Fenwick – The Gold Standard of Rods

Early Fenwick HMG Graphite rod ad.

Early Fenwick HMG Graphite rod ad.

I would hate to venture how many rod companies are out there today – it seems every small town across America has at least one. I’m not knocking this surge in rod companies by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s actually opened up a lot of different rod building concepts and, which in turn have had a big impact on the way rods are made today.

Back in the 60s and 70s, though, that wasn’t the case. At that time you had Browning who made the Silaflex, the Garcia Conolon line of rods, Heddon (who would actually make custom rods to order, and a couple other players. Factory rods were just that, factory rods and not too impressive. Many of these companies offered their blanks to the numerous custom shops that dotted the United States and the serious angler generally went that rout instead of purchasing some off the shelf. [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back Part 33

The Zara Spook has been one of my favorite surface baits for a long, long time. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The Zara Spook has been one of my favorite surface baits for a long, long time. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

One of my best friends in the high country of Arizona is as big a bass fishing nut as I am.

There are differences, of course, and one of them is that like most of the other bass men I meet these days he’s a heck of a lot younger. I was reminded of that a couple of years ago when this good friend came to me with a request.

“Stan,” he said, “I’ve read some of the stuff you’ve written about fishing a Zara Spook. I’ve just never gotten around to throwing those things. Any chance I could get you to show me how you use one?”

I could, as the name of my column here at the Bass Fishing Archives indicates, look back over a whole lot years of personally getting these wondrous old baits to do their thing. Along with a handful of other old lures that came along decades ago, they’ve provided me with more than their share of spine tingling memories. [Read more…]

Book Review – Deconstructing Old Ads

Deconstructing Old Ads by William T. Sonnett.

Deconstructing Old Ads by William T. Sonnett.

Historical book reviews have become a staple here at the Bass Fishing Archives. For the most part, we look at out-of-print books that have had significant impact on the sport. Books like Billy Westmorland’s Them Ole Brown Fish, Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers, Lucas on Bass, etc.

Another thing we post a lot here are old ads. Reason being: old ads give one a snapshot back to the day. While we’ve concentrated primarily on the history of competitive bass fishing and the ads that supported that portion of the industry, Bill Sonnett has been writing a column for the Fishing For History website for years covering ads from the dawn of bass fishing. [Read more…]

Graphite Rods: An Industry Perspective – 1978

Testing a graphite rod circa 1978.

Testing a graphite rod circa 1978.

Over the last few years, we’ve done a few articles on the history of graphite rods – mostly based on Fenwick, the first company to utilize the material in production fishing rods. Fenwick first introduced their rods at the AFTMA show in 1973 and by early 1974 they were being marketed to anglers. In that first year rod costs were high, about $150 per rod, but worse yet, breakage was higher.

It was obvious the new space-age material was a winner, the problem was figuring out how to lay the material on a mandrel so its properties could be best exploited without breakage. [Read more…]

Hot Tackle for ‘68

1968 Daiwa ad.

1968 Daiwa ad.

Today we’re taking a look back 46 years in order to get an idea of some of the products that manufacturers were offering anglers back in 1968. Going back like this lets you really see, and maybe even understand, what the angler of the past had to deal with and also gives you an idea exactly how nice we have it today. So here’s a brief look back in time.

Daiwa – Daiwa came out with the first skirted spool reel in the early 70s, and that engineering breakthrough was a game changer in spinning reel technology. Before that, all spinning reels, like the Daiwa reels shown in this ad, had spools that fit inside the spool housing. If you’re too young to remember reels like these, you’re lucky.

Line control on the spool was an absolute must due to the fact any loops and/or loose line on the spool would invariably make its way between the pipe-cleaner on the spool and the spool housing. Once this happened, the line would wrap around the spool shaft and you’d soon find yourself in a mess. [Read more…]

Uncle Homer via Garcia

Worming and Plugging for Bass by Homer Circle. Published 1972.

Worming and Plugging for Bass by Homer Circle. Published 1972.

