Bagley’s Better Baits 1975

Bagley's Better Baits ad from January 1975.

Bagley’s Better Baits ad from January 1975.

I’ve been a fan of Jim Bagley’s creations (and Lee Sisson’s too) pushing 40 years now. I bought my first Bagley’s bait somewhere in the 1976 timeframe, a baby bass colored Honey B, and it was the bait I caught my first crankbait fish on – a 1 1/2-pound largemouth at Lake Irvine’s Santiago Flats. Since that time I’ve had a sort of fetish with the company, although it’s obvious that I didn’t know all they made.

I recently received a 1975 American Bass Fisherman magazine from a close friend and while thumbing through the pages came across this ad from that era. The ad touts that that six of the top 10 from the American Bass Fisherman World Championship caught their fish on the baits shown. What grabbed me was I’d only seen one of these baits in the flesh, seen another in an old ad during the time and had never seen the other two baits until I got this magazine.

The bait that I’d actually seen (and used) was the Bagley’s Screw Tail soft plastic. That bait we used to sell in the tackle shop the first year or two I worked there. Anglers bought them, albeit not too many, and used them as spinnerbait trailers, for the most part. In fact, the limited time I used them that’s how I employed them.

The second bait I recognized was the Spinner Bug. We never sold that bait but I vividly remember it because of the wire arm attached to what would normally be the line tie. What’s interesting about that is Rip Nunnery, B.A.S.S. record holder and Bandit Bass Lure owner, made a spinnerbait of this exact style, sans the blade on the wire arm. Rip swore by the use of that wire and how it actually helped in making a spinnerbait weedless. He manufactured his version starting in the mid- to late-60s and sold versions of it until his death in 2005. Like Rip’s bait, the Spinner Bug came fashioned with a nice, stiff vinyl skirt. I have no idea how long Bagley manufactured his version.

What got me most about this ad, though, was the two crankbaits – the Brok’n B and the Shaller B. I had never heard of nor seen either of these two baits. Both appear to have been made on a Balsa B 1 frame, the Brok’n B having a section of worm just forward of the rear hook to give it a jointed effect and the Shaller B having a small Colorado blade in lieu of a treble hook.

Not knowing much about these baits I went out and did a search on them and found a site called The Colors of Bagley’s, owned by a gentleman named Mike Metzler. A quick email to Mike resulted with a great explanation of these baits from Johnny Garland’s book, Bagley Collector’s Guide.

Brok’n Balsa B I 1975: The main reason this bait came along was to “get rid of some soft plastic.” Jim Bagley Bait Company was 24 years old at the time of the Brok’n B’s. Many of those years had seen the Company’s main product being soft plastic items (grubs, worms, lizards, etc.). Now the era of the hard bait was upon us, so fazing out a large inventory of soft plastic became a necessity. The question, “how can we get rid of this inventory and yet convince the fisherman that it will work” was answered by this method. The BBB I (they were also made in Balsa B II’s) with a 1 inch wire through a 3/4 inch grub placed between the tail of the lure and rear treble hook made up what became know as the “Brok’n Balsa B.”

Shal’r B  1 1975: As with the Brok’n B’s and Scru B’s (the Scru B had a worm instead of a grub) this was another attempt to cut an inventory of left over items from the past. For the past several years Jim Bagley Bait Company had been producing “spinner” lures and spinner-baits (Submarine Shad, Purty Bug, Spinner Bug and others). The same “Colorado” style blade used on some of these items were used to replace the rear treble hook by using a split ring. The Shal’r B’s are the rarest of the BBB’s, SCB’s, and SHB’s to find–probably due to the fact it did the poorest job of “catching the fisherman.” Very few advertisements for this bait have ever been found.

That’s some pretty cool history there regarding why and how Bagley came up with those baits and maybe why they didn’t last too long. Thanks Mike for the history lesson.

Now it’s off to try and find more things I don’t know about this great sport of ours and buy another book.

  • Al H.

    Wow. In 1975 the Bagley Bait Co was 24 yrs old. They must have been a local shop selling in Florida for most of those years. I thought they burst on the scene in the early 70’s with the Balsa B’s at the time of the alphabet bait craze.

    • Terry Battisti

      Yeah Al, I was surprised about that too. I have ads from the 60s but that puts Bagley’s starting back in 1951. WOW!