We’ve talked about a lot of old tackle companies here at the Bass Fishing Archives but one we’ve neglected to mention so far is the Mar-Lynn Lure Company of Blue Springs, MO. Mar-Lynn made everything from spinnerbaits to jigs, plastic worms to jig heads and more. But what they are probably best known for is the Reaper – a soft plastic lure that had a large tail fin that resembled an eel.
From my understanding, the bait was made specifically for use on a jig head for lake trout. But it didn’t take bass anglers long to figure out it wasn’t just trout bait.
Rigged with the tail vertical, the bait would sink fairly fast and resembled a baitfish quite nicely. On the other hand, if the bait was rigged so the tail was horizontal, the bait would glide and could be mistaken for an eel.
My first introduction to the lure didn’t actually come from the actual Mar-Lynn Company, though. It came from a number of hand pourers, around 1980, in southern California who’d not only knocked off the bait, but were marketing it with the exact name Mar-Lynn had given it in the mid-‘60s. (Mar-Lynn’s trademark on the Reaper, 72220006, was registered in 1966 and ran through 1989 before it expired)
The hand poured baits were such a success in the deep, crystal-clear waters of California that we sold thousands of them each week – garage hand pourers couldn’t keep up with demand. Then, roughly a year or two into the California “Reaper” revolution, small tackle companies started getting letters in the mail to stop using the Reaper name. They obliged but continued making the baits and sold them under a number of different names such as reefers, leeches amongst others.
But the real credit goes to Harold Ensley for developing the original and to Mar-Lynn’s owner Ted Green for picking it up and manufacturing it. In fact, when Mar-Lynn went out of business, the folks at PRADCO bought the rights to it and marketed it for a while. Now the only place I can find that still sells them is Guide’s Choice Pro Shop. They sell the bait as the Reaper by Mar-Lynn Lure Company, which is confusing to me because Mar-Lynn has been out of business for nearly three decades now.
Outside of the drop shotters and split shotters of the West when was the last time you used, or saw anyone else use, a Mar-Lynn Reaper? I’d have to say it’s probably been a long time (unless you’re name is RichZ). I’d be willing to bet a couple Vision 110s that they’d still catch fish today. Hmm…I wonder how they’d work on that now banned umbrella rig?