Spy Baiting – Hot Technique for the 1950s

Spy Baiting - The "hot" new technique out of Japan.

Spy Baiting – The “hot” new technique out of Japan.

I read a quote from Ron Lindner once that paraphrasing, basically stated that if you wanted to know what the next big thing to make ‘waves’ in the fishing world would be, all you had to do was look back about 20-25 years and see what was “hot” then, because every basic lure or presentation has already been developed, and things that are “new” now are likely just modifications of a previously “hot” technique, only coming full circle again. In fact, I just found that 2008 article, and Ron said, “You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. Just recycle an old jalopy, slap on a fresh coat of paint, and give it a sexy new name and vivid color scheme. If it worked then, it’ll probably work now.” Such is the case with today’s topic – Spy Baiting.

If you’ve paid any attention at all to recent lure trends, one of the “hot” techniques out of Japan is Spy Baiting, a light line, finesse technique using a sinking minnow with propellers and a straight retrieve – supposedly deadly in clear water and on pressured fish. So imagine my surprise while recently reading a chapter in Robert Page Lincoln’s 1952 classic book, “Black Bass Fishing,” when I came across the following paragraph;

“Quite aside from the deep-running plugs in the River Runt and Bomber type there might be mentioned a type of lure of the sinking variety, the first ones of which had their inception right after Heddon brought about the boom in the plug lure business. Illustrative of these lures would be the Heddon Torpedo, the Pflueger Live Wire, the Shakespeare Slim Jim and the Florida Shiner by the Florida Fishing Tackle Company. This type lure sinks when not reeled but when reeled sinks slowly to any desired depth. Lures in this class have propeller spinners fore and aft and are the means of throwing a reasonable flash in the water as they revolve. However, aside from this there is no body action and they troll or reel almost in a straight line.”

Even before I could complete the entire paragraph, visions of “spy baits” danced in my head. I tracked down some pictures (below) of most of the lures mentioned in the paragraph. No doubt that the lures built today for the tactic like DUO’s Spin Bait 80 are technologically superior, with better balance, finish, and components, but it’s still the exact same technique and concept, there just wasn’t have a fancy name for it back then.

So I think Ron is pretty  much right on the mark – in fishing, the old will become “new” again, and only those of us who embrace the past (history) won’t be surprised by the future.

1950s "spy baits" (l to r): Shakespeare Slim Jim, Pflueger Live Wire, Florida Shiner

1950s “spy baits” (l to r): Shakespeare Slim Jim, Pflueger Live Wire, Florida Shiner

  • Bill Sonnett

    If one looks in “Outdoor” magazines from 1900 and 1901 you will find the first examples of “Underwater Minnows” ie: sinking, fish-shaped wooden plugs with spinners front and back.

  • Jay

    Cars Back in 1900 and 1901, 1950s or what ever era you pick had an engine, 4 wheels, steering wheel. Just like today’s cars.

    What makes today’s cars different from 1900 is the evolved technology. I could get around in a Model-T, but why when there are safer, faster, more comfortable options in today’s vehicles.

    Spybaiting is using today’s technology, light floro line, realistic paint job, lure action to increase the likelihood of a bite.