Elwood “Buck” Perry – The Father of Structure Fishing

Buck Perry Spoonplugging ad circa 1974.

Buck Perry Spoonplugging ad circa 1974.

If you haven’t heard of Buck Perry you’re either very new to the sport or you just don’t read – at which you’re probably not reading this and therefore that comment won’t offend you. For those of you who have heard of him, though, you know he is credited with being one of the forefathers of modern bass fishing and especially credited with the way we all approach deep-water structure fishing.

It’s not my intent to start an argument in regards to who it was that first began to venture away from the shoreline and probe the depths for bass but it’s certain that Perry was one of the first preachers of structure fishing – he actually coined the phrase – and without a doubt the most vocal. Stories of him wrecking bass on fished-out waters throughout the United States can easily be found by doing a simple search of his name in whatever Internet search engine you prefer.

A few days ago I was going through an old set of Fishing Facts magazines and ran into this ad featuring Buck Perry and his spoonplug book, “Spoonplugging – Your Guide to Lunker Catches.” What I found intriguing about the ad is its headline, “The Great Majority of Fishermen are not interested in this ad….. BUT If you believe that fishing should be something more than a lifetime of frustration and a lack of success, this may interest you.”

This ad is from 1974, six years after Ray Scott started the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society and Bassmaster Magazine. It was also 12 years after the start of Fishing News – the precursor to Fishing Facts – both of which published numerous articles instructing anglers to venture away from the shoreline cover and fish deeper structure.

In the ad they, it’s assumed that it’s Fishing Facts Editor and Publisher George Pazik talking, talk about Perry’s original booklet, “Spoonplugging For Freshwater Bass And All Gamefish,” and introduce him as the man Fishing Facts calls “the greatest living fisherman.”

They continue on to talk about how much it costs to hire a guide for a day and to compare that to the price of the book, which was $9.90 (plus 40¢ for wrapping and shipping. WI residents must add another 40¢ for state sales tax, no ups no downs no extras). Does it seem like a hard sell? Maybe but what grabs me the most is why they would have had to push people that hard to sell the book. In my eyes, even back in 1974, I want to read anything that had to do with learning more about bass, their habits and where to catch them. You don’t need to make me feel incapable or inept – I already feel that way most of the time – to buy something that’s going to increase my odds of catching more bass.

In the next few months we’ll bring you a review of Perry’s books, many of which are still available for purchase at his website, and shed some light on just how forward thinking he was. In the meantime, do you remember this ad and what did you do after reading it? Did it make you fill out the order form at the back of the magazine and send in your $10.30 ($10.70 for those of you fortunate enough to live in WI) to Northwoods Publishing Company?

  • cc

    I think the hard sell anticipates that perhaps a lot of fishermen like to be told that if they use a certain type of gear and baits and technique then they will surely catch more and bigger fish. Tackle companies and bass pros are all to happy to accommodate.
    Successful deep water structure fishing involves a lot of homework and thinking and that’s not fun for a lot of people.
    Years ago, I purchased Buck Perry’s expanded “course” in structure fishing – something like eight volumes worth of info.
    Recently, I purchased a copy of Spoonplugging on Amazon – it’s always good to refresh what you know and be reminded of what you don’t know – there’s always something to be gained by these kinds of books.
    Angler trends change much faster than the bass – IMHO.
    Once again Terry, you post great stuff!

  • Bill Rice

    He came out in the early 70s to promote his fishiing technique, I think my good friend Charlie Davis was his western rep at the time. I fished with Perry twice… at Lake Henshaw and the Long Beach “wall” – breakwater. He was one helluva of fisherman and we caught lot of largemouth at Henshaw, and calico bass at the wall. His method was basically trolling, starting in shallow water and progressing out to deeper water, and finding the structure and points along the way. He had a series of sizes on the lures to use at various depths, and he could really figure out the structure and pattern the bass, with the lures constantly bouncing the bottom at various depths. It was great fun fishing with him.

