Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Voices from the Past: Bill Bryan, Bagley's Lure Designer (1989)

This week in Voices from the Past we feature a great article by outdoor writer Fred David and published in The Syracuse Herald-Journal on 20 June 1989. In this article, entitled "Bryan Enjoys the Lure of Fishing," we get a pretty unique glimpse into the nature of the final years of Bagley's history. In particular, we get the insight of Bill Bryan, Bagley's lead lure developer in the later part of the 1980s. He developed some neat lures, including the Grass Rat and the Smoo.

Bryan Enjoys the Lure of Fishing
By Fred David

When Bill Bryan invents a new lure, he shows it to Upstate New York fish for the final stamp of approval.

Our Yankee walleyes and black bass have always smacked their lips with delight, but felt the sting of Bryan's keen sense of what it takes to fool Mother Nature.

The Winter Haven, Fla., lure-maker visited the St. Lawrence River, Oneida Lake and several smaller lakes and ponds over the weekend and caught more than 100 bass, up to 6 pounds, on his latest creation — the Grass Rat.

The top-water lure will be introduced at the annual American Fishing Tackle Manufacturer's trade show in July and be available to retail outlets in early August.

The Grass Rat's size, shape and action is being kept under wraps. Fishermen can be assured it's not another rubber rat-shaped lure, but it skims seductively over the thickest of weeds without a weedless hook.

The retired high school principal and 18-year varsity football coach in Bartow, Fla., has always made the most of lures he fished. The central Florida lakes and swamp canals were his testing sites. Although he always caught plenty of fish with the lures, he never tried to market them.

It wasn't until he retired that Winter Haven lure baron Jim Bagley hired him for promotions and his lure-making savvy. During Bryan's six years at Bagley Bait Co., he has created six new lures. His most famous is the Smoo, a modern version of the Flatfish, one of the first commercial crankbaits. The Smoo got its name because it looks like the animal in the comic strip Lil' Abner.

Bryan is so confident in the Smoo, he'll pit your best lure against the Smoo for the most expensive steak in town. He's already outfished two of Oneida Lake's best walleye and bass anglers with the banana-shaped lure.

Another popular creation was last year's Tall Walker, a cigar-shaped surface plug that caught more than 200 large- and smallmouth bass during the opener of bass season on Oneida Lake.

Lures are invented to meet a specific purpose, Bryan said. The Grass Rat came about because Floridians fish lakes and phosphate pits that become weed-choked by midsummer. Without something that will skim over the thick cover

Everybody wants to be a lure inventor, he said. A week doesn't go by that a phone call or a letter brings a new opportunity for Bagley's to buy a "new" lure or get an offer to manufacture a lure for the inventor.

The conversations or letters go something like this, Bryan said, quick and to the point: "I have invented a fishing lure and I have it patented. I would like you to manufacture it. How much will you pay me?"

"Before the second sentence begins, I already know the guy is lying. Nobody patents a lure, it costs too much money," Bryan said. "If the lure is good enough, nobody will be able to duplicate it and there's no need for a patent."

Bryan continues, "If you think the world is in need of another lure and that you'll get rich, you can forget it. I've invented six lures in the first six years at Bagley and I draw a paycheck every two weeks. Without it, I would starve. You don't make money inventing lures."

Most of the callers pause, and say they just want the lure to bring them an income, not to get rich.

"Explain to me what makes your lure different than any one on the market, other than the fact that you made it?" Bryan queries.

A standard answer, "It leaves a string of bubbles!"

"What does that do?"

"It attracts fish!"

"What facts to you have to make sure that instead it doesn't scare the fish? You need something more than a string of bubbles to make it a good lure. By the way, a hundred lures are already on the market that make bubbles."

Bryan doesn't discourage the inventor but explains the lure market is very difficult. Anyone can invent a lure because fish will bite anything, he said. It might take years, but you can get fish to bite a pencil with a hook on it.

"Lure manufacturers are looking for lures that catch fish consistently. They don't have to look like lures, just catch fish," he said.

