To anyone but a savvy bass angler, to say, “I got ring worms,” would be a conversation and possibly a relationship show stopper. But to a bass angler in the late 70s through the 80s, the comment may make you new friends or a target for a heist. The Rebel Ringworms were that big a sensation on the scene. In fact, when Rebel quit making the little ringed plastic jewels in the mid 80s, a run went on them and at some shops they were bringing in twice as much as their list price.
The first ringworm introduced in 1975 was a straight tailed bait that actually was credited for Jim McKay’s sole Bassmaster win on Toledo Bend Reservoir in 1976 – which probably had something to do with its initial success. The second bait, the curl tail, was released in 1977 to take advantage of the momentum the earlier introduction had spawned and became an instant success too.
The concept was, “vibra-sonic sound, trapped air bubbles and lifelike feel and action.” I’m not sure about the sound but I know it trapped air and felt softer than other worms of the same diameter – more importantly it caught fish.
Then, as with any other great bait, Rebel quit making it in the mid-80s. Shortly after, a company from Florida, their name escapes me at the moment, started producing a knockoff that was as good as the original and came in about 400 more colors, including core-shots. Us western finesse anglers were saved along with those bubba fishermen from the south.
In the west we primarily used the 4-iinch knockoff for split-shotting and dartheads – the most popular colors being all the smoke variants, pumpkinseed and clear with a black core. From talking to my buddies in Texas through Florida, their best colors, in the 6-inch bait, were red with a black core, junebug and straight purple.
As of the early 2000s, the company that made the knockoffs quit manufacturing the baits or went out of business all together and those that have them hold on to them for dear life or tournament situations. It’s hard to imagine Rebel quit making one of the best designed baits ever after such success. What’s even harder to imagine is the company that made the knockoff did the same some 20 years later.
If you know of anyone that’s still making these please let us here at the Bass Fishing Archives know. I have at least four shops in the west that would buy all that could be made. And, if you have some in your stash, I’d be happy to liberate them from your box for a small fee.