Here is our rundown of the lure creations that had the biggest impacts on not only modern day bass fishing but also lure creation.
25. Zoom Brush Hog
The Creature Feature. The Freak Nasty. The Turbulent Tussler. These probably sound like some cheesy wrestling names, but the Zoom Brush Hog just never seemed to do this bait justice. We listed it as No. 25 on list of 25 Most Influential Bass Fishing Lures.
It’s an absolute staple from coast to coast in 2-inches of water to 50 feet of water. Fished on a Texas-rig, a Carolina-rig, a jighead or a jig trailer, this bait broke the mold on standard plastics. Before this bait, soft plastics had to resemble some sort of creature that existed in the water. What spawned after it was a category affectionately called “creature baits.”
Before it there were lizards, craws, worms, tubes and grubs. After it however there was an explosion of soft plastics that didn’t resemble anything. And that category continues to expand in the soft plastic fishing lure world. But the creature creation of Ed Chambers sent soft plastic manufacturers in new directions realizing you could impart a lot more action and water displacement with baits that didn’t have to resemble a real creature.
Therein lies the beauty of the versatile Zoom Brush Hog. It doesn’t look like a single thing in or out of the water. It catches fish, however, like something that naturally swims or crawls. The bait is another one that influenced the direction of future designs and for that reason it made our Top 25 Most Influential Bass Fishing Lures list.
24. Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue
The Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue is responsible for a number of big wins on both the original floating model and the later suspending models. This is one bait that actually put suspending jerkbaits on the map even though originally they didn’t suspend.
Guys found out that by adding weight you could make the bait sit in a bass’s face in cold water and tempt them to bite when they were overly lethargic. Guys originally were weighting these with lead coil, rubber core sinkers, lead tape and more along with Bomber Long A’s, and Rapala Original Floaters. But it was the Smithwick Rogue that kept coming up when talking about producing winning stringers.
The rattles were unique in their ability to call attention to the bait from long distances. The suspending models are still very popular as evidenced by tournament wins on the Smithwick Rogue.
They may not have been the very first jerkbaits that suspended, but they oddly enough created the craze of suspending jerkbaits because of necessity and savvy anglers being handy with lead. And they have certainly stood the test of time having won a Bassmaster Open in 2011 and who could forget VanDam’s Classic win on the RB1200 version. Thus we made this our No. 24 of 25 Most Influential Bass Fishing Lures.
23. Norman DD 22
When we first started compiling the list, we got a little spun out on how to really include some baits that not only influenced the tackle market and fishing patterns, but also stood the test of time. Some baits had a quick impact and then were gone. The Norman DD22 is one of those baits that has carried on and really lived up to the hype for more than 35 years.
The idea of getting a reaction bait down to fish deeper than 15 feet was no easy pill to swallow. And while the Norman DD22 may not have been the first to do it, it has done better than most for a long time and accounted for countless tournament wins at the local and national level alike.
This crankbait comes in a plethora of colors but is really simplistic in its design. It’s a bait that when it first hit the market, everyone had to have one. The mark of a true influential lure is its ability to make other manufacturers want to duplicate your success but continue to be the lure that anglers go-to for that application.
That’s the definition of this legendary crankbait.
22. Johnson Silver Minnow
The Johnson Silver Minnow is one of the simplest lures to stand the test of time. But when it hit the scene, it was one of the first and most effective ways to tempt bass to come to the top and eat over and around heavy vegetation. In fact we’d argue today’s modern frogs, toads and other scum rat type lures are derivatives of the Johnson Silver Minnow.
It came through the grass better than a spinnerbait or buzzbait. It didn’t get gnarled up in sloppy, slimy bogs, it had flash, wiggle and with a grub or worm a soft seductive side too. The total package for catching bass in heavy vegetation. Its effectiveness carried over to saltwater fishing in the marshes.
It’s still available, and still thrown by a lot of anglers in states like Florida and up north on grassy fisheries. It hasn’t resonated with anglers all over the country, and that’s largely due the prominence of hollow-body frogs in the market and more fishing on highland reservoirs void of any vegetation.
I still have vivid memories of watching Tom Mann throw them with a white worm as a trailer on his TV show and catching 12-pounders on film on Florida Stick Marshes. It was some of the most amazing fishing footage we’ve seen still to this day.
For those reasons, The Johnson Silver Minnow gets our nod for No. 22 on the Most Influential Bass Fishing Lures of All Time.
21. Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver
Andre Moore was an up and coming professional tournament angler when he won an FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake with a wild homemade soft plastic he designed. This bait didn’t resemble anything in the water, but it did something special in the water because the bass could not, and still cannot, resist it.
The Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver featured a ribbed body with a creased mid section, flapping appendages and a spade tail that can be split. It mimics baitfish, bluegill and crawfish all in one when flipped and punched through heavy cover and hopped around under matted vegetation and thick willow bushes alike.
It is a staple fish catcher from California to Florida and all though it’s not been around as long as many other creations on the list, it’s another one of those baits that spawned a whole new class of baits and presentations for bass in heavy cover.
For that reason it comes in at No. 21 on our list of Top 25 Most Influential Bass Fishing Lures.
20. Lunker Lure Buzzer
This is one of those “started-it-all” lures in bass fishing. The Lunker Lure buzzbait set the standard for buzzbaits, and continue to be very popular today. The skirted topwater buzzer was a new twist on spinnerbaits for riding on top and churning up a commotion that attracted not only savage strikes, but larger than average bass.
Part of the allure was the buzzing blade tearing up a trail in the water, but the other aspect anglers grew to love was the “squeal.” The mouse-like chirp of the metal blade spinning on a metal wire was a very appealing draw for big bass.
The lure spurred other manufacturers to create buzzing offerings, trying to improve on the original, but the original still catches them just fine. A buzzbait is an often overlooked, lure but it still seems to win a major tournament or two every year and catches a lot of big bass in the post spawn and fall.
For those reasons, it made our top 25 list. How many of you still throw the Lunker Lure buzzbait?
19. Z-Man Finesse TRD
The Midwest finesse fishing pioneer Ned Kehde spent years cutting up and modifying ElaZtech baits to create a small softbait that would entice strikes from heavily-pressured bass in public reservoirs in Kansas.
After introducing his friend Drew Reese, a fishing industry veteran and competitor in the first Bassmaster Classic to the virtues of ElaZtech, Reese convinced Z-Man Fishing Products to manufacture Kehde’s creation, which became the 2 3/4-inch Finesse TRD and brought the ‘Ned Rig’ to the mainstream.
Seven years later, the Z-Man Finesse TRD is one of the top selling soft plastic baits nationwide and a lure that both recreational and tournament anglers rely on to get bites in the toughest conditions.
18. Basstrix Hollow Bodied Paddle Tail Swimbait
Number 18 is one of the more recent lures on the list. And while it wasn’t a brand new creation, it was definitely a trend setter.
The Basstrix Paddle Tail swimbait was definitely not the first swimbait made or even the first lure to incorporate a paddle tail. However the size and dual pour plastic bodies created a buzz in the angling community. But its influence was two fold.
After some major tournaments were won on the Basstrix swimbaits, the demand went through the roof, more than the manufacturer could manage in fact. That lead to an enormous influx of imitations from other manufacturers looking to fill the void with consumers demanding these hand-poured swimbaits.
But it also had a lasting effect in that it brought western swimbaits to the whole country, and anglers began to incorporate swimbaits in their regular fishing arsenal. Of course many of the purist swimbait sticks out west scoffed at the popularity of these swimbaits as they were hucking huge Huddleston Trouts and 10-inch Ospreys on extra heavy tackle and catching monster bass.
But the Basstrix “bridged the gap” so to speak between the big-swimbait, big-bass guys and the common everyday angler who throws more realistic sizes when chasing bass with artificials. Bass will eat those bigger baits, but more bass seemed to readily scarf the 5-inch Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbaits across the nation.
Now this size and much larger swimbaits have become a mainstay in angler’s arsenals coast to coast. It’s not just a western technique anymore. Even big bait huckers should thank Basstrix for making swimbaits more acceptable and attainable to all anglers and helping to spawn a massive growth phase in the swimbait niche.
For these impacts, we selected the Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbait as our No. 18 Most Influential Bass Fishing Lure.
17. Roboworm Straight Tail Worm
This do-nothing worm was not a new shape or creation per se, but the massive impact Roboworm’s Straight Tail worm had on the technique of drop-shotting and bringing it to the mainstream from coast to coast cannot be ignored.
As popular as the Roboworm itself was a pink color they created called Morning Dawn. That colors has gone on to be arguably the best fishing catching color of all time on a drop shot and has spawned a whole drop shot niche thanks to the ease of use and large volume of fish you catch on the worm.
