Saturday, May 12, 2007

Losing Your Favorite Lure...Circa 1939

We've all had it happen, after hours on the water, you finally find that one lure that for whatever reason works better than anything else in your tackle box. You jealously guard the color, make and other details of your prize lure, and it works for you without fail. Then comes that sad day when you hang it on a brush pile, have it cut off on a fish, have it stolen out of your truck, or simply fish it until it falls apart. Many of us know the pain of this, and it might bring you some solace to recognize that others have felt your pain. This great little vignette, from prominent national outdoor writer Raymond Camp, sums up how this felt in 1939.

Raymond R. Camp, "Wood, Field and Stream" in The New York Times (24 May 1939).

"A friend just returned to the city after a week of black bass fishing in North Carolina. While there he landed a nine-pound smallmouth, and in telling about he extolled the virtues of the 'special' plug he used.

'I hunted a long while to find the exact type of lure for this fishing,' he explained, 'but I've got it at last. I wouldn't take a small fortune for it, as I don't believe I could get another.'

He finally departed with a jaunty step and a smile that was almost equal to the traditional one from 'ear to ear.'

The next morning we bumped into him again, but this time he was the picture of dejection. Someone had broken into his parked car and had made off with his entire fishing outfit--rods, reels, fully equipped tackle box and everything, including the 'special' plug for which he 'would not take a small fortune.'

We know exactly how this man feels. One day a friend gave us a bucktail of a strange and somewhat weird pattern. When we tried this lure it proved to be one of the most effective of its kind we ever used. Each time after returning from a trip we planned to get out the fly-tying kit and make a few like it, but somehow the task was always postponed.

Then one day a frayed leader parted and the 'killer' bucktail was no more. Since then we have tied up to fifty as close to this pattern as memory would permit, but somehow they lacked the appeal of the original possessed.

Some Pacific Coast salmon anglers will put away their rods in the middle of the season if they happen to lose their 'hot' lure, as they call it. It is a strange thing, but you can put a dozen of these lures side by side, measure them with a micrometer, compare them as to color and be able to find absolutely no variation. But out of this dozen one will take fish time after time, while the others will be ineffective. Some of these 'hot' lures bring as much as $30, while an exact counterpart sells for 30 cents."

My favorite all-time Musky lure was a red and white Billy Finn bucktail. It didn't look much different than other red-and-white bucktails other than there was a noticeably smaller amount of red, but it worked every single time I used it. Without fail, when other bucktails wouldn't produce a rise, I could always get at least a follow with the old Billy Finn. Several years back I was fishing the Chippewa Flowage on a dead day--our party of at least seven boats hadn't gotten a musky--so I switched to the old stalwart. Casting the shore line of a calm bay, a nice musky hit the Finn as if on command no more than 10 feet from the boat. It wasn't a huge musky by any means--about 36"--but I was fishing with a friend who hadn't been musky fishing before, and before I could yell at him to stop he put the net in the water and immediately tried to scoop the fish. It made a violent lurch and 'ping' went the line and off swam both fish and bucktail. I have yet to find another musky lure that produced as regularly and as well as this one.

Anyone else have a story of a favorite lure lost?

--Dr. Todd

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