When one thinks of some of the first lures designed for light-line finesse fishing two companies should come to mind. Of course there was the Bass Buster Lures Beetle Spin manufactured by early bass pioneer Virgil Ward. The second that should rattle your memory – especially with the latest number of underspins that have entered the market – is the Blakemore Road Runner.
Blakemore came to life in 1959 when Bert Hall and a fishing buddy started manufacturing the Road Runner in Branson, MO. Back then it was manufactured solely of marabou and was mainly designed for use on local lakes such as Taneycomo, Bull Shoals, Table Rock and the Arkansas River. The bait was designed to catch anything – and that it did.
Recently I’ve been going through a lot of bass magazines and it’s difficult not to find a magazine from the 60s through the 80s that didn’t have a Blakemore ad of some sort in it. What really caught my attention, though, was the number of baits associated with the Blakemore name. In the hay-day they not only made the Road Runner, they made a number of bass-centric baits that included crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and they even sold batteries.
Although it’s difficult to determine why these baits (and the battery) were discontinued from the Blakemore lineup, more than likely it had to do with sticking with the girl who went to the dance with them.
Anyway, let’s take a look at what Blakemore was offering to the bass angler in the 1970s.
I think this crankbait definitely falls into the Darwin-esque type of bait we’ve covered before here on the Bass Fishing Archives. I don’t know if that’s why Blakemore stopped making the bait or not but in any case, a number of companies have tried the air-trapping concept before and to my knowledge none of them have become a mainstay in our tackle boxes. According to TJ Stallings, Blakemore-TTI’s Marketing and PR guru, the crankbait was dropped from the lineup around the 1989 time frame.
By the time this ad came out in 1978 a number of companies were manufacturing a buzzbait. Some of these designs were in-line buzzers while others were an offshoot of the spinnerbait. What I like about this Blakemore is the spoon-style head and the fact they made a model in 3/4 ounce. You’ll also notice the vinyl skirt attached to the hook, a material used for most spinnerbaits and jigs at the time.
Buzz-Spin and Baby-Buzz-Spin
Blakemore’s spinnerbaits look like any other spinnerbait you’d have seen at the time and even today. The difference with theirs was the nylon weedguards on the head. They came in two sizes, 3/8 and 1/2 ounce and their blades were reported to be 30-percent heavier than those used by other companies. According to Stallings, the spinnerbaits were discontinued in the 1986 time frame.
Magnum More Power Battery
Here’s a little tidbit that I bet even the most nerdy bass angler didn’t know – and it’s not that Blakemore made batteries. It’s the fact that Blakemore’s battery was the “official” battery of the 1973 Bassmaster Classic. Not sure how long Blakemore was in the battery business but here’s some proof they were. Even Stallings was surprised when he saw this ad.
As stated previously, the Road Runner came in only marabou but over the years its design has morphed in many ways. For example, in the ads you see here a number of the heads feature a weedguard. The weedguard was discontinued in the early 80s – probably in order to aid in hookups.
Also shown in the ads are various versions with a beaver-tail grub configuration and even a plastic worm – both of which have been discontinued. Also apparent is the use of Indiana-style blades, which are still used on a number of Road Runners today.
Although the Road Runner is seen mainly as a crappie bait, it has a big following amongst bass anglers, especially after the 2004 Bassmaster Classic was nearly won on one. In fact Stallings says about 40 percent of their sales go to bass anglers.
“Even elephants eat peanuts,” Stallings said. “In fact, the biggest known bass that has come on one of our baits is a 16-pounder from Beinville Plantation.”
After the near Classic win by Aaron Martens, Blakemore came out with the Rollin’ Runners models designed for Martens and Randy Howell. These heads feature willow blades, head weights up to 3/8 ounce and double keeper for fluke-style bodies.
Stallings said that after buying the company their mission was to improve all of the Road Runners. This included new molds, head designs, hooks, eyes, paint and blade colors and styles. It’s obvious if you look at what Blakemore-TTI is doing now that they’ve definitely made a better mouse trap.
Another recent addition to the Road Runner lineup is the Reality Shad Buffet rig, which is really a Road Runner umbrella rig.
It’s obvious that the design concept that Bert Hall came up with over 50 years ago was a solid one. Not many companies can boast that kind of longevity and still produce. To see what Blakemore is doing today as compared with the ads shown in this piece, you can check them out at TTI-Blakemore.