Helping to grow a technique like the drop shot and expand a niche of baits puts the Roboworm at No. 17 on our Top 25 Most Influential Bass Fishing Lures of all time.
16. Rapala Shad Rap
Many folks will scoff at the Rapala Shad Rap being No. 14 on our list. The fact is, if this list was the 20 most popular fishing lures and was not specifically for bass and was not based on influence on anglers and manufacturers, this bait would probably be in our top 5.
The bait was made in 1982 to improve on predecessors offerings. It was designed to closely mimic baitfish profiles with good buoyancy, straight subtle tracking and castability. And there have been more than 3 million Shad Raps sold in various colors and sizes and variations. So you can’t really leave it off the list.
This bait made throwing finesses crankbaits on light line and spinning tackle en vogue on the tournament trail when the water was cold and the bass were sluggish. Most pro and weekend anglers alike still reach for a Shad Rap when fishing coldwater. It’s a confidence factor for tough coldwater fishing.
But the bait works in a variety of situations and works really well for a variety of species. It’s a staple in the walleye world, and we’d argue that four colors account for the majority of the Shad Rap sales. Those would be Silver, Gold, Firetiger and Crawdad.
For a time this bait was rented out by guide houses up north because it was so productive when it first hit the market, and the supply was so limited. The Shad Rap continues to sell extremely well year after year.
So it has stood the test of time, developed a niche in crankbait fishing, caught numerous species of fish and sold millions of units. For those reasons the Rapala Shad Rap is our No. 16 Most Influential Bass Fishing Lure.
15. Lunker City Slug-GO
We find the Lunker City Slug-Go soft jerkbait holding down the No. 15 spot on our list. This straight darter shaped plastic really changed how plastics were viewed.
In our mind, there are two types of artificial lures from a fish’s standpoint. There are contact baits, and there are reaction baits. Lures like plastic worms and jigs are contact baits. They are subtle, act like prey inching along the bottom and the fish will nose up to them and study them before deciding to eat them.
Reaction baits on the other hand, shake, rattle and roll by the bass and often don’t give them enough time to weigh the pros and cons of striking. The bass just grabs the lure out of sheer instinct or anger. They react to the wild noise and action.
When the Slug-Go hit the market, it was the first plastic bait of its kind to change the way plastics were viewed. An angler could now make this plastic bait duck and dart and slow sink like a dying shad and elicit a “reaction” impulse from the bass. When the lure hit the market in the middle of the 1980s, it was a little slow to catch on and then it seemed like after a few tournaments were won on it, it became the hottest selling plastic on the market.
It spawned a whole class of soft jerkbaits that were eliciting a reaction up in the water column instead of locked on the bottom or right on top floating. Anglers were able to target bass in the middle of the water column more effectively with these plastics.
14. Z-Man Original ChatterBait
The ChatterBait bladed jig was created in a garage in Greenwood, South Carolina by father-son team Ronny and Ron Davis after years of tinkering with the goal of creating a bait with the profile of a jig, the flash of a spinnerbait and the vibration of a crankbait.
Convincing the angling public of the virtues of this new style lure was not easy when the bait hit the market in 2004. In January of 2006, Bryan Thrift won a Stren Series event on Lake Okeechobee using the ChatterBait. Immediately, demand for vibrating jigs went through the roof virtually overnight, and the ChatterBait craze was born.
I was down in Florida when all that happened and it was crazy how thousands of those baits were scarfed up in a matter of hours after Thrift’s win.
Since then, the ChatterBait has gone on to win dozens if not hundreds of bass fishing tournaments all across the country. We consider it a finesse version of crankbait that can be fished through grass. It excels in cold and hot water alike, can mimic baitfish or bluegill and catch bass in a variety of water clarities and conditions.
13. Heddon Zara Spook
This bait is a fun pick. But it’s more than just fun that got it this high on our list of Most Influential Bass Fishing Lures. The Heddon Zara Spook spawned not only a craze of topwater anglers and savage heart stopping strikes from hungry bass, but it spawned it’s own swagger on the water. The “walk the dog” technique was born with the creation and perfection of this lure and it was an overnight success.
I can remember seeing Charlie Campbell for the first time on television making this topwater bait zig zag back and forth across the surface, even walking it around a stump before a big bass jumped out of the water to bite it. I was hooked from that moment. Now I can’t have enough Zara Spooks or their later imitators in the boat when the water is warm and bass chase forage.
