Know Your Alphabet – The Bagley’s Balsa B

1973 Ad from Jim Bagley's Bait Company.

1973 Ad from Jim Bagley’s Bait Company.

Here’s an interesting look back at one of the all-time great hardbait manufacturers, the Jim Bagley Bait Company. The ads shown here are from 1973, ’76, ’77 and ‘80 and show a pretty good number of the baits they sold during that decade. Missing, of course, is the Bang O Lure and a couple other baits but the important ones are there.

Bagley’s first big claim-to-fame came with their original Balsa B, or Big B as seen in the ad from 1973. The bait was 4-inches long, sported a square bill and excelled in areas where anglers would normally throw a spinnerbait.

Unfortunately, the Big B went out of production when the deep-diving baits of the late 70s and early 80s took hold and the Divin’ B series came out.

1977 Bagley's Diving B ad.

1977 Bagley’s Diving B ad. Note the price. I’ll take 24 please.

The Divin’ B series, though, was a magical series of baits with the DB2 and DB3 models outshining the smaller DB1 – that is until Bagleys sold in the mid-80s and the new owners decided to go “unleaded” towards the end of the decade. For those of you that remember, the original series had a small lead weight in the lip that the line tie was molded in to. There was something about that little bit of weight that added to the action of the bait, made it easy to tune and might have added a little more depth. The new series didn’t have the lead in the lip and the line tie was made of stainless steel rather than brass, which made it rather difficult to tune. Not only that, their fish-catching ability took a nose dive.

1976 Bass Pro Shops Christmas flyer ad for Bagley's. Don't you wish you could go back in time and buy a few dozen?

1976 Bass Pro Shops Christmas flyer ad for Bagley’s. Don’t you wish you could go back in time and buy a few dozen?

Another stellar bait that Bagley’s produced during the time was the Honey B – in both deep and shallow running models. This little 1-1/2-inch jewel was a fish magnet, bar none. Thrown on 8-pound line and in tough conditions, the fish seemed like they couldn’t resist it. I know for me it saved many a day on the water. But, like the Big B and original Divin’ Bs before it, the Honey B was phased out in the 90s – at least I couldn’t find anyone who sold them.

Then we go to the Small Fry series, which we’ve touched on here at the Bass Fishing Archives in the past. Although the concept was good, the baits didn’t find much success. At the shop I worked in as a kid, they initially flew off the shelves and after a year or so, the only one that needed restocking was the crawdad bait. Other than that, the rest of the series had many birthdays hanging on their pegs.

1980 Bagley's Small Fry Ad.

1980 Bagley’s Small Fry Ad.

A few years ago it seemed as if the Bagley’s name was going to go the way of the Dodo bird. Then in 2007 the company was purchased (again) and brought back to life. Unfortunately, the change of ownership didn’t help and the company again saw tough times.

Then in the 2010-11 time frame, Bill Cullerton and Jarmo Rapala, of Rapala Lure fame, bought the company and began to resurrect it. Their promise: To bring the company back to what it once was and remake the lures the way they were designed by Jim Bagley.

I haven’t yet had a chance to use any of the new Bagley baits, I’m still throwing the originals, but you can bet I’ll be trying some in the near future. I just hope they fish the same as the originals. It’d be nice to have this nostalgic bait back in the ring after so many years on the sidelines.

Here’s a link to a video the new owners have produced to introduce themselves.

  • Jeff Hahn

    I still have some of the originals…especially the smaller Honey B.

    On another note, why is it that when a small, successful company is purchased, the new owners decide to change the very things that made the company successful? Then, they sit around, scratching their heads, wondering why the bottom line takes a nose dive. I’ve seen this happen time and time again…never ceases to amaze me!

    • Jeff I have no idea why that is. I hope that the new owners are doing Jim Bagley proud, though, and are bring back to life the old ways of making them. I was recently on their site and one thing that worried me was it looks like they’re using stainless for the wire harness.

  • Don’t give sort shrift to the Bang-O-Lure. To us,it was a balsa Rapala replacement that you could throw on casting tackle. And the Diving Ban-O-Lure was among the top early jerkbaits in the northeast.

    Still, it was the Deep Diving Balsa B’s that were the gold standard. I particularly loved the DB1 in the spring. Never caught a fish on a DB2, but the DP3 loaded the boat a whole lot of times. I still have 5 or 6 original, lead button DB3s in my office. Maybe I’ll throw one this year. Or maybe I’ll just ebay ’em. When they eliminated the lead button, they also changed the angle of the lip from straight forward to about 5 degrees down, and that’s what really ruined the bait.

    • Rich, I agree, the Bang-O-Lure was a dang good bait. I just didn’t have a picture of one to add to the piece. The jerkbait they made in the mid-80s I wasn’t too fond of was the Top Gun. It was plastic, didn’t throw worth a darn and I can’t say I caught a lot of fish on it.

      It’s strange how a bait works in one area of the country and you can’t sell them for firewood in another part. That’s the case with the DBI I guess.

      By the way, don’t sell them things on eBay. 😉

  • Brian Waldman

    I’ve got a small fortune wrapped up in lead billed Diving Bs. I own about 50-60 DBs, along with a dozen or two Balsa Bs, their shallow diving cousins. Well over half or more are original lead bills. I’ve caught lots of bass on all three sizes here in Indiana, though the DB1 has always been my favorite. Like you often read, some of the baits just seem to catch a lot more fish than the others, but you never know until you’ve fished them enough. Definitely have a few that no amount of eBay money would be worth parting with them.

    • Hey Brian, what’s your address? 🙂

  • Paul Wallace

    Ditto on the small fortune…lol.I’ve got a box full of original BB1, 2, 3 and 4’s. Love/hate those things. When they work..they’re the best. When they won’t run right or lips break…they’re the worst…I’ve also got different styles from custom lure makers trying their best to imatate the original bb series. My gosh go on e-bay and look at Bagleys…on second thought, don’t cause I don’t need anybody else driving the cost up…I am curious to see what the new version [rapala,cullerton] looks like under water??
    Paul