Saturday, June 26, 2010

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett

An Under Appreciated “Old Timer”

This week's advertisement is from the April 1939 issue of Sports Afield. The remarkable thing about the ad is that it is 71 years old and yet calls the Johnson Silver Minnow an “Old Timer”. All evidence points to this spoon being first sold in 1920. If you go to most bait stores today, there it sits on the shelf, just as it has for the last 90 years. It is rare to find an older tackle box that does not have one or more examples of this familiar bait. This bait came by it's name honestly as it was plated with real silver and as the box proclaimed, the gold model was plated with 24ct gold! The ones I've seen lately in the stores look more cheaply made and appear to be plated with chrome. No matter, there are loads of originals around and they polish up very quickly. A strip of porkrind, a pork frog or a piece of white leather are the traditional tail attachments, although of late I've seen folks use a white rubber Twister Tail.

At the lake where I spend my Summers, my 91 year old neighbor is still seen occasionally rowing out to distant weed beds to cast live frogs or a Johnson Silver Minnow for bass. (I would be thrilled beyond description to know that I would still be able to fish at 91!) I don't seem to use this bait as much as I used to unless the weeds are bad and they aren't biting on top water. When I do use it, it seems I always catch one right off the bat. About 15 years ago I was fishing with my long-time “fishing apprentice” Warren Platt. We were fishing top water with all vintage tackle and the bite had faded as the sun moved over head. Then for the first and only time since I met Warren, he pulled, from under the boat seat, a well hidden, graphite spinning rod, rigged with a plastic worm. I was a bit speechless at this transgression and asked him what the heck he was doing. He cackled something about being “prepared” and stated that this was the “only way we were going to catch any bass with the sun on the water.” After a period of hesitation to get over the shock, I said, “If I catch a bass on a pre-1940 lure, will you put that thing away?”. Self assured, he said he certainly would but there was no chance that was going to happen. You guessed it; I put on a Johnson Silver Minnow and caught a decent bass on the first cast. Warren said something I cannot print on this site and put the spinning rod back under the seat. Love that Johnson Silver Minnow.

(he he he he)

-- Bill Sonnett

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