Saturday, August 7, 2010

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett


I always cringe just a bit when I hear a Bass Fisherman on Television use the term “Spook” as in, “ I sometimes like to throw a 'Spook' when they're hitting on top”. I have come to realize that they are using the term to describe a Zara Spook by Heddon.

Over the years the term changed meaning even when it was used by Heddon. Starting with the solid plastic Super Dowagiac 9100, there always seemed to be internal tussle at Heddon whether to use the term “Spook” or “Fish Flesh” to describe transparent plastic lures with what they liked to call a “Ghostly Appearance.” The 1932 Heddon catalog saw the plastic-lipped Vamp 9500 introduced with term “Fish Flesh” prominently featured. In the end “Spook” won out as the “Fish Flesh” phrase gradually receded into the background in Heddon advertising.

Today's advertisement comes from the July 1933 issue of Outdoor Life and illustrates several changes in the “Spook” story. It is apparent in the ad that the new “Vamp-Spook” 9700 features a metal lip and “toilet seat” hook hardware. In addition to the pictured “Vamp-Spook” and the “River-Runt-Spook,” it is mentioned that two other long-time wooden favorites also are  now being produced in plastic as the “Basser-Spook” and the “Torpedo-Spook.” Several others were to follow these as counterparts to Heddon's line of wooden baits including the Zara-Spook as the plastic version of the Zaragossa.

The statement that these new lures are “guaranteed to outlast a dozen wooden lures” would in the end prove to be wrong. Beginning in 1933 “Spook” baits were made of a new type of plastic that soon started to deteriorate. Today, plastic baits from this era 1933-1939 can be very hard to find. Baits such as the “Jr Basser Spook,” the first version of the “Zara-Spook” (three-hook) or the 9160 “Wounded-Spook” are almost never seen and when they are they are usually shrunken almost beyond recognition. Unstable plastics and the economy of the “Great Depression” meant that few were sold and very few of those survived. Recognizing the problem, Heddon send a notice to dealers not to put the baits in display windows in the sunlight as it hastened their demise. They also promised to replace any decomposed baits.

-- Bill Sonnett

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