Thank You Cotton

Left to right: Odis Young, Cotton Cordell and Fred Young compare Big-Os. Photo Todd Long, fishingforhistory.com

Left to right: Odis Young, Cotton Cordell and Fred Young compare Big-Os. Photo Todd Long, fishingforhistory.com

There are lure designers, seems every garage has at least one, and then there are lure designers. In our time there have only been a few true icons in the industry – Jim Bagley, James Heddon, Bill Norman and Lauri Rapala are a few of them that come to mind. All of these designers left an impression on the industry and sport that will live forever, not only in the books but on the local tackle shelves. They all created baits that were just successful back in the day, they’re still successful today.

The list of lure designers above, all have one thing in common – they’ve all passed on to that big pond in the heavens.

Unfortunately, today another icon in bass lure design was taken from us. Cotton Cordell, age 86, passed today at his home in Hot Springs, AR.

The Goin' Jessie boat Cordell designed and sold. This ad is circa 1972.

The Goin’ Jessie boat Cordell designed and sold. This ad is circa 1972.

Cordell’s mark on the industry started at an early age working for his family’s marina on Lake Catherine. Early on he was a talented angler, often teaching clients how to catch fish. Not having much money, Cotton turned to making his own lures in order to be able to fish – the first of which was a banana head jig with dog hair as a skirt. The jig took off and next thing he knew, his dog didn’t have much hair left.

Although he started out with the simple jig, he is probably best known for The Spot, Red Fin, Gay Blade and the Boy Howdy. What he’s probably not known for is he designed the Heddon Sonic and Sonar along with a rod line and a boat line called “The Going Jessie.”

The Boy Howdy topwater lure and Cordell's introduction of his rod line. circa 1972.

The Boy Howdy topwater lure and Cordell’s introduction of his rod line. circa 1972.

His best-selling bait of all time has been the Spot. But the Big-O, a bait he produced for Fred Young, sold 1.3 million copies in a little over 12 months. It sold so well, in fact, that he paid off the 3-million dollar loan he took out for tooling in about 18 months.

Steve Price wrote of Cordell in his new book, The Fish That Changed America: “Born in 1928 in Benton, Arkansas, where his father had a furniture store, he was always known as ‘Carl JR.,” but that ended before he turned 15, because by then his hair had turned snow-white. His nickname quickly became “Cotton” and has stayed with him his entire life.”

A selection of Cordell products circa 19777.

A selection of Cordell products circa 19777.

The number of bass Cotton Cordell’s responsible for being caught is too large to count. Still anglers continue to rely on his creations, many over 40 years old, to put fish in the well. Cordell, who has been inducted into nearly all fishing Halls of Fame, leaves a void in the industry that will be difficult to fill. Thank you Cotton for your contributions to the sport. We’ll continue catching fish with your creations here and I’m sure you’ll carry on up there.