Saturday, April 9, 2011

Deconstructing Old Ads: Shoff's Casting Mouse (1931)

Shoff's Casting Mouse
With a huge thanks to Jerry Martin

From the pages of the May 1931 issue of Sports Afield comes today's ad (compliments of Warren Platt) for the Shoff's Casting Mouse. At first glance this bait looks like many flyrod deer hair mice. A closer read shows that this is no flyrod lure, but rather a baitcasting lure in both a Bass size (1/2 oz) and a Muskie size (3/4 oz). The ad claims it is a floater. Having experienced the tendency of deer hair flyrod baits to sink after a while, this seem remarkable to me. Not knowing all that much about the Shoff bait, I asked my friend Jerry Martin to give us some facts. Though I am seldom surprised by the depths of Jerry's knowledge when it comes to the history of flies and the companies that made them, I was not prepared for the amount of fascinating information Jerry provided. What follow is all Jerry Martin. After reading it you will know why I sure wish he'd publish that book he has been working on for many years...

"Clarence Shoff is recognized as the inventor of the clipped deer hair mouse. He filed for a patent for a “method of making a fish bait and the product thereof” on November 24, 1930. United States Patent No. 1,953,692 was granted on April 3, 1934. The patent taught the method for making clipped deer hair mice. Shoff found that the color and texture of clipped deer hair was ideally suited for creating realistic mouse imitations. He introduced the first fly rod deer hair mouse call Shoff’s Mouse in 1930. In that year a full page Shoff Tackle Company ad appeared in the Sporting Goods Journal Catalog. The first Shoff mice featured natural colored clipped deer hair bodies, black bead eyes, either leather or cord tails and deer hair whiskers. Tufts of deer body hair represented ears. Before the year was out the mice were tied with brown leather ears. Shoff mice were always nicely done—finely proportioned with densely packed hair. Shoff’s pioneering deer hair mouse established the general shape and conformation of the numerous mice of other manufacturers that were to follow. An all-white mouse was introduced in 1933. Advertisements appearing in 1936 said, “The New Shoff Mouse—Now made of reindeer hair.” Reindeer and caribou body hair yields dense, closely packed bodies with superior floatation properties. The hair, however, is more fragile and not as durable as deer body hair. Shoff apparently sold a lot of mice. Except for the musky size, which is very rare. Early fly rod Shoff mice were packaged in orange, two-piece, lift top, pasteboard boxes, printed in black. Later mice were packaged in plastic tubes with metal screw on caps. Shoff’s mouse is readily identified by the body shape. 

Shoff's mouse is the classic deer hair mouse and other makers emulated or copied the lure in violation of Shoff’s patent. I suspect that Shoff found that the financial returns of the deer hair mouse market did not warrant the legal costs associated with challenging in the courtrooms the host of copycats.

Clarence Shoff was born in Kent, Washington on April 30, 1894. He died on May 24, 1975 The Shoff Tackle Co. was founded in 1922. In the beginning the company sold fly tying supplies and artificial flies (standard patterns, bass and trout bugs) tied by several local women. The first national advertisement found for the Shoff Tackle Co. appeared in 1925. As the company grew most of the production was distributed to the trade though jobbers and large retail outlets, including Sears, Roebuck and Co., Western Auto Supply, Dave Cook Sporting Goods, Marshall Field and Co., to name a few. Until the mid-1939s Shoff’s bother-in-law, Ed Madsen, served as plant manager. At this point Shoff established a second plant, called Wesco Tackle in Portland, Oregon. Madsen managed the Portland operation until his death in 1959.

 In 1952 Clarence Shoff founded Lamiglas, Inc., a rod manufacturing business. Clarence's son Dave managed the Lamiglas operation from 1954-1959. Beginning in 1959 Dave assumed management of their retail store. Dave found he enjoyed retailing and assumed permanent management of the retail operation. The Shoff operation supplied several noted anglers of the time with flies including Zane Grey, Enos Bradner, C. C. Fields, Marvin Hedge and Eddy Bauer. Shoff also established a retail store in Kent. Dave was still alive a few years ago."

Thanks Jerry!

-- Bill Sonnett 

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