When Bryan offers to look at the lure, most inventors never send, them. And the ones that do get forwarded are horrendous, he said.

No lure that Bagley has rejected has turned up elsewhere on the market, Bryan said.

But Bagley doesn't discourage fishermen from trying to discover a new fish-catcher. The Smoo almost got Bryan fired. When Bagley first saw the lure, he looked disgusted, said it would never work and told him to abandon the idea.

Bryan persisted and was warned again.

"I waited until Jim went out of town to work on it because I was close, but couldn't get the lathe to shape the lure," he said.

Bryan succeeded and the Smoo hit $1.2 million in sales the first year. It's the first Bagley lure to hit over a million dollars in sales the first year.

A nifty look at the final years of the Jim Bagley Bait Company, through it's head lure designer's eyes!

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, August 30, 2010

News of the Week: 30 August 2010

Don't have time to read 50+ fishing and tackle collecting blogs and web sites? Well, let us do it for you! Follow all of the latest news, articles, and stories on our Whitefishpress Twitter account! Hint: You don't need to be a member...just bookmark the Twitter Feed Page or click on latest links to the right!

EPA opts to NOT ban lead...14 year old much better angler than you, catches record mahi...Indiana fishing writer hangs it up...a Quincy bait shop hides some gems...Eddie Bauer history...the fly tying elite meets in Jersey...what catches more trout, lures or bait?...17 year old gets fishing wish granted...sharking in the Celtic Sea...Filipino breaks world record...Mike Hart's cheating is still causing controversy...record Sockeye run has scientists baffled...trying to replace Two Tone in Britain...Wisconsin angler hooks, lands, releases a coyote...it must be THE NEWS OF THE WEEK!

The Big Lead: EPA rejects calls to ban lead in fishing tackle, ammo.

14 year old much better angler than you, catches record 59 pound Mahi.

Indiana fishing writer hangs up his rod and reel.

This Quincy bait shop hides some hidden gems.

A little history of Eddie Bauer.

Bill Ward says old lures still have appeal.

In Jersey, fly tying elite share ideas.

These old veterans hook a few new fishing stories.

Joe Mosby says fishing gear over the years has changed.

What is a better bait for trout: lures or bait?

A 17-year old gets his fishing wish granted.

Sharking in the Celtic Sea.

This man from Ellensburg can really fish.

After three years, fishing feel pretty darn good.

A Filipino breaks a world record on a shoestring.

Arthur Roca, South Coast fishing legend, passes away.

Suspicion lingers in the wake of the Mike Hart bass fishing scandal.

This Van Staal is a terrific fishing reel with a great history.

This Bluegill is a record catch.

Where to find trophy cats.

Why the record sockeye run has scientists baffled.

Expert anglers are looking for the next potential record British carp.

6 year oldf better angler than you, catches first Cobia.

Finishing with a Flourish: Wisconsin angler hooks, lands, and releases...a coyote? Wait...what?

-- Dr. Todd

Sunday, August 29, 2010

1000 Words

1000 Words

Today we have a neat photo from 1940 of some nice trout from Moosehead Lake in the Rangeley region of Maine. The photo is of a famous angler and tackle merchant--can you guess who it is? Hint -- if you open the image in a separate window, you'll find the name of the angler in the image's name!

-- Dr. Todd

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Deconstructiing Old Ads: The History of Outdoor Life in Covers

The History of Outdoor Life in Covers
Magazine covers have always been a form of advertising. They are an attempt to get you to buy the magazine. I thought it would be interesting to look at the covers of several "outdoor" magazines and how they have changed over the years. We will start this week with Outdoor Life.
The first cover shown is from April, 1917. Outdoor Life was known in the early days as the "Sportsman's Magazine of the West." The magazine is in the small format that most magazines of the day were in. The Cover is not spectacular but shows that Outdoor Life was moving away from strictly trout fishing. This issue contained articles of bass fishing, bass fishing plugs and pike fishing. The price was 15 cents

 Cover number two is from the August, 1918 issue. The magazine is now in the large format and features a cover and articles on saltwater fishing. This cover painting by H. L. Hastings is one of the most unusual magazine covers I've seen of that period. The price has risen to 20 cents a copy.

