Some say it was Nick Creme who invented the modern plastic worm in 1949 – others say it was Dave DeLong. In any event, the new PVC material took artificial worm fishing to an all-new level. Prior to PVC, artificial worms were made out of rubber – the kind your car tires are made of. They were hard, not very lifelike and left a lot to be desired when it came to action. Polyvinyl chloride changed all that.
Having grown up in southern California, hand pours were more the norm than the exception. Yeah, we used Jelly Worms, Diamond Backs and Mister Twisters but if you really wanted to catch fish, the ticket was Jim Smith’s hand poured Smitty Worms. Smith and his wife Carol ran a successful business out of their house in Glendale and supplied baits to nearly every tackle shop in the southland. But, if you ventured out of southern Cal, you were hard pressed to find anything hand poured let alone anyone who knew what a hand poured worm was.
This today is surprising to me because there were ads in Bassmaster and other magazines from MF Manufacturing and Lurecraft that featured hand pour kits, normally offering a couple molds, a quart of plastic, a couple colors and maybe some flake. Maybe they didn’t sell because the wife didn’t like the way it messed up the kitchen, maybe it was because without a lot of practice, it was just easier to buy finished baits.
Today, though, it’s a lot easier to make plastics than it was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the early days, high quality molds were expensive and the inexpensive ones were pretty bad. Not only that, the method of heating the liquid PVC was constrained to a hot plate and ladle with which you poured your molten plastic into the mold. It was messy and didn’t produce very good results for most anglers experimenting.
A major advancement came when Lee Manufacturing took one of their industry standard lead pots and retooled the heating element on it so it would operate at a lower temperature. This allowed Lee to sell the pots to the then-small plastic pouring community. After this, garage pourers started popping up everywhere – at least in southern California. It’d take the rest of the U.S. another 25 years to catch up.
What brought on this small history lesson in hand pours was an article and ad placed in the 1962 edition of Don Fuelsch’s Southern Anglers’ Guide. Although the article is titled, Mold Your Own Jigs, most of the piece was about making plastic worms. The directions on how to make plastics were rudimentary at best and really didn’t give the reader much to go on with respect on what was involved in making baits. It was also a little misleading in that they said the plastic had little odor – I guess we all have a different definition of how much something stinks.
The ad, which featured the Plastic Lure Company’s 666 Plastic Lure Kit, offers three molds and some plastic – no mention of coloring, a hot plate or ladle. The kit cost $3.95 back in ’62, not much for a do-it-yourself kit, but I wonder how many people actually bought them and whether or not the name effected sales?