[Editor’s note: We’re happy to have longtime writer/bass fishing expert Rich Zaleski pen this piece for us on the Cat Claw Super Tail. As many of you probably know, Rich has been writing about bass fishing since the 1970s and has been published in a multitude of magazines and Internet venues.]
Sometime in the early 1970s, New York City Reservoir bass guru Marty Friedman, was vacationing at the 1000 Islands area of the Saint Lawrence River. Back at his cottage after a particularly good day on the water, he was showing off a mixed, largemouth/smallmouth bag averaging over 3 pounds. After complimenting him on his catch, his neighbor in the vacation community showed Friedman his own limit — five largemouth averaging almost twice that much. That was when Friedman met Bob Sickafoose, and learned about the unique soft plastic lure the Ohio angler had developed.
I learned about it from Friedman not long after he returned home.
Sickafoose’s Super Tail certainly wasn’t the first double-tailed soft plastic, but it was unique in that the curled tails were positioned vertically as opposed to the horizontal attitude exhibited by all the other double tails of the day. The difference in the way the lure fished (as opposed to typical double tails) was pronounced. To this day, the various models produced by Sickafoose’s Cat Claw Bait Company remain the only lures I’ve ever seen with curl tails so attached.
Of course in today’s soft plastic world, heavy bodied creature baits with a pair of “flappers” attached in a vertical configuration, usually along with a curl tail or two in the conventional, horizontal position hanging out behind them, are de rigueur. If a pair of appendages set at a vertical attitude is among the primary defining elements in the design of a creature bait, then I submit that the Cat Claw Super Tail was if not the first creature bait, then at least its direct ancestor.
The lure came in a 6-inch version designed to be Texas rigged, as well as 5-inch and 4-inch models designed for use on a jig head. Eventually, a two-incher was added to the line as well, but that was a couple years later, after production had gone from hand pouring to injection molding.
An article about Sickafoose and his Super Tail appeared in the February 1977 issue of Bassmaster Magazine. There was also a Field and Stream write-up by Ken Schultz and mentions in other publications in that time frame. Suddenly, Bob and his sons had more work than they could handle out of his Ohio garage.
Sickafoose used the bait to finish high in the first tournament BASS held at New York’s 1000 Islands in 1977, and when BASS returned to Alexandria Bay the next two seasons, a number of the pros, as well as many of the local northeastern sticks, were using the bait. In ’79, Sickafoose used the bait exclusively in his 5th-place finish at the same venue. Coincidentally, that tourney was Forrest Wood’s only BASS victory.
After a prolonged battle with the effects of diabetes, Bob Sickafoose passed away in 1999. The Super Tail has long been out of production, but there remain isolated pockets of Cat Claw fans primarily in the northeastern quadrant of the country and the Midwest, zealously rationing out their dwindling, 30-year-old stock or hand pouring their own copies of the bait. It’s my understanding that an end to their supply problems might be on the horizon, as Sickafoose’s grandsons, Cole and Cory Sickafoose are in the process of getting the Cat Claw Bait Company and the Super Tail back off the ground.