Cover number three is from April, 1930 and features a painting that has appeared in countless forms and venues over the years. It is the young boy with cane pole and worms being offered cash for his catch from the nattily attired and outfitted sportsman who has not had a successful day fishing..

Cover number four is from July 1932. About this time Outdoor Life began a series of cover painting that are my personal favorites. This one seems to me to be the "ideal" in magazine covers and I never get tired of looking at it. Though things were going downhill fast in 1932 with advent of the Great Depression, the magazine was still 25 cents.

Cover number five is from May 1942, five months after Pearl Harbor. There are few ads indicating that war production had started and most outdoor suppliers were advertising full force. For Outdoor Life this is one of the earliest uses of a photograph rather than a painting as a cover. This cover has to be a favorite among lure collectors. The price of the magazine has dropped to 15 cents reflecting realities of the depression.

Cover number 6 is from July, 1944, one month after D-day. The majority of tackle and outdoor equipment ads tell us that their company will be making more tackle, outboard motors, ammunition, etc when the war is over but for now they are going full strength on "war production" for Uncle Sam. The price is back up to 25 cents an issue.

Cover number seven is from April, 1956. A great uncluttered cover reminiscent of the Saturday Evening Post covers of the day. The price is still 25 cents, but the magazine is close to 200 pages in length and crammed with advertising that reflects the booming economy of the mid 1950's.

Our final cover comes a few months later in August of 1956. This is a personal favorite of mine as it is the first copy of Outdoor Life I ever owned. I was 12 years old when my dad purchased a copy for me when we were standing by a magazine rack in a drug store. It led to a lifetime of enjoyment of outdoor books and magazines. I was trying to figure out how to catch a bass in those day and the magazine contained an article by Don Shiner entitled "Calabogie Bass" which told the story of an unsuccessful bass fishing trip that was saved when it was discovered that attaching pieces of rubber balloons to the hooks of lures made them irresistible. I immediately went to the dime store and stocked my small tackle box with a lifetime supply of rubber balloons in all colors!

-- Bill Sonnett 

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Friday Funhouse

The Video of the Week
The Asian Carp strike back!

Asian Carp Storm Fishermen's Boat - Watch more Funny Videos

Things I Would Buy If Only I Could Afford Them
This A&F Passport rod is a real sweetheart.

This Shapleigh Ultra Casting minnow in a wood box is just an incredible, incredible bait!

A Seamartin made of wood is a super rare spinning reel.

This Coast to Coast minnow bucket has attracted tremendous interest!

A CCBC sign is something that doesn't come up for auction very often at all.

Is this a Shakespeare President prototype?

An ABU 2500C DeLuxe is outstanding.

I absolutely adore the British-made Gregory metal lures!

STELLA! STELLA! (I never get tired of that...)

Alcedo Microns are hot as a pistol of late.

The Daiwa Steez is a high end bait caster.

The CCBC Tarpon Pikie is a beautiful lure.

A Heddon Giant Vamp is a superb bait.

A 1932 Michigan fishing license must be a rare bird.

Everett Garrison may very well have made the finest bamboo rods ever.

A Heddon River Runt Spook Floater in R&W Water Wave Everlast Color is a classic 1930s bait.

Moonlight Musky Pikaroon? Yes, please!

A Keeling Expert in the box will make some Fred Keeling collector happy.

Hetzel saltwater jigs are super, super hot of late.

Winter's Weedless Surface Baits are aesthetically beautiful.

Have a great and safe weekend, and be good to each other, and yourself.

