Skin Disease or Bait?

Rebel Ringworm CT ad from 1977.

Rebel Ringworm CT ad from 1977.

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.

  • paul wallace

    I think I’ve got an unopened package or two of the Rebel straight tail ringworm, in my storage facility [room on back porch full of junk]. Very popular in the day. Barlows Tackle in Texas used to make a ring tail worm?? I’ve got those still in my worm boxes. They had a longer curly tail though, and slightly thinner.

    • Al Hustosky

      Lucky Strike make a nice ringworm, and they are the only one still making my secret color. I order thru Beuhler Sales; a small shop down the street from the factory. Call in your order and they’ll go get the bits and ship to you.

  • Jeff Hahn

    Jann’s Netcraft and Barlow’s both carry a version of the ringworm. The depth of the ring is not as great as on the old ringworms. Maybe that”s why they often call it a ribbed worm. But, they still catch fish and are still used widely in my neck of the woods. The newest kid on the block is Lunker City’s Ribster…straight tailed like the original and catches fish like the original!

  • Producto makes a straight tailed ringed worm and the color selection isn’t bad. But the Lunker City Ribster is my design, and has some unique features… the rings are very shallow in the front half of the bait, and then much deeper in the back. So the actual body in the front of the bait is thicker to allow for better rigging on a jig head. The fairly sudden transition to the more flexible tail kind of amplifies the action.

  • A J Faria

    I can vouch for the Lunker City Ribster worms. Bass slam these worms. Very natural colors, particularly the laminates.

  • Thanks for the options guys. Jeff, the Netcraft and Barlow’s options may be good. But do you know who is making the baits for them?

    Rich, I’ll give them the LC option but where it might pose a problem is these guys are looking for bulk 1000-packs of baits. Not sure what the cost is or if it’s a problem but I’ll ask.

    • Terry: Sorry, I don’t have any idea who actually pour the baits for Jann’s or Barlow’

  • Chris Weber

    Hag’s Tornado worm
    4″ 5″ 6.5″ and 8″ available, SUPER soft and smell like an Italian Restarant.

  • Alvin

    Terry, I came across these at an estate sale and thanks to your article, I know the history on them. Interested in them at all? They’re still new in package. It’s a 5-pak with a number 4RL5-01 and appear to be black-green in color. Let me know.

    • Terry Battisti

      Hi Alvin! Great find! Thanks for the offer but I have a few packs of my own. 🙂 Keep them and enjoys them.