Being around fishing for as long time can be an advantage. Seeing the old and now the new gives perspective on the creative and the copied. Living through the early days when the technology was in its infancy, baits were sometimes archaic and clunky but they were original. They were best we had and they caught fish. Today, space age materials and manufacturing processes have for the most part replaced handmade. Plastic and tungsten has replaced wood and lead but the heart of the design is still relevant and many of the builders have the same passion.
Today’s fishing community has kept up with new products and new technology. Matter of fact they live for it and seek information on anything new. Manufacturers create lighter and stronger tools now, however, they may not necessarily be better.
Jason Christie has won a bunch of money this year on the old original Rebel crankbait that is no longer in production and it was the key to his latest Bassmaster Open win on Ft. Gibson.
There are several products that have been around for a while that I still like to use. They may be a bit battle scarred, but all they need is to be dusted off, customized a bit and brought back into action. They still catch fish. Remember, the old set the course; the new just streamlined it.
Five old bait favorites, in no particular order, that still catch fish today are:
The Jitterbug is a topwater bait that has a very unique metal lip and a pivoting line tie that allows the bait to walk slowly side to side. To-date, nothing has been built that has the same wobbling action. It is exceptionally good at night and low light conditions and works well around lily pads and fished parallel to the bank.
The Jitterbug is best worked slowly in calm water. A steady retrieve and a slower gear ratio reel is a must for this bait.
If an older model is used today, change out the metal hardware and replace with eye hooks, split rings and sharper hooks. The Jitterbug is still sold today. There are nine models of the Jitterbug including a weedless and jointed models.
One of the first molded plastic crankbaits this shallow diver has some unique properties that make it special including a very unique rattle, with several small BB’s, a wide wobble and a molded bill that makes it super durable. Cotton Cordell made this bait from a Fred Young carving in 1973. The Cordell Big O is still sold today but we really like the older models best for tough days on docks and over grass.
The Original Spook is a two hook model that also came with screw in hardware. The unique side to side walking action coined “walking the dog” generates big explosive blow-ups. The cigar-shaped bait had no lip or rattle and some even came with glitter glued to the bait. The “old dogs” are the ones I like best but remove the hardware and use better hooks. The old hardware can bind, pull loose and cause lost fish.
This lifelike, balsa stick bait has been around for decades, one of the first baits from Rapala. Its shape and lifelike action imitates a minnow, and because it is made from balsa, it floats very high on top of the water. It works great both jerked in shallow water and fished like a topwater. I especially like this bait in clear water and during the spawn. A couple of quick jerks followed by a long pause allows the bait to float to the surface and mimic and injured minnow.
Just about every gamefish on the planet has fallen victim to the Rapala Floating Minnow, and rest assured it is still a big seller today for Rapala.
The lip design allows the bait to dive nose down and have erratic action when twitched. My two favorite colors and sizes are Silver (11S) and Gold (11G) and comes in several lengths including my favorites of 11 and 13. Its casts on a 6 foot baitcasting set-up well but seems to have more followers using spinning gear. The hooks on this bait are super sticky out of the box and are short shank models that do not tangle.
This Jim Bagley creation was one of the first wide-wobbling, deeper-water balsa crankbaits I purchased. The Killer B and Dredge were later models I gravitated to, but I still have an affinity for the action of the Diving B II. This bait is silent, has the unique rounded Bagley lip design and was carefully painted to make it visible to bass in a variety of water clarities. It dives 6-8 feet depending on line size and utilized a wire through bait technology to hold the hooks and lip line tie as a single unit making it very durable and easily tuned.
This bait works well on points but was especially effective on docks with a stop and go retrieve. You can actually tune the bait to run under the dock on the retrieve. Stopping the bait and letting it rise quickly generates the most vicious strikes.
Other great baits I still have in my arsenal that didn’t make my top five but still have a place in my memory banks are the original Storm Wiggle Wart and Short Wart, the Luhr Jensen Woodchopper, the Smithwick Devils Horse, the South Bend Nip-I-Diddee, the Heddon Hellbender, Brother’s Bait Company Limberneck Spinnerbait, the Lunker Lure Original Buzzbait and the Heddon Tiny Torpedo.
Don’t be afraid to pull some of these old baits out and give them a try. I bet you catch fish on them.