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday Review: Bigmouth and Bigmouth Forever DVD

Thursday Review: Bigmouth and Bigmouth Forever DVD

Glen Lau in many ways revolutionized not only bass fishing, but underwater fishing photography. Lau, a former Lake Erie fishing guide who became a self-taught scuba diver and photographer, retired from the guiding business in the late 1960s and moved to Florida, where he met lifelong friend Homer Circle. He decided to make a film about his friend Homer, but when he immersed himself in the clear waters of Florida's rivers he found a different story instead.

What resulted from thousands of hours under water is the finest film ever made not just about bass fishing, but the bass itself.

I was fortunate enough to spend the day recently with Glen Lau--a sprite and active 75 year old. We talked about a number of subjects, but we kept returning to the two films which have brought him so much acclaim--Bigmouth and Bigmouth Forever.

Bigmouth was filmed at Silver Springs, Florida and was released in 1973. It has an award winning script written by Parker Bauer, the son of noted outdoor writer Erwin Bauer, and is narrated by the incomparable Rod Serling (of Twilight Zone fame). This was one of the very last projects Serling was involved with, and in a recorded interview praised the script for Bigmouth as "one of the finest I have ever worked with."

The film itself takes Glen's breathtaking underwater footage and crafts the life story of the largemouth bass. From breeding to fry stage to young adult to full grown, this is a true modern classic that explores bass behavior in an incredibly comprehensive manner. For example, many anglers do not know that bass do not eat anything during courtship and breeding--

With numerous shots of Homer Circle fishing for bass with what we consider today "vintage" tackle but I can promise you was state-of-the-art at the time, this movie is still the best primer on bass behavior you are ever likely to find.

"I shot 45,000 feet of film for this movie," Glen told me, "and I only ended up using a small portion of it in the film. A typical day for me was to spend 10-12 hours underwater observing (sometimes filming) bass; then I would return and watch them through a submarine glass for another 3-4 hours. I couldn't get enough of it."

Glen had many fond memories filming Bigmouth. "One time I was filming and saw a large bass," he related. "I surfaced and told Homer to cast where I knew the big bass would see it. I went back under, turned on the camera, and watched as the big bass sucked Homer's lure into his mouth and spit it out. A bit later, Homer cast again, and the same thing happened. I surfaced and asked Homer why he didn't set the hook. Homer looked at me surprised and said, 'I didn't feel a thing.'"

This was just one of the many lessons to be learned from Bigmouth. Big bass strike so quickly and viciously that often by the time you feel a slack in your line, the bass has already hit, tasted, and rejected your lure.

I asked Glen what he thought was the most memorable scene in the film. "I don't know if it is for me," he related, "but for most people, it is the scene where the big bass--about an eight pounder--hits the baby duck and drags it under. The drama of watching the duck escape is something that stayed with a lot of people."

Released to critical acclaim in 1973--B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott called it not only the finest film on bass, but one of the finest films of any kind ever made and it has won more awards than any other outdoor feature ever--Glen, ever the analyst, took inventory and realized that there were over 60 things he wanted to show in the film but was not able. Thus he eventually returned to some of these subjects in the 1998 follow up Bigmouth Forever. With his great friend Homer Circle, he utilized the crystal clear waters of Rainbow Springs, Florida to craft his celebrated follow up, focussing this time on the angler and the bass.

As poignant and beautiful as the original film, Bigmouth Forever is a worthy bookend to the original classic. Bringing together some of the great bassing minds, including Homer Circle, Hank Parker, and Rick Clunn, the sequel utilized slow-motion underwater photography to show how big bass feed. In Bigmouth Forever "I was only able to touch upon a couple of dozen of the points that I felt were missing in the first film," Glen laughs. Perhaps one day soon we'll get a third film in the series!

I first saw Bigmouth in the late 1970s and was simply blown away. It was incredible to revisit the movie after all these years, and I was pleasantly surprised that I was still able to learn from it. There is a reason it is a classic. The later film is as good of a film as has been made of fishing for big bass.

Both films are available in DVD for $19.95 each by Clicking Here.

-- Dr. Todd