Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Voices from the Past: The History of the Bomber Bait Company (1947)

I ran across this fascinating article published in the Pampa News dated 04 April 1947, and it gave some interesting early history on one of my favorite lures--the Bomber. It was able to date the origination of the Bomber, a plug invented by Texan Ralph Wham, to the fall of 1944. It also notes that by Spring 1947 they were already making 1000 bombers a day -- a significant output for a lure that had yet to see national advertising! And one also has to love the title of the article--a Texas title if there ever was one!

Texans Responsible for Most Fishing Plugs -- Good and Bad

by Jack Rutledge

Get your fishing box. Pick out your favorite plug, the one you've had the most luck with, and take a good look at it. It probably was made in Texas.

A fast growing Texas industry has followed in the wake of increased interest in fishing--the manufacture of plugs, lures, flies and various types of artificial lures.

A gentleman in San Antonio makes such attractive flies that some women fishermen wear them as ornaments on their dresses. Over in Uvalde, Art Sansom and Hub Eoff have developed an artificial lure they call the "wonder bug," made of cellophane, colored nail polish and odd lengths of wire. In Sherman, a man makes what he calls the "whopper stopper."

But the largest such factory we've seen is the Bomber Bait Company in Gainesville, owned and operated by Ike Walker, John W. Parker, and C.S. Tuberville.

They have applied for a patent for both design and name--"The Bomber"--but in the meantime produce over 1000 bombers a day and are 400 dozen behind in orders.

The original design was whittled out by Ralph Wham three and a half years ago. It has been changed and improved upon (Parker, one of the owners, is a science teacher in high school) but it's still a lot like Wham's old bomber.

It was designed to get depth, and to wiggle under water while being retrieved. Fishermen will realize the value of both.

Parker says the bomber will go down as much as six(teen) feet, "down where the fish are," and while being reeled in, will remain about ten feet under water and "wiggle like hell."

They make it in one basic design, but in three sizes and 17 colors. Each individual lure requires about 24 hand operations before it's ready for sale, and has about eight different bits of wood and metal attached.

New machinery has been invented in Gainesville to speed up the process of manufacture. But it's still mostly hand work, like the eyes, which are of two colors--yellow with a black iris. They're made or painted on with a common nail. A worked dips the head into the yellow ink, applies to the lure, then dips the other end into black ink and dabs it in the center of the yellow.

The body of the bomber is made of cedar. It's a special type and Parker won't tell where he gets it. The paint used has been tested and won't crack. It has triple hooks.

This may sound like an advertising plug, but it's not. It's just a report on a plug that, Parker says, will catch fish when others won't because it goes down deep, it wiggles, and it floats.

He admits the most of the ideas fishermen have about pet plugs are just plain superstition, but that when it comes to the bomber, it delivers.

There must be some truth to his claim, because sales of the unadvertised, unpromoted artificial bait have extended into Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, New Mexico, Arizona, and, of course, all over Texas.

-- Dr. Todd


Tom Parker said...

Well, I find this article, very accurate, except for one thing, my Dad's middle initial is H, not W. John H Parker, Ike Walker, and CS (Clarence) Turbeville, did put Bomber Bait on the Map. And the rest is history... many, many men and women found employ in Gainesville, hand crafting the many lures of Bomber Bait. And, it would be impossible to thank them all for their tireless efforts, which I remember clearly, as a child, who after school hung out many afternoons, in the Bomber plant.

john g said...

Dr. Todd, This is a very interesting article on Bomber lures. I suppose the old building is tore down. I would like to see some pictures of the workers actually making the Bomber lures back in the early days. It was very nice to have Tom Parker comment also since his Dad was one of men responsible for the Bomber lure. Tom, don't you have some laying around that your Dad brought home? I collect old vintage Bomber lures, and will try to post a link to some pictures in my collection. Thanks again, John Gardner



Stewart Valentine said...

Test comment

Stewart Valentine said...

I too hung out at bomber bait back in the early seventies. Mr Turbeville took a liking to me and let me have free run of the place. I learned a lot there. I worked in the pattern shop that did A bit of work for bomber bait....we talked about all sorts of things..... I was a budding taxidermist and Mr Turbeville always
Encouraged me in my work....we had quite a few interesting conversations...I still have a picture of him holding that big bass replica in the front room.He offered it to me once. I wish I had taken it.that picture sits on my desk to this day..I owehim a big thank you for being a real influence in my life....I became a state ...national and world champion taxidermist....... I live in Pueblo west colorado now but think back on those days with fondness.... I wish I could talk to him again...I saw the building still there years ago. I dont know about now..I wish I knew how to attach that picture ....I know he is gone but I think of him most every day....thank you........719 778 6089 is my no. I would love to hear from someone about bomber.