Saturday, October 15, 2011

Deconstructing Old Ads: The Hawaiian Wiggler (1936)

The New Hawaiian Wiggler

There is a lot to ponder is this ad from the 1936 Fishing Annual from the publishers of Sports Afield.. This is an introductory ad for for both the “New” Arbogast Hawaiian Wiggler and also the, not yet to be named “Hula Skirt”. Fred Arbogast must have had a thing for those Hawaiian hula girls and thought his rubber skirt resembled the grass skirts they famously wiggled. Robert Page Lincoln in his 1952 book Black Bass Fishing (Chapter 7 if you care to read it) told his version of how Fred got his idea for this rubber skirt. Much more information on the various rubber skirt patents and its development was brought to the fore by author Colby Sorrels in his recent article on the Fred Arbogast Hula Skirt in the Summer 2011 issue of the NFLCC Gazette.

In this ad, Fred claims to have been “tinkering with rubber skirts for twenty years”. Having been born in 1894 that would put Fred's tinkering period starting at age 22 in 1916. Notice that the Hawaiian Wiggler pictured does not carry the #1 designation as the rest of the series had apparently not come along yet. There is no mention of it being available in more than one color or what that color may have been. Strangely the bait was priced without the skirt and at 40 cents for the single spinner and 50 cents for the less common double spinner model. These must have been some of the more affordable baits on the market. The rubber skirts are priced at 15 cents and are available in several colors. Unlike later ads, there is no mention of reversing the Hula Skirt for greater action. This is one of the few introductory lure ads I've seen that admits to letting some of the “boys....try it out last year”.

The “Hula Skirt” has a good reputation as a fish-catcher but to the chagrin of lure collectors it has a nasty habit of melting down in a hot tackle box and stubbornly sticking to the paint of otherwise pristine lures. It's not quite as bad as the “worm burns” produced by today's soft plastic offerings, but it is difficult to remove. In talking with many old timers through the years the Hawaiian Wiggler had a great reputation as a fish catcher after it hit the market. I have heard the comment that it produced a lot of hook ups but was easily thrown by bass due to the fixed hook and the heavy lead head. I will say that I have given it an extensive tryout and have caught bass on it but have never found it as effective as the modern spinnerbait. It now comes with a trailer hook which has been responsible for most of the catches I've made with it.

-- Bill Sonnett

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