1937 the Helin Flatfish hits the fishing world
This ad from the 1937 Sports Afield Fishing Annual is my candidate for the earliest Helin Flatfish ad. To quote from the 1948 Helin Flatfish Catalog:
“In 1937 Helin gave up his job at the Chrysler Company in Detroit, where he was then working and embarked in business. He had no organization, no money and no business knowledge. Yet within a few years his lure, the Flatfish became the largest selling lure in America with 100 employees turning out thousands each day.”
There has long been a debate among lure collectors as to what bait was sold in the largest numbers during the twentieth century. Judging from the contents of many tackle boxes, it usually comes down to four candidates. The Bass-Oreno, the Creek Chub Pikie, the Eppinger Daredevil and the Helin Flatfish. One thing I do know is that it is a rare tackle box from the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's that does not contain one or more Flatfish.
My first experience s with the Flatfish came in the early 1950's when peering into the tackle boxes of grown-ups (as young boys still do) and hearing about the popular lures of the day. When I went down to the local hardware store to look over their selection of plugs, I was always torn as to whether to buy my first Flatfish. Most plugs at that time cost a dollar or less, but the Flatfish carried the astronomical price of $1.50. That represented at least three lawn mowing jobs! When I did buy my first one, it immediately became clear that casting it with the baitcasting tackle of the day would be a BIG problem. Spinning tackle solved that problem in my High School years and the bait proved to be a killer for Northern Pike when fishing in Canada. With its small hooks dangling at the end of the free-swinging crossbars, not many fish are able to shake the bait loose and often the more they struggle the more entangled they become. This led my fishing partner, while trolling for short striking Walleyes years ago, to give the Flatfish the nickname of the “Mouse Trap”. I have always considered the Flatfish more of a trolling bait with the biggest problem being getting one's boat to move slowly enough to bring out its best action. While the Flatfish proved to be very effective for trolling in northern waters, I have never found it to be particularly outstanding for Largemouth Bass. When I went on my first Musky fishing trip in Lake-of-the-Woods, Canada, I purchased the largest Flatfish I could find thinking it would make a great trolling lure. I got quite a surprise when I let out my line then threw my reel into gear. It felt as if I were dragging a full-sized cinder block and it was all I could do to “land” the lure after a terrific battle.
I'll leave you with my favorite fishing riddle: What problem in angling has the most potential for taking up valuable fishing time? Answer: A small Northern Pike with a Flatfish in its mouth in a cotton landing net!
-- Bill Sonnett