Saturday, December 31, 2011

Deconstructing Old Ads: The Clark's Water Scout - Two Very Rare Ads (1948)

The Clark's Water Scout - Two Very Rare Ads

I have looked through many hundreds of magazines both before and after I started writing this weekly column. Today's ads from the April 1948 edition of Sports Afield and the June 1948 edition of Outdoor Life are the only advertisements for  Clark's Water Scouts I have run across in nationally distributed magazines.

April 1948 Ad.

June 1948 Ad.

 My association with the Clark's Water Scout goes back over 50 years. In the summer of 1957 I had my tackle box stolen. It was a traumatic event. I was a young man who lived to fish. Luckily my father's insurance covered the loss and I was asked to make a list of the tackle box's contents and their value. That was the easy part as I knew every item by heart, where I acquired it and what the cost was. I do not recall what the total value was but it was somewhere around $40. With cash in hand, I set out to build a better collection of tackle than I had just lost. One of my stops was Repp's Sporting Goods in Lima, Ohio. The salesman was a bit suspicious of a 14 year old boy with so much money in hand, but listened to my tale of how I'd acquired it and proceeded to do his job. When I mentioned that my Grandfather lived on nearby Indian Lake, he began to tell me that each bait he showed me was a known killer on that body of water. The fact is, the man must have been honest as almost everything he sold me proved effective. The only baits I now recall were a Shannon Persuader (which I never really fished), a glow pearl colored Shakespeare Swimming Mouse (which proved to be very productive) and three Clark's Water Scouts. I had never seen or heard of a Clark's Water Scout, but he talked over and over about a particular older fisherman that consistently “cleaned up” on these plugs.

When it came time to try out my new Water Scouts, I was impressed with their action in the water, especially the yellow floating and diving model. I hooked and lost a lot of bass on that bait. The hooks always seemed to me to be too stout for good hooking. I found one other Water Scout in 1969 in an old bait shop that was closing. When I moved to Michigan in 1970 I asked around at older tackle shops and took my favorite Water Scout with me as a sample. No one, even a bait store owner that had been in business since 1939, had ever seen or heard of a Clark's Water Scout. My ship came in when I attended my first National NFLCC Meet in Indianapolis in 1987. There was an entire table of Water Scouts for sale for $2 each. Needless to say I bought what has proved to be a lifetime supply.
The best description of the Water Scout's strong points were conveyed accurately in 1942 by none other than Ray Bergman in his book, Fresh Water Bass:

“A remarkably good plug which originated in the Ozarks......... It is a semi-floating type, comes to the surface when not in motion. Submerges on a split second on the slightest retrieve of the reel, and goes down to a nice depth and stays at that level, regardless of how slowly you spool the reel. Has a wonderful sharp, active tail motion.”

Just before his death in 1952, Robert Page Lincoln published Black Bass Fishing, a large book which was to be the culmination of his more than 40 years writing about bass fishing. RPL had this to say about the Clark's Water Scout:

“…..a chunky little underwater plug with a metal mouthpiece that gives it an intriguing, wiggling action. The last time I was in Springfield, Missouri, I visited the Clark factory and among other things was told that the previous year the company had sold over eight hundred thousand of their plugs. This must have been on actual merit, for the company does not advertise. How many of these plugs are used in the South I do not know; elsewhere in the country they seem to be missing in the stores.”

Considering the wonderful success I have had over the years with this bait, it has always amazed me that its use did not spread north. I found that after changing those stout hooks out for lighter ones, I lost very few bass. It also has been effective as a top water bait when just twitched around for a few moments before beginning its underwater work. My largest Smallmouth ever came on one in Canada. The following picture shows a Largemouth caught this past August on my favorite yellow-colored Clark's Water Scout. He was released unharmed after a quick picture.

A few years ago the Cotton Cordell company came out with a very close copy of the Clark's Water Scout, called the “Spence Scout”. I wrote the company at that time asking them if they had made an arrangement with the former C. A. Clark Company, but I received a somewhat meaningless answer. I have not given the Spence Scout a fair field test, but have heard that it lacks the sharp action of the Clark's.

-- Bill Sonnett


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