One Heck of a South Bend Ad!
The back cover of the May 1919 issue of Field & Stream gives us today's advertisement from the South Bend Bait Company. The bulk of the ad has to do with the Bass-Oreno which is offered and illustrated in nine colors and available “With either treble or single detachable snapeye hooks --- each 75 cents.” One must remember that the “South Bend Wobbler” was introduced in 1915 and renamed the “Bass-Oreno” in 1916. This history can be accessed by Clicking Here.
Here we are in 1919, with only four years worth of sales under its belt and the bait is already presented as “the favorite of several hundred thousand anglers.” This is the bait that put the South Bend Bait Company “over the top” as far as its financial survivability. Some years later, Charles Heddon stated, in a letter to his plant manager, that what Heddon needed was a bait that did not lose its appeal with fishermen after a couple of seasons; one that had appeal and therefore sales, year after year like the South Bend Bass-Oreno!
I was in a local tackle shop the other day and the Bass-Oreno was sitting there on the shelf 96 years later, still being made and still offered for sale! To be honest the workmanship of those present day baits was pretty bad and close inspection showed that they were no longer being made in the United States. Users of vintage tackle and baits can rejoice as there is no end to the supply of older Bass-Orenos available for practically nothing at antique tackle shows. If you have not tried a Bass-Oreno or its smaller brother the Babe-Oreno, you might not expect the “dashing attractiveness, the sudden dive and peculiar wobble” as this ad puts it. Being wood there is some variation from one bait to the next but when you find a good one it can only be described as “very erratic” as it wobbles and snaps back and forth at the same time. I have noticed that when a bass hits it there is seldom a problem with “light hits”. Bass seem almost to get a “running start” and pile into it with everything they have and thus are solidly hooked almost always landed. When fishing is slow, there is one in my tackle box that comes out and more often than not it produces.
-- Bill Sonett