On Tuesday of this week we posted a piece on Garcia’s Sports Library and the little booklets they used to publish. In that piece I said we’d be posting another later this week and this is it – Worming and Plugging for Bass by Homer Circle. On Tuesday we talked about the contents of Rosko’s booklet and also touched on how Garcia used the book to teach anglers how to fish in the hope that they’d buy their product. Today I’d like to discuss the contents of this booklet but spend more time looking at pictures of one of the most recognized names on bass fishing. [Read more…]

Heddon’s Most Famous

1975 Heddon Big Bud ad.

1975 Heddon Big Bud ad.

You can argue all day long about what Heddon lure was the most popular over the course of time. I’d hate to count the number of Zara Spooks that have sold over the years or even the old River Runt. Both of these lures have had a cult-like following for years and the fact that the Spook is still one of the best topwater baits is proof how good it is.

But in 1975 Heddon went a different direction. One that may have had an adverse impact on their company – or maybe it set the stage for something big.

I know when I saw that Heddon had come out with a Budweiser lure I laughed. I wondered why they’d do it – it certainly wouldn’t catch fish. No one I knew owned one, or admitted they did anyway. [Read more…]

Tackle 1949

Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler ad circa 1949.

Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler ad circa 1949.

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. [Read more…]

Let’s Look Back – Part Seven

I lived right on the shore of Western Washigton's best bass lake for many years.  The Heddon Basser took more than its share of the thousands of bass I caught during the time I lived there. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I lived right on the shore of Western Washigton’s best bass lake for many years. The Heddon Basser took more than its share of the thousands of bass I caught during the time I lived there. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself.

And brother, if you don’t really believe that familiar bit of wisdom you haven’t been watching what’s happened in the field of bass fishing lures over the past half century.  Furthermore, if you’re an old timer like me there are instances where you just can’t understand why some of those unwelcome changes ever took place.

It was one of those lure changes that brought me together with a wonderful guy who was eventually to become one of my best friends.  That man was Homer Circle.  Anybody who knows beans about the bass fishing world knows who Homer was.  Among other things, he nailed down almost every award a writer in the outdoor world can get. [Read more…]

Graphite’s too Expensive?

Christmas 1976 Bass Pro Shops ad for the Graphite 96 rod.

Christmas 1976 Bass Pro Shops ad for the Graphite 96 rod.

About a year ago we posted a piece here on the Bass Fishing Archives regarding the “new” graphite rods that were just appearing in tackle store rod racks in the 1974 time frame. In that article we mentioned that Fenwick was the company introducing the new material and that the cost of these new space-age rods would be around the $150 price point. In today’s dinero, that’s roughly $700.

Well, as with most new things, someone else gets on the bandwagon, finds a way to make it for less and then the competition begins. That’s exactly what happened.

By 1976, companies like Skyline, Heddon and even Bass Pro Shops had entered the graphite rod market. Skyline rods were high-end rods and their prices reflected. Heddon, on the other hand, was making rods they claimed were graphite but it may have only been the pencil writing on the tag that provided that graphite. Their rods were strategically priced at roughly 50 percent of what the Fenwick and Skyline rods were going for. [Read more…]

The Bass Aren’t the Only Ones That Eat Them

RebelThere are a couple of reasons we all buy bass lures. First because we want to catch fish and second, we have an addiction to buying them. I don’t know how many baits I’ve bought over the course of my life but I’m sure I don’t want to know that answer and I’m doubly sure that my insurance agent doesn’t either.

One thing that’s happened over my life is I’ve seen a lot of lure companies go by the wayside. Some of them just went out of business for whatever reason be it bad designs, not enough revenue to make the industry worth while or, as we’re going to talk about here, a bigger fish buys them out. [Read more…]

One of the Remaining Few

Norman Lures ad circa 1977.

Here’s a great old ad from 1977 featuring Norman Lures. Front and center is a young Jimmy Houston (wearing a hat!) after winning his first Angler of the Year Award in 1976. One of the funny things about the ad is Jimmy’s boat. Note the first generation Norman Lures “wrap.” Looks as if Jimmy took his boat to a kindergarten finger painting class and let the little buggers go at it.

The other anglers featured in the ad are Woo Daves (what a head of hair!), Gerry Kennedy and Roger Mhoon. Other than Daves, I’ve only heard of Mhoon as he used to fish the Bassmaster Trail. [Read more…]