  • Marty

    First I would like to say how great it is to have this forum reviewing the Teachings of E.L.’Buck’ Perry. Spoonplugging is a Complete understanding of what makes a fish tick, & what we need to do as fisherman to put him on the Stringer, or Livewell nowdays. Structure, Breaks, & Breaklines are all terms, Coined by Buck… & yet most fisherman don’t even know his name or the origin of those terms. However, w/the help of forums like this one, we can help spread the gift of knowledge he has left for us. The Ad in Fishing Facts, where Buck was the Educational Editor & Only magazine he would write for, when I as a Spoonplugger, read the Ad, it doesn’t make me feel the same way. I feel Mr.Perry’s frustrations of the decades of attempts to educate fisherman away from some of the handed down misconceptions of where fish live, this years hot new lure, &/or hot new technique of how to work it, Summer is here, time to put the boat away?! He has countless stories of taking fisherman out & showing them how he works, loading the boat w/stringers of fish, only to have them say, That’s fine, but we just don’t fish that way around here! I also feel an invitation to step away from the crowd, the vast majority of fisherman. While this Ad is from 1974, & his Spoonplugging Your Guide to Lunker Catches, recognized as the first text book on fishing, was first published in ’73, Buck has several smaller booklets that can be traced back into the ’50s & ’60s. I have ads that date back as far as late 1946 & early 1947, when Buck started producing his Spoonplugs, each of which came w/a Sheet of IN-Depth Instructions (no pun intended) on how to use this Tool, by starting shallow & straining the waters as U go deeper. We are taught as Spoonpluggers to Map the bottom features, Structure, Breaks, & Breaklines, found by the Spoonplugs. Often we will locate small features on the Structure that are missed by the Depth Finders, these can be Key to arriving at the Contact Point & the Fish. I agree w/CC, Successful Structure Fishing requires a great deal of homework, & Terry does post great stuff on here! I am certain many of us will be Green w/Envy of U Bill! The Opportunity to Fish w/Mr.Perry is an Honor that we all would have given a great deal to enjoy, & unfortunately only a few remain to tell their tales. I was most fortunate to have met Mr.Perry in June of 2005, & have been told the Pix we took could be the last photos taken w/him. He celebrated his 90th Birthday on July 10th of ’05, and then passed in August. We attended his Services then, & his induction to the B.A.S.S. Hall of Fame Ceremonies that were held in Greenville, S.C. in 2007. As a youngster, my Dad would take me to Danbury, Wi. fishing for 2 weeks a year, on one rainy day we went to Hayward Wi. for the Freshwater Fishing Hall of fame there, where Buck was also inducted in the 1990s, so I must go back there someday to see the displays they have. After meeting him, I came home from Hickory, N.C. bent on finding a Spoonplugging Club to join… as to why this had never struck me before in the 15 years I had been Spoonplugging on my own is still a mystery to me. While there are several great clubs that are still active to this day, the ones around central & southern Indiana were not. I did the only thing that was left for me at that time, having made a great friend in Chicago, a 35 year Spoonplugger at that time, I embarked on a 2 year stretch attending every Spoonplugger Event/Outing Scheduled. What a great education in fishing that was, from Alabama Crappies & Stripers to Michigan Muskies, Northerns, Smallies & Walleyes! Along w/making an annual trip to Chicago in March to see my friend Wayne, & attend the Illinois Spoonpluggers Winter Seminar, another fantastic event! However not finding an active club to join, & 4 years of prodding by Scott J., who inherited Buck’s Baits & still runs it today, I started my own in February 2009. IN~Spoonpluggers is also still going today. Another great quote from Buck was, U will really start to Learn when U begin to Teach! I am still finding out how true that one is!! Yes I get long winded when it comes to anything about Buck or Spoonplugging, sorry… I hope Bill will share his fishing trips w/Buck w/us, as many of the Spoonpluggers are of advanced ages now or have passed on, & many of their accounts include lessons that we can all benefit from their sharing them w/us. We hold Mr. Perry in the highest regard, & his Green Book, Spoonplugging Your Guide to Lunker Catches is one of our Bibles we study along w/his Home Study Guide, Fishing Fact Articles etc. etc. We also obviously include the work done by Don Dickson on Spoonplugging, in his Pro-Structure Series, if he says something in a different way that helps us understand a topic, that is the desired result. Marty.

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