Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery – But Sometimes it Doesn’t Work

Crankbait Corporation’s Fingerling Series circa 1980.

In the late 70s and early 80s every bait manufacturer got on the “realistic’ bandwagon and was producing the lifelike lure. If I’m not mistaken, we can blame the surge on Jim Bagley and Lee Sisson at Bagley Lures for coming out with the Small Fry series, a series of crankbaits with exact silhouettes of forage fish like bluegill and crappie.

Then around the 1980 timeframe, a new company arose from the mix called Crankbait Corporation. One look at their Fingerling Series of baits produced by the new company sent wild dreams through anglers’ minds. With their realistic silhouette and finishes anglers just knew they were going to catch fish. At first, they flew off the shelves.

Unfortunately it didn’t take long for anglers to realize that what looks like a fish may not actually work. I’m not saying they didn’t attract fish or hook fish, though –they actually did to some degree. The problem was they didn’t hold up. I have no idea how many were returned to tackle stores nationwide – either just the bill or head of the bait or the bait with no hook hangers – but at one point we had more broken baits returned by customers than we had hanging on the wall.

Evidently Crankbait Corp, although they state they’d tested the bait extensively (so they said in their ads) for color, shape and action they didn’t seem to do much in the line of testing with respect to durability. The high-density foam didn’t hold up to the typical forces exerted by a bass when hooked and the hook hangers and lips would pull out or the body would break just ahead of the front hook.

It’s too bad, really – the baits looked great. Thankfully we have a number of companies that are actually producing some great look-alikes these days that actually catch fish and stay together.

Do you have a Crankbait Corporation story?

  • I never did all that well with the Fingerling series, but the Natural Ike which if I’m not mistaken, predated it, was a flat out fish catcher. And I never had one come apart on me.

  • paul wallace

    Thats funny, I’ve got a perch colored one just like the picture, setting in my office as I type this.Never fished with it, but as Rich said, I did try the Natural Ike baits, but I had trouble getting them to run/track correctly. Pretty sure I put them back in my old bait collection somewhere.
    The Crankbait Corp. bait I have was given to me by a co-worker years ago. Just never took it home. lol
    Talking of crankbaits breaking. I think you could do a whole segment on Bagleys BB series and the lips breaking, the re-design and the repair of said lips. Thats another day though. lol
    Good day
    Paul

    Paul

  • I remember Tom Seward having designed several lures for Crankbait Corporation, and believe the first he did as a bait called the ‘Waterdog,’ a salamander looking bait with a plastic grub tail for extra action and appeal.

    Tom had graduated from Southern Illiinois University Carbondale as an art major, , and was an outdoor writer, taxidermist, and big bass specialist.

    Anyway, I fell in love with the Fingerling series, and was fortunate enough to find a number of these baits in the much larger musky size…although I lost a couple of them to snagging the bottom or structure, I found them to be quite durable and productive, and caught a number of bass and muskies on them.

    Crankbait Corporation also produced the TD-20 bass lure to compete with the Mann Corporation’s “20+” series of lures. The TD-20 had a streamlined and stylized body with a moderately large, aggressive bill that dove deeper on the cast, and was the only lure of this era that I recall actually getting close to that magical (for the time) depth range of 20 feet. Bass Pro Shops carried the TD-20 (and the smaller TD-15 lure that followed) for a few seasons, during the late 80’s and early 90’s.

    The TD series of lures was followed by a similar-bodied bait known as the “Hot Lips Express,” which had the same stylized shad shaped body of the TD-series, with a very aggressive bill that had a pair of plastic tabs to the side in front of the line tie and angled chin spoiler to increase the surface area of the bill, and the downforce it generated. I used these for a while, and caught a number of fish on these, as well, but never had any durability issues with them, either, although I DO recall one of the early production baits that did have issues with bills that would break off…time has robbed me of the specifics on that one.

  • Scott Jarvis

    I had the Bullhead versions.Gave them to the nephews they thought they were cute. Wish I had them now they were cool !!!!

    • Hi,
      “Fingerling” by Crankbait was a favorite, at least one that often produced,Walleye, in many northern lakes in North Dakota, including Lake “Sakakawea” and “Devils Lake” large Lakes in in central North Dakota. I never had any trouble with breakage, and was surprised to hear of it. I forget the name of the patterns that we liked the best, except and especially a “striper” pattern, in I think a 5″ size. Like I say I don’t remember for sure but generally Perch, and Crawdad were the best. Are these lures still available anywhere Now Which Corps. you mentioned make a “knock off” of the fingerling, that you feel replacd them? Thank you. Orlan Hall Garrison, ND