This week part of Pete’s trivia quiz had to do with a pretty famous spinnerbait – the Fleck Weed Wader. That post sparked my memory in that before the Weed Wader became popular by winning three straight Classics, another spinnerbait had gained national success by some pretty hefty wins. That bait was The Aggravator by Stan Sloan’s Zorro Bait Company.
For example, Bobby Murray used it to win Bassmaster Classic I and it’s reported that Roland Martin used it to weigh big fish for the same event. Then in 1972 Ricky Green used The Aggravator to place second in Classic II and he also had big fish for the event on the same lure. Don Butler won Classic II with, you guessed it, his Okie Bug spinnerbait.
Just skimming through the old Tournament Trial records in Bassmaster Magazine for the period it was obvious that the spinnerbait was the lure to throw. In fact, a spinnerbait was used to win Classics I, II and IV through VI. Rayo Breckenridge caught his winning fish in Classic III on a variety of baits (including a spinnerbait) and Rick Clunn caught his fish in Classic VII on a buzzbait, Johnson spoon and flipping a plastic worm.
Back to The Aggravator.
Sloan’s spinnerbait design was a little different than most others in that he designed the arm of the bait to be longer than the normal spinnerbait of the day. This allowed the bait to be more weedless – the arm covering the hook more thoroughly yet flexible enough for fish to still get hooked. To add more action to the bait, Sloan packaged each spinnerbait with a hand-poured double-tail trailer called the Lizard.
The Aggravator was one of the most influential lures of the time but the way it was fished by Sloan and a few others is what really changed the face of spinnerbait fishing. At the time most anglers looked at a spinnerbait as a lure to fish in the mid-depths, on the bottom, slow. We call one of those techniques “slow rolling” today but another of the techniques was to lift the bait off the bottom and let it fall.
What Sloan had figured out, and the reason he developed the long arm, was that the bait could be fished shallow, near the surface or even buzzed lust below the surface. The long arm allowed the bait to come through brush and even some weeds and not get hung as bad as spinnerbaits with short arms. This is what won Bassmaster Classic I. Bobby Murray – fishing against Stan Sloan in fact – discovered that if he buzzed the bait just below the surface and ran it up to emergent brush and killed the bait, the Lake Mead bass couldn’t resist the offering.
The Zorro Bait Company is actually still in business in Sparta, TN. It is said that Sloan ran the business into his final days prior to passing in July, 2008. Obviously there was and still is a good following for The Aggravator and many of the other baits Sloan made.