By 1949 the sport of bass fishing was starting to morph into its own. World War II was over and the Korean conflict was still someone elses problem. Veterans of the war had come home, started careers and many of these people looked to the outdoors as a way to relax. Although the outdoors had always been there, in the late 40s fishing started to become more about the sport than that of putting dinner on the table.
With the economy at an all-time high, new anglers hit the water with a vengeance and tackle manufacturing companies started to retool from supporting the war effort back to what they did best – make fishing tackle.
Below is a smattering of ads that were in the 1949 issues of Sports Afield magazine – which averaged right at 150 pages per issue. From rod manufacturers to reels and bass lures, it’s apparent that the industry was on a rebound and more and more people were beginning to enjoy the art of bass fishing.
Al Foss: (See opening picture) For those of you Hawaiian Wiggler fans, here’s another wiggler for you. The Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler was another in-line spinnerbuzzer spoon hair jig thingy that was highly effective during the day. In fact, for those who remember the bait that won the 1978 Classic, a spinner-spoon with skirt made at the lake by Bobby Murray, this bait seems to be a close facsimile. The interesting thing about the 1978 Classic winning bait is it was touted as a new contraption developed by Ricky Green and handed down to a couple other anglers before the concept got to Murray. That win sparked a new revolution in flashy spinner spoon lures – a revolution that realy wasn’t new.
Bomber: Last week we posted a 1968 Bomber ad and this week we show another, this time from 1949. At this time Bomber was manufacturing three different lures for targeting bass – the Bomber, Bomberette and Knot Heads – all for the price of $1.10 each. What I like about this ad is the picture and caption showing a haul of fish taken from the fish factory known as Kentuckly Lake. I also like Bomber’s address, Bomber Bait Co. Gainesville 5, Texas.
Creek Chub: By this time Creek Chub had held the world record for largemouth bass for 17 years and according to this ad, which, mind you was in Sports Afield, had collected more than twice as many big fish prizes in Field and Stream’s annual big fish contest for 1948. As with the Bomber ad above, I like this picture and its related caption. The picture shows Charles Schreiner, of El Cerrito, CA (San Francisco area) holding a 14-pound largemouth taken from Round Valley Lake on a Baby Pikie Minnow. The fish was the new Field and Stream all-time record for a largemouth entered in the “northern” division. Being originally from California I made a quick search for Round Valley Lake and couldn’t find it anywhere on the map. I guess it was either filled in or inundated by another reservoir – or possibly taken off the map by my trophy-hunting friends who don’t want their secret divulged. In any case, I guess I won’t be fishing the lake the next time I venture to the left coast.
Louis Johnson Co.: Here’s a lure company I bet most bass anglers below the age of 25 haven’t heard of or paid much attention to. The Louis Johnson Company made one of the best bass lures known to man – and one that helped many anglers take top places in a number of the early Bassmaster events. The spoon, known affectionately as the Johnson Silver Minnow, is one of the lost baits of bass fishing. When was the last time you saw anyone fishing one?
One of the cool things about this ad is they put directions on how to use the spoon with it. 1) Pick a good weed bed, 2) Cast beyond the most likely spot, 3) retrieve with a twitch-and-stop action and 4) Set hook and bring in your bass. Seems simple enough.
As with many other bass lures that have been forgotten I wonder how much longer it’ll be before someone starts catching fish on it again and it’ll become the new Whopper Stopper Dirty Bird – I mean Chatterbait.
Langley: Before there was Shimano, before there was Daiwa, before there was Lew’s and ABU, there was another reel manufacturer that got most of the credit for high-end bass reels. That company was Langley of San Diego California. Yes there were other reel manufacturers at the time but those produced by Langley were preferred by serious anglers and casting gurus alike because, simply stating, there was no finer reel.
Langley supported the WWII effort and when the war ended they went back to manufacturing reels. They are arguably the first reel manufacturer to make reels out of aluminum and they even developed the concept of ported spools to decrease weight and increase casting distance. In fact, some of their reels weighed in at less than five ounces – in the early 50s.
Jason Lucas: Yeah, we’ve been beating the Jason Lucas drum here a lot lately and we’re not going to stop. Here’s an ad for his book “Lucas on Bass Fishing” (assume the second edition) with a written reason why you should buy it for $4.00. Some of the reasons are: it’s easy to understand (only if you’re an avid, well-seasoned angler), it’s written in a pithy style (yes it is), and tells you how to find and catch bass throughout spring, summer and fall (I don’t know why he didn’t include winter). I will agree that the book is big but fully illustrated is a bit of a stretch. Still it’s one of the bibles every bass fishing fan should have in their collection and one we’ll be writing about more.
Heddon: We’ve talked about this here before and I’m sure we’ll continue to do so as we see the need. Some companies like to venture out of their box when, in fact, they should stay well within the confines of their box. Heddon’s venture away from bass lures is one of those times. Yes Heddon made a lot of things other than lures for a long time and reels were one of those products. Known for their quality lures, their bass reels worked fine for those who fished a few times a year. If you were a serious angler, though, you wouldn’t be caught dead with one – unless you committed hari-kari because you bought one.
In this ad they’re featuring their Pal reel. It’s marketed as a light-tackle reel. It could hold 100 yards of 12 1/2-pound line (that’s right folks, 12 1/2 –pound) and the entire side plate could be unscrewed from the main frame. Looking at the inner workings of the reel is like looking under the hood of a 1964 Chevy Nova and comparing that to one of today’s cars, there isn’t much inside.
South Bend: There are few tackle companies that can claim they’ve been around for over 100 years but South Bend can – they’ve been around since the late 1800s. They started out as a lure manufacturer but, as with many companies, they got into the general tackle market too. Since we already talked about that in the Heddon paragraphs above, we’ll only concentrate on their lures here.
South Bend’s claim to fame amongst bass anglers was their Bass-Oreno. I still remember fishing with one of my dear friends on Lake Cachuma in southern California and it was almost a ritual for him to throw his old Bass-Oreno in the dawn hours of the morning. I don’t recall him ever catching a fish on the thing but he swore by its effectiveness in the “old days.” I can’t argue with him because I’ve talked to too many others who have the same opinion of the bait.
A few years back, Luhr Jensen (before they were bought out by Rapala) bought the rights to South Bend’s bass lures and brought back the Bass-Oreno. Unfortunately time had already done its job of making the bait obsolete and the once famous lure died on the vine, much like Stan Fagerstrom’s beloved Heddon Basser. I’m sure that if someone resurrected it and actually learned how to fish it, they’d realize that the bait is still worthy of catching bass.