Let’s Look Back – Part 15

Al Foss really started something when he came out with the Number 5 Shimmy Wiggler.  The bass went nuts over it the first time they got a look at it.. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Al Foss really started something when he came out with the Number 5 Shimmy Wiggler. The bass went nuts over it the first time they got a look at it.. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

It didn’t take long to realize just how much I didn’t know about putting bass in the boat.

I had just watched my companion hook a pair of dandy bass by racing his lure back through the lake’s pad cover in a fashion that should have scared any sensible bass to the other end of the lake.

But as I detailed in my previous column, just the opposite happened.

Within the next 15 minutes a couple of sizeable largemouth came busting through the pads to knock the hell out of the Hawaiian Wiggler my new friend Tex Reeder was using.

I had an Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler on my own line.  That lure had come on the bass fishing scene long before the Hawaiian Wiggler Tex was throwing.  I’d not, however, ever tried using it with the rapid, hell raising fashion old Tex had demonstrated.

I was eager to see if my Shimmy Wiggler would get results if fished in a similar fashion.  Tex had very accurately already covered the pads within casting distance.  I cast my Shimmy Wiggler back into the same pads he’d already fished.  I brought it tearing back out of the pads doing my best to make my lure duplicate the action I’d seen Tex get with his.

My Shimmy Wiggler came busting through the pad cover and spluttered out into open water.  Wham!  A bass that had obviously been following the lure as it raced through the pads smashed it before it had moved two more feet.

Remember now, this was water Tex had already fished.  That’s what I had in mind when I mentioned earlier that I didn’t know for sure who was more surprised that morning – me or Tex with regard to the Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler.

I can say that with assurance because after I’d moved the boat again along the edge of the pads the same thing happened.  Tex, up in the front of boat, fished the new water.  I went in right behind him and nailed another dandy bass that matched the size of the four Tex already had on his stringer.  Once again the fish came from water that Tex had already fished.

I was surprised when Tex laid his rod aside as I unhooked that second fish.  Then he turned to face me where I was sitting at the oars.  “Stan,” he said, “let me see that lure you’re using.”

I did as he asked and I’ve never forgotten his next comment.  “You know,” he said as he examined my Shimmy Wiggler, “I’ve heard about these things but I’ve never used ‘em.  I’ve always hammered the hell out of the fish in places like this that aren’t heavily fished with my Hawaiian Wigglers.

“And I’ll tell you something else that surprises me even more. There have been damn few times when somebody throwing into water I’ve just fished has been scoring like you have.  I guess I better get some of those Shimmy Wigglers myself.”

I flat out love the memories those old Shimmy Wigglers have given me.  They’re a primary reason why today I darn near always throw them at least a few times whenever I’m on bass water at daylight wherever it happens to be.  And you can bet if it’s pad cover I’m fishing, that old Shimmy is going to see its share of the action.

I learned a bunch in the relatively small amount of time I had to spend with Tex Reeder.  I wound up having the highest regard for him.  Among other things he gave me a pair of those Reeder-McGill Rods he and his partner were producing.  They were the first fiberglass rods I ever owned.  Prior to that time I’d always done my casting with a metal rod of one kind or another.

Old Tex knew his bass fishing.  It was an important part of his life.  I think it might have been a toss-up whether he loved old Jim Beam bourbon darn near as much as he did boating bass.  I’d heard that kind of gossip before I ever got to meet him.

The Shimmy Wiggler was made with two different finishes.  There was a brass finish like that you see on the left in this picture and a nickel finish like that shown on the right.  I found the brass finish to be most effective for my own fishing. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The Shimmy Wiggler was made with two different finishes. There was a brass finish like that you see on the left in this picture and a nickel finish like that shown on the right. I found the brass finish to be most effective for my own fishing. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Maybe it was true.  I say that in part because the last time I saw old Tex he was out there on Silver Lake firing his lures and he had a fifth of Jim Beam firmly tucked between his legs as he did it.

Frankly, I didn’t or don’t give a toot about what his drinking habits were.  He was really kind to me and having a chance to be with him revealed some new angles to bass fishing I’d never considered before.  Tex has been gone now for years.  I really grew to love the man and I wish he were still here for me to fish with tomorrow.

Among other things he proved to me that we can always learn where bass fishing is concerned.  We can, that is, if we don’t allow ourselves to get caught in that ever present trap of determining in advance that largemouth bass are “always” going to do exactly what we expect.

And as I’ve probably written a thousand times in the past, largemouth bass don’t “always” do anything.  The sooner you delete that word from your piscatorial vocabulary the better off you’ll be.

Today there are a flock of weedless lures with props of one kind or another available to all of us.  New ones show up every year. You could probably fill your whole tackle box with nothing else if you chose to do so.  But as far as I know the old Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler was the first.  It certainly was the first of its kind I ever hung on my line.

My early day trips with my friend Tex made it a whole lot easier to see why early day lure maker Al Foss, the guy who came up with the Shimmy Wiggler in the first place, was willing to bet $500 his lure would beat anything else in lure to lure competition.

I mentioned in my first column about Al’s lure that not long ago my wife had caught me once fondling one of my favorite and well worn Number 5 Shimmy Wigglers.  It’s one that has a brass finish and a natural bucktail skirt.  She correctly guessed how I felt about that beautiful old bait but she didn’t know what my brain was saying to that well worn hunk of bass fishing dynamite at the time.

It went something like this: “Sweetheart, you have no idea just what you started!”

  • Bill M

    Thanks for the good pics of the lure…been following the story, but couldn’t seem to get a good idea of the whole lure. Think I found my Winter project.

  • fish_food

    Always a great read–thanks for sharing, Stan.