the deep affection I hold for my wife I’m talking about.  The old beauty I’ll be talking about in this column also wore a skirt, but her skirt was made from the bucktail of a deer and right beneath it was a sizeable hook that put a whole bunch of bass in my boat.

Ever heard of an Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler?  It had to be one on the very first bass lures that could be handled like a buzz bait once you had the smarts to use it in that fashion.  I want to share a few of my experiences with this old gal that did so much to set the stage for what was to follow.

It wouldn’t be wise to get too snuggly with ‘em, I suppose, but whenever I handle a couple of these beat up old baits I keep in a special tackle box I guess it’s not hard to see how I feel.
My wife brought that up once when she walked into my tackle work room one evening without my noticing she was there.  I was looking at a favorite Shimmy Wiggler and just turning its worn blade and stroking its battered bucktail skirt as a swarm of memories came buzzing back at me as thick as a swarm of mosquitoes.

“I swear,” she exclaimed. “You handle that thing like it’s made out of priceless diamonds.  I wish you’d pay the same kind of attention to my kitchen knives.  Maybe then they’d be sharp enough to cut with.”

I suppose she was right.  I say that because I darn well do have a deep affection for these old time lures and I don’t mind admitting it.  They have created about as many bass fishing memories for me as any lures I own.  Why the heck wouldn’t I feel that way about a lure that’s older than I am?

I suppose if I mention these lures to a lot of present day bassin’ men the majority of them won’t even know what I’m talking about.  Would that include you?  It would if its name – the Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler – doesn’t ring any bells of recognition.

This old Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler put a whole lot of bass in my boat when I first started throwing it in the middle of the past century.  I think it was one of the very first of what you could use as a buzz bait.  P

This old Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler put a whole lot of bass in my boat when I first started throwing it in the middle of the past century. I think it was one of the very first of what you could use as a buzz bait. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I didn’t get to meet Al Foss but he was a bass man way ahead of his time.  That old Shimmy Wiggler of his was one helluva bass bait.  As far as I’m concerned, it still can be in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.  Today there are a flock of lures that operate in a similar fashion.  When I got my hands on my first Shimmy Wiggler there weren’t.

I’ve not seen these lures on the tackle shelves now for years.  As far as I’m able to determine they were the first of the vast array of buzzer type baits now available.

Al Foss and his lures first came on the American bass fishing scene away back in 1916.  He may have been around even before that but I’ve seen reports that indicate this was when his Shimmy Wigglers were made available for the first time.

Now let’s fast forward to the mid-1940s.  I’m finally back from serving with an infantry rifle company in the South Pacific for almost two years in World War II.  They brought me home from Manila on a hospital plane.  Once they got my gut working properly again and my damaged back healed up enough so I could get around fairly well they sent me home on an extended convalescent leave prior to my discharge.

The docs had advised me to take it easy during the months of convalescence but they hadn’t told me I couldn’t fish.  I had just started getting in a few serious licks at the largemouth in our part of Southwest Washington before World War II got started.  I made up for some of the time I’d lost in a hurry.

The first bass plugs I’d actually owned when I went off to war were a rainbow colored Heddon Basser and a Shannon Twin Spinner with a yellow skirt.  It wasn’t long after I got home that my first Shimmy Wiggler was added to my limited lure assortment.

It didn’t take long to realize that this lure made with a head that had a brass or nickel finish and with a single spinner up front and a single hook dressed with a bucktail skirt positioned on its body was something special.  For one thing, its hook rode in an upright position and it could be used with or without weed guards.

It also revealed another truth where largemouth bass are concerned – how those wonderful fish can and often do react to a lure they’ve never seen before.  They will, that is, once you’ve determined how that lure has to be handled to get the results you’re after.

I’ll get into what that turned out to be with the old Shimmy Wigglers in my next Let’s Look Back column. See you then.

  • Ralph Manns

    Gee, didn’t realize Stan was such a spring chicken–only 70?

    I never saw an Al Foss lure, but I started my bass lure collection with the Hawaiian Wiggler series of baits.. Arbogast was producing them before the 1942 date of pub. of my Bass by Bergman text. Other similar early in-line feathered or skirted spinners were the chum Spoon, Snapie (Pfkueger) ,and Weezel Hair Minnow. All likely would have worked even better if we had known about Stan’s “buzzer” retrieve.. I didn’t really use that technique until the Lunker Lure came out (earlly 1980s?), but my and others success with the old Weed Wing spoon “buzzed” over vegetation should have given me an earlier clue.

    • Ralph. I’m not gonna say how old Stan is but he has been married for 70 years. He got married when he was around 20. Do the math. 🙂

  • Stan Fagerstrom

    Dear Ralph: The Fred Arbogast Hawaiian Wigglers were introduced in 1936. You’ll be seeing more about that in my future Let’s Look Back columns. Thanks for your interest.
    Stan