One of the first lures I bought as a 13 year-old was a South Bend “Nip-i-Didee” on the advice of the owner at the local Firestone Store-- yes they sold fishing tackle and a line of hardware items as well as tires in those days. It also helped that my barber had recently returned from Lake-of-the-Woods where he landed a 24 pound pike on a Nip-i-Didee using an early Zebco reel. I was assured that it was a good lure by both of these gentlemen despite the odd name and simple appearance. Mine was white with the red arrow-shaped head and up-turned double hooks. I was not into surface fishing at that age and seldom used the bait and really don't remember every catching a fish on it. One day we were fishing a local limestone quarry which was as clear as a swimming pool and held large, notoriously hard-to-catch Bass. I was satisfying my fishing urge like many boys at the time catching stunted bluegills one after another. I decided to try my Nip-i-Didee but had no idea how it was suppose to be worked. I cast it out and was immediately distracted by my buddy who was having some difficulty that called for my help. I laid my rod down and went to his aid. After helping him for several minutes, I glanced back at my floating plug just as an enormous explosion took place and I saw my Nip-i-Didee fly two feet into the air. That was my first and last hit on that bait as I lost it the following year. The incident remains clear in my mind 55 years later. I was on my way to eventually becoming a top-water man!
The following ad comes from the May 1949 issue of Sports Afield. Most reference books list the Nip-i-Didee as being introduced in 1948 but try as I might I cannot find an ad for it in that year. Most 1948 South Bend Ads feature the Surf-Oreno which is replaced in those ads by the Nip-i-Didee in 1949. I have yet to see an ad that specifically features only the Nip-i-Didee. I think this was another one of those cases where the Company had no idea how successful this lure would be. By 1952 a quarter ounce spinning size, the "Spin-a-Didee," as well as the 3/8 oz. "Wee-Nipee" were introduced. It was obviously a very successful lure.
I used to wonder where a name like “Nip-a-Didee” could possibly come from. I now have a theory (which I cannot prove) as to where the name originated. In 1991 Dave Culp wrote a fine article in the NFLCC Gazette on the history of a Nappanee, Indiana bait known as a “Nappanee” or “Nappanee Ypsi.” This bait was manufactured for the inventor by several companies during its almost 50 year lifespan. From approximately 1925 until world War II it was manufactured by the South Bend Bait Co. The South Bend version of the Nappanee is almost indistinguishable from the later South Bend Nip-i-Didee. So South Bend is making this bait for someone else that is selling well and has a good reputation among fishermen. Why not make the same bait under the South Bend label? All that is needed a name that sounds something like “Nappanee”. I think you can figure it out from there.
-- Bill Sonnett