Friday, July 6, 2007

Introducing South Bend's Pearl Finish (1930)

Mother-of-pearl, or Abalone as it is properly known, has been a fish-catcher for thousands of years, adorning South Sea Fish Hooks since the Polynesian islands were first inhabited. Abalone fishing lures were thus an early and popular fishing lure, still quite popular in the 1920s. This makes it surprising that it took so long to try and reproduce the lustre of pearl on a fishing lure finish. It took The South Bend Bait Co. to develop the Lustrous Iridescent Pearl Finish (Catalog Code PL) for wooden and metal lures in the spring of 1930.

Beginning that summer, South Bend introduced the lure to America through a series of ads touting "Pearl Finish Lures" that were "originated and developed by South Bend." The finish was available on a variety of South Bend lures, and the copy read:

The satiny lustre of pearl has long been known to hold an attraction for fish. Now, for the first time, this lustre with its soft, variegated colorations is succesfully reproduced as a finish for metal and wooden baits. Pearl Finish is a South Bend development destined to become as popular as the famous red head, white body combination originated by us. Pearl Finish is available at present in the baits shown here. Ask your dealer.

The introductory lures were the Bass-Oreno, Babe-Oreno, Trout Oreno, Flash-Oreno, Baby Teas-Oreno, Trix-Oreno, Dart Oreno, and of course Pearl Spinners. Interestingly, it would appear this color was an additional $.25 per lure during its introductory period.

The color clearly did not sell as well as Red Head/White, and in fact can be downright difficult to find today, a testament to the fact it did not sell well. Terry Wong in his Identification and Value Guide to South Bend Fishing Lures has the PL available until 1942, but it ceased being available on a number of lures by the mid-1930s. It is identifiable by its light red and blue spots over an lustrous white, although these spots often faded. The Pearl finish was soon copied by Heddon and used most famously on their River Runt Spook, and by any number of other companies including Creek Chub, Arbogast, Helin and most all Salmon plug makers.

A picture of a very rare Pearl Dart-Oreno can be found on Marie Munson's outstanding web site.

Beautiful Pearl Pike-Oreno Courtesy Warren Platt

--Dr. Todd

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