Got Worms?

Creme plastic worms circa mid-1960s still in their packs. Note the two weedless hooks pre-rigged in the bait. Photo Terry Battisti.

Editor’s Note: I’d like to thank Stan Fagerstrom for allowing me to photograph some of his old tackle used in this article.

For those of you out there who are certified worm freaks, here’s a blast from the past with respect to some worm-fishing history. Although Nick and Cosma Creme are rightfully credited with being the first people to develop what is known as the contemporary plastic worm (made out of PVC plastic), DeLong Lures actually started before (1946) the Cremes went into business in 1949.

DeLong plastics circa mid-1960s still in their packages. Photo Terry Battisti

Even though DeLong’s first worms were made of much harder rubber, it didn’t take DeLong much time to realize that Creme’s plastic formulation was better. By the 50s, the plastic worm industry was essentially a two-horse race but anglers far and wide discounted the petroleum-based wigglers as a novelty item.

DeLong plastics circa 1960s. Note the cost per pack of $0.50. Photo Terry Battisti

Early plastics were generally rigged at the factory with multiple hooks poured into the plastic or rubber during the manufacturing process – and left exposed. By the early-60s, though, manufacturers started pouring plastics without hooks – leaving the rigging to the angler. This is when the industry and the use of plastic worms really took off.

Pre-rigged DeLong Bass Witch circa 1960s. Photo Terry Battisti.

In the early 60s, one savvy angler in Texas named Dave Hawk took the new unrigged worms and threaded a sproat hook into the worm in a way that made it weedless and also placed a sliding sinker on the line to add weight. Hawk called it the “Slip Sinker Worm” later to be named the Texas Rig for where it originated.

DeLong Junior Witch. Retail price $0.85 to $1.00 circa 1960s. Photo Terry Battisti.

Two-time World Series of Freshwater Fishing Champion Glen Andrews used the “Slip Sinker Worm” to win the ’65 World Series and began promoting the rig and technique. It was also Andrews who taught Bill Dance how to use the “Slip Sinker Worm” right before the first All-American Invitational in 1967 on Beaver Lake. Dance placed second in what would become the inaugural Bassmaster event – all on the new worm rig.

Bagley’s Flat Tail Molly and Molly Crawlbottom plastics. Note the use of Hardhead on the packaging. I wonder if this bait was the precursor for the Mann’s Hardhead plastics of today? Photo Terry Battisti.

These early events sparked a tremendous growth in the plastic worm industry. Companies like Lindy, Mann’s, Flip Tail, and the Andrews Lure Company started popping up all over selling their version of the plastic worm. By the late 60s and early 70s, companies like Bagley, Cordell and others noted for their hard baits added soft plastics to their lines.

In the early days companies were essentially national entities who sold baits made of single colors and only a few sizes. Now it seems you can’t swing a 6-inch Trick worm anywhere without hitting a new soft plastic company. Around each major body of water numerous small worm companies exist that sell a myriad of sizes, styles and colors – many of which are “custom made” for a certain body of water.

Anyway, we hope you enjoyed this trip back in time when plastic worms were much simpler.

  • Erick Prado

    Ima worm guy all the way and this was such a treat..learned something today and that my friend is always a good thing…thank you Terry

  • Ralph Manns

    Ah memory lane–but my very first worms, and first bass on worms hit a creme rig like these with a small spinner and bead at the nose. Lake Tennkiller, OK, about 1959.

  • john cox

    looking for people in the know about Bagley bait co. My dad retired to haines city florida 1976, a nieghbor gave him a sack full of Bagleys spring tail worms. Ive fished central florida since 1976, have caught 90 bass over 8 lbs, biggest 3 mounted, 10, 10.5, 13 lbs. POINT, NOTHING I’ve used excepy shiners has ever out produced those old bagley spring tail worms. Any info about them, if any still exsist, would be appreciated.Dino bagley hasnt mentioned them in their bio. I’ve looked flee markets, bait stores even Lakeland fl. no luck. Thanks