For Mann’s, Plenty of Hits But a Few (More) Misses, Too

Mann's Bait Company ad circa 1983.

Mann’s Bait Company ad circa 1983.

A major league baseball player who gets a hit in three out of every ten at bats has a reasonable chance of going to the Hall of Fame. In that regard, maybe we’re too hard on lure designers. Here on Bass Fishing Archives, we might be a little too tough on those who’ve produced short-lived products. In just a few years of existence we’ve cataloged a litany of products that didn’t catch on, generally because they were ill-conceived or didn’t meet a specific need. Frankly, it’s a sport that never grows old, and for which we’ll likely never run out of material.

Recently Terry poked some fun at the Mann’s Hardworm. Today we’re going to have a little more fun with one of the sport’s legendary lure companies. Obviously, Tom Mann was an innovator as we pointed out here and here. The Little George tailspinner remains a situational superstar today, but perhaps more than any other lure his Jelly Worm, introduced in the mid-1960s, paved the way for today’s modern plastics. Of course the Creme worm and the Fliptail came first, but Mann’s status as a feared competitor (he won two B.A.S.S. events) and a few tweaks made his products special.

As Ray Scott told BassFan upon Mann’s death in 2005:

“He literally made his own baits. He hand-carved them, and he was highly innovative. That’s one thing I always thought was neat. And when he made the Jelly Worm, he influenced everything because now we had plastics with color and flavor. There was watermelon, strawberry, blueberry – they all had favors. There was oil on the lures with scent that produced the flavor. You could smell it when you opened the package. It was an innovative deal and it got attention.”

The worms came in sizes from 3 inches up to 9 inches, and later even bigger 10- and 12-inch models were introduced. While they’ve largely fallen out of favor among “in the know” tournament anglers, Paul Elias credited them with contributing to his record-setting Elite Series victory on Falcon Lake in 2008. They remain a mainstay of the Mann’s catalog, although not always in the traditional cellophane-wrapped blister packs.

While the Jelly Worm likely made millions, along the way Mann’s certainly had its share of misses. After Mann sold the company in 1979, the company went through a rough stretch that produced few long-term. Evidence of that short-term creative dry spell can be seen in this ad from the February 1983 issue of Bassmaster magazine. While the Mann Dancer looks like an old Swayback Spook, the Auger Frog looks like an early Horny Toad, and the Flippin’ Waggler appears similar to a Gatortail worm, none of them caught on. None of them remain in the catalog, although the Augertail series still exists.

That wasn’t the end of the company’s strong run, though. When Hank Parker won his second Classic, the company mass marketed his winning spinnerbait. Shortly thereafter, Dan Morehead’s win on the Potomac popularized the 1-Minus. Most recently, they bought the rights to the Alabama Rig from Andy Poss, the lure that Paul Elias popularized with his 2011 FLW win at Lake Guntersville.

Even if Mann’s didn’t hit a home run every time, their batting average was pretty good.