Bombs Away

Bomber Bait Company ad circa 1968.

Bomber Bait Company ad circa 1968.

We’ve talked here a lot lately about lures that were made and were successful but for some reason the manufacturer quit making them. Examples of this would be Stan Fagerstrom’s favorite Heddon lure called the Basser, Storm’s original Wiggle Wart or even the Rapala Fat Rap. But what I want to talk about today was the flagship lure of a company that’s still with us – although it was long-ago bought out by one of the biggest tackle conglomerates there is today.

That company is the Bomber Bait Company and the lure I’m talking about was their 200-, 300-, 400-, 500- and 600-series crankbaits. I can’t think of many other baits that have such a successful history as the old “backwards” Bomber, as my friends and I used to call them when we were kids. The Heddon River Runt may have been the first crankbait I ever caught a bass on but the Bomber 400-series in Christmas Tree was the crankbait I caught most of my early bass on at Lake Irvine, Lake Henshaw and Vail Lake. In fact, it was at Vail Lake that I remember first seeing the lure and its effectiveness – in Bayou Bay.

At the time in the early-70s there was a black gentleman (whose name I can’t remember) who would crank the Bombers in the middle of the Bay along the channel and catch bass after bass as he drifted with the wind. I’d be anchored up to one of the many exposed trees that stuck out of the water catching bluegill, crappie or catfish (or trying to) and here it seemed every time this man made a cast he had a 5-pound bass on. I have to say, that’s when I knew I would become a bass angler.

Anyway, I diverge.

What I can’t understand is why Bomber stopped making such a great bait. What I really can’t understand, though, is why hasn’t anyone brought it back to life. Yeah, you can still get Arbogast Mud Bugs but believe me, they aren’t the same as the old wooden Bombers. These baits had probably the deepest angle of decent due to their metal bill and if you wanted to imitate a crawdad rooting the bottom there really is no other substitute. Yeah, the Whopper Stopper Hellbender and Bomber Waterdog would get deeper but the fact is they were giant compared to the “backwards” bait. I’m not sure if they caught more fish than the “backwards” bait but I can tell you this, they sure didn’t for me.

Why tackle companies do the things they do is beyond me and I’ve given up guessing. PRADCO still offers the Hellbender under the Heddon brand (Heddon bought out Whopper Stopper way back when) but they did away with the 200- to 600-series Bombers. Maybe it has something to do with their wood construction and the plastic variants didn’t meet the expectations. Again I don’t know. In any event it is just another fine example of something great being cast aside.

  • The “Joe Louis” (a brown Bomber with black marking on it) was pretty much standard equipment on Lake Lillinonah when I first started fishing it. You might not have another color in your box, but if you fished Lilli, you had a couple sizes of the Joe Louis. You either fished a brown Bomber, or you donated jigs to the rocks and stumps. We ran the Bomber on HEAVY line, so it didn’t really get that deep. But you could walk it through trees and along the snaggiest bottoms without hanging. And when you did, the 20# mono would usually bend the hooks. We’d just bend ’em back and keep on fishing.

    Eventually we had to use Mud Bugs instead, but luckily, they came out with a similar color, and it really was an effective substitute. Oddly enough, once we started using the Mud Bugs, our color selection got a little more liberal.

    If memory serves though, the disappearance of the Bomber from the marketplace kind of coincided with the alphabet plug phenomenon.

    We used Waterdogs and Martin Lizzards, too.