The Lil’ Tubby – Hybrid Crankbait

A 1970s Li'l Tubby ad by Tubby Tackle, Inc.

A 1970s Li’l Tubby ad by Tubby Tackle, Inc.

It’s a crankbait. It’s a soft plastic bait. No, it’s…another of my favorite baits growing up that I never caught a fish on – LOL. We all have had some baits over the years that for whatever reason really caught our attention, and that we ultimately bought. Several of them probably ended up not getting thrown or simply weren’t great fish catchers for us. Add the Li’l Tubby crankbait to that category for me.

As you can see in the ad above, the Li’l Tubby was a hybrid of sorts, melding a standard plastic-molded crankbait body with an ingenious holding mechanism that allowed you to place a soft plastic twister-like tail into it, ultimately giving the bait a seductive swimming motion. The specially tabbed tails (“Tubbytails”) were sold separately so you could either mix tail colors with hard bait color, or simply replace worn or torn tails.

A Li'l Tubby crankbait, many of which can still be found for sale on eBay.

A Li’l Tubby crankbait, many of which can still be found for sale on eBay.

In all fairness, while I had several of these in my box, I honestly never gave them a fair chance, so perhaps other readers will have a more positive experience with the fish-catching abilities of this bait. I really liked the concept though.

Also of interest is the company behind this bait, a sort of enigmatic venture in itself. According to the ad, the maker was Tubby Tackle, Inc. of Norman, Oklahoma, which was formed in May, 1970. An article I found in an Oklahoma newspaper that talked about the importance of the fishing industry to the state of Oklahoma listed Tubby Tackle as having an employee count of ‘1.’ Looking closely at the ad, that ONE individual was likely a gentleman named Jerry “Tubby” Rhoton. Here’s where it gets interesting.

Jerry "Tubby" Rhoton. Photo from JimmyHoustonTravel.com

Jerry “Tubby” Rhoton. Photo from JimmyHoustonTravel.com

If you look at the trademark filings and patent for the bait and the company (1970, 1974, 1976), you’ll find that either Gary D., or William D. Storm hold all the rights to the company and the bait. Those names should be recognizable as the guys behind Storm Lures Inc., also of Norman, OK and makers of such famous baits as the Hot-n-Tot, the Wiggle Wart, and the Chug Bug among others. That company (Storm) was founded in 1964 and later sold to Rapala in 1999. So the bait likely got its name from Mr. “Tubby” Rhoton, and the company also used that moniker, but  why the separation of the company from Storm Lures at the time as well as having just a single employee, I have no idea…but I’m guessing there is another story in there somewhere.

Fig1

  • Since the body appeared to be a shortened version of their Thinfin, it never occurred to me that anyone other than Storm made them.
    I had a guy in the back of my boat use one in a tourney and not only kick my butt, but kick everyone else’s butt, too. He won the next tourney on the same lake, and when he said he caught ’em on the same lure, I had no reason to doubt him. He insisted that the bait dove deeper if you put the tail on curling down instead of curling up.

  • Ralph Manns

    I wonder if there was a patent conflict when the “Dancing Eel” touted By Bill D. came out. Apparently the use of the curled tail was key. The”D Eel” also didn’t sell well.

  • I just heard from Ron Smart, who was there in the early days of Storm. Perhaps he can shed some light on this bait. I had some, but failed to use it much, and the tails marred the finishes on some other plastic cranks when stored en masse.

  • The Rabble Rouser was another big Oklahoma bait for a while, a series of diving cranks with enormous yellow eyes.

    • Jeff Hahn

      Steve: Rabble Rouser…those were some UGLY baits. They used to be made about 25 miles south of me in Dover/New Philadelphia, Ohio. Lots of local tournaments circuits would give them out in tournament lure packs. I don’t think I ever caught a fish on one.

      • Mike

        I’ll take all the rabble rouser top water lures you don;t want.

  • Bruce W

    I caught my first 6lb bass on a Rabble Rouser Rooter. Caught a lot of early spring fish on them. I don’t think I have one anymore, and haven’t seen one in years.