The walk the dog technique became not only an effective way to catch bass, but also search for bass during the warm months in tournament situations. It seemed to call bass from great distances and a lot of times you could get bass to show themselves without ever having to hook them by taking the hooks off the bait.
The original version had hook hangers screwed on the outside of the bait and was silent with a handful of colors. Now there are a multitude of sizes, colors, rattle options, silent options, three hook and two hook varieties and more. Their popularity remains strong to this day.
It’s a niche bait that spawned its own technique, gave anglers more options and opened up topwater fishing to another dimension.
12. Fred Arbogast Hula Popper
People probably have a few of these in their tackle boxes. My dad had several that turned to a gooey mess over 20 years of rubber skirts melting in the trays of his expanding two-tower tray tackle box. The fact is the Arbogast Hula Popper has had a long lasting impact on bass fishing lures.
It was the first widely market topwater popper hitting the market sometime in the 1930s. The chugging bait was made to imitate frogs around vegetation. The shape of the body, the frog coloration and of course the popping mouth were all innovative at that time, but it’s another part of the lure that really made the biggest influence.
Fred Arbogast is credited with developing the “hula skirt” for giving a lure a lifelike look and feel. This hula skirt lead to the development of spinnerbaits and jigs with these flaring rubber skirts for tempting fish to bite.
Today’s poppers are streamlined, finely detailed, and beautifully painted forage imitators with sharp hooks, weight transfer systems, rattles, feathers for added attraction and more. And we all have the Hula Popper to thank for the innovations and mainstream appeal of topwater chuggers, as manufactures continually seek to improve the original mouse trap.
A Hula Popper is still a very effective topwater and a new version of it is being released in 2019.
But the mainstream appeal of hard plastic poppers and rubber skirts came from this one lure and put it in the prestigious list of most influential bass fishing lures.
10. Bobby Garland Gitzit Tube
In 1964, an odd-shaped hunk of plastic hit the market. And it didn’t make much of an immediate splash, but the guys out west sure did pick up on its effectiveness. Bobby Garland had created a “tube bait” he called the Gitzit that could mimic a dying bait fish as it fell to the bottom. This spiral of death action was irresistible to bass in clear waters out west.
The Gitzit really became a household name when Guido Hibdon drew Garland in a tournament on Lake Mead. Hibdon brought the bait back to his Ozark lakes and started tearing up the tournament trail with this new shape of plastic. It was unique in that it broke away from the worm craw lizard (lifelike creature) mold and hollow body with tentacles. It was a blend of many great concepts in lure making and is what makes a tube still so effective today.
Nowadays you won’t hardly find a soft plastic line that doesn’t have some form of tubes in their line up. Their influence was massive. The tube has won numerous tournaments at the top level and it has so many variations on how it can be fished. On an insert jighead, on a Texas rig flipped in brush, heck we’ve even caught fish on them with a jigging spoon pushed into their cavity.
Their effectiveness on smallmouth is something of bass fishing lore, not to mention all bedding bass just love this size bait. It’s hard to talk bass fishing lures and not bring up the tube. For that reason we put Bobby Garland’s Original Gitzit as the 10th Most Influential Bass Fishing Lure of all time.
9. Mann’s Jelly Worm
Mann’s Jelly Worms, introduced in 1967, claim to be the most popular selling worm of all time. The influences of this popular worm from Tom Mann, however, go well beyond their own sales and are still seen in plastics today.
The Jelly Worm became a household name among anglers and although they were original sold on cards with cellophane wrapped around them, they later were sold in bags with more worms per package and sort of standardized the way worms are sold today.
Not only that but the Jelly Worm proved that translucent colors at times were more productive than solid colored worms and the aroma of the worms appealed to an anglers senses probably more than the bass’s. Yet there was something to be said about how slick the worms were and how easily they slid through cover.
The shape, large sizes and translucent colors all had lasting impacts on soft plastics and really helped push the soft plastics into the forefront as a mainstay in an angler’s arsenal. My father taught me to fish with a Mann’s Jelly Worm and like he always said, “any color would work as long as it was grape with firetail.”
Not only did the worms account for countless tournament wins, but they helped Paul Elias secure the four-day tournament weight record in B.A.S.S. history several years ago on Falcon Lake.
For those reasons, and probably a lot more we haven’t mentioned the Mann’s Jelly Worm finds itself at No. 9 on our 20 Most Influential Bass Fishing Lures list.