In the December 1974 issue of Fishing Facts magazine, Spence Petros was able to catch up with Tom Mann while he was in Chicago. Tom, of course, was the legendary force behind such baits as the Jelly Worm, the Little George, and the “Pig” line of crankbaits. According to his write-up in the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, “Not content with just manufacturing fishing lures, while the owner of Mann’s Bait Company, he also founded and was the C.E.O. of Allied Sports Company, from 1969-1983. As the manufacturer of the “Humminbird Depth Sounder”, Allied Sports eventually became a stock company and was renamed Techsonic Industries: one of the largest selling depth sounder companies in the world. He also founded Southern Plastics, in 1977, a company that today is the world’s largest private brand supplier of soft plastic lures.”
Below are some of Spence’s questions paraphrased, with Tom’s answers excerpted from the interview.
Q. Why are more good fishermen beginning to show up.
A. “Fishing competitively has helped anglers develop skills faster than they normally could have…More fishing knowledge is being brought to light than ever before by good publicity. Some magazines have excellent coverage or techniques and you can learn a lot from them.”
Q. Do you have any specific color preferences in Jelly Worms?
A. “Yes, I think the color of the water has a lot to do with the color worm you pick. I have found that a blackberry, strawberry or blueberry are probably three colors that I will favor the most.”
Q. What kind of tackle do you use for worm fishing?
A. “When I fish the plastic worm and if I am fishing a big worm and fishing for trophy bass, I use my big rig which is a 306 Garcia Mitchell and a 7-1/2 ft. Eagle Claw rod.”
Q. This is spinning tackle. Right?
A. “Yes, I use spinning tackle all the time. When I go to the light tackle, I use Zebco Cardinal #4 reels and Eagle Claw featherweight rods.”
Q. Do you do anything to psyche yourself up before a tournament? Ways to prepare yourself?
A. “Well, yes, you have to think positive. You have got to believe that you can do it. I don’t ever put myself in a class that I think I’m better than other fishermen, but I don’t believe that they are better than I am. If I win, fine; If I lose, I am not disappointed. But I have always given it my very best, and I work real hard from start to finish., and I try to be versatile where I can change my style of fishing almost immediately.”
Q. What about tournament preparation?
A. “I study a lake and get just as many maps as I can about it. I try to study it as closely as I can. The first day I practice on it, I try to find as many patterns as I can. In case one doesn’t work, another will.”
Q. There have been a lot of developments in the past several years with electronic equipment, everything from depth finders to water clarity gauges, oxygen monitors, temperature monitors. What is your opinion on them?
A. “Most of my success has come from experience and instinct. If I had to pick two items though, I would pick a trolling motor and a depth finder. The others I could do without completely.”
Q. What is the key to finding and catching bass deep?
A. “Light. Definitely. How bright a day you have and how clear your water is. are the keys in finding the right depth.”
Q. Why do you suppose most anglers have trouble catching bass in the summer time?
A. “Not knowing where to go. Not knowing structure fishing, trying to fish a shoreline which they fish in the spring of the year.”
Q. Most large tournaments have been held in the spring and the fall to help reduce mortality. Does that hurt your success? I think if tournaments were held in the summer, the real top pros would wrap them up consistently.
A. “Definitely. It hurts the chances of certain fishermen. It hurts Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Al Lindner and myself. It hurts us tremendously. It gives some of these other fellows a better chance because it puts more luck into the game….But if the tournaments were held in the hot summer months where he really had to rely on his depthfinder or previous experience of locating them in deep holes, it would be a different ball game.”
Q. Where are tournaments headed? Do you visualize a person ever being able to make a living just fishing tournaments?
A. “I think it’s coming to that. I really do. I think it’s coming to a point where you will have to qualify to fish one of them! There is so much interest in them now. I believe it will get right in a category with golf where you will have to qualify. I think the purses will be a lot bigger too…I think tournament fishing definitely has a bright future.”