Jump to content
OzarkAnglers.Com Forum
Al Agnew

About a half-century ago

Recommended Posts

Well, almost a half-century ago, anyway...I got to thinking after somebody mentioned catching river smallmouth on various old lures back in the good old days.  Fifty years ago, I was 14 years old, and already fishing Big River a lot, both wading, and out of a 12 ft. aluminum johnboat, but I have to admit I was mostly a bait fisherman back then.  It wasn't until a couple years later, about the time I learned to drive, that I stopped using crawdads and went to using nothing but lures.

But I guess I'm an old timer, because I remember a whole lot of lures from back in those days that most anglers today wouldn't recognize.  And some that everybody would know.  My first 4-pound river smallmouth was caught on a 2 3/4 inch floating Rapala, silver with black back, and I could show you EXACTLY where I caught it--that same spot produced several more big ones over the many years since that first one in 1968.  I floated by it on my trip Monday, and as always, fished it carefully (caught nothing).

The "old timers" I knew back then, friends of my dad and grandfather, and fathers of a couple of my fishing buddies, had their own pet lures.  One was the Heddon River Runt.  Another was a little fat-bodied wobbling lure called a Hawk.  Lazy Ikes were sometimes used, but most preferred a similar lure called a Beno, which was like a jointed Lazy Ike--one version was even double-jointed, three separate body parts.

And then there was the Peck, a weighted propeller in-line spinner, dressed with chicken feathers.  Yellow was the preferred color.  And of course, the Shannon Twin Spin, which was the lure that turned me against bait fishing.  I've told the story many times, but I fished a certain pool on Big River, the closest spot to my house, at least once a week all summer for several summers, with live crawdads.  Caught plenty of fish from it (and I kept fish in those days so I took a lot of fish out of that one pool, yet it continued to produce all summer), but the biggest I ever caught was a 17 incher.  Then one day an "old guy" in a cedar and canvas canoe caught up to me just as I was coming up to the head of that pool, where the sweet spot for crawdad fishing was, a huge, slick log with the current sweeping under it.  He asked if he could make a couple casts before I started fishing, and I told him "sure".  One cast was all it took with that Shannon; a huge smallmouth took the lure just as he brought it over the log.  He horsed it to the canoe with his heavy steel rod and baitcasting reel, and I came over to look at it lying in the bottom of the canoe.  He said it was a "good 'un" and dug out his set of De-liars scales.  They read 4 3/4 pounds.  I'd been fishing that spot all summer, and never knew that fish was there.

There was the Midge-oreno, with the secret skirt.  A few people I knew liked the Baby Lucky 13 with the same skirt.  One guy was partial to the smallest size of the original wooden Bomber.  

Surprisingly few people I knew used a lot of topwater lures, and none used walk the dog types.  I fell in love with the Tiny Torpedo, and caught some big fish on it.  The Devil's Horse was sometimes used.  I always read about people using Hula Poppers, but nobody I knew did.  Still, I tried them, with no success.

That original Rapala was interesting.  I always used the 2 3/4th inch size, the second smallest.  I tried the next bigger size a lot but with surprisingly limited success.  When the plastic version, the original Rebel, came out, I immediately tried it and caught some nice fish on it, but I still preferred the Rapala.  Then the Storm Thinfin appeared on the scene.  I had one year of terrific fishing with that lure, and then it just died.  Rebel came out with their "humpbacked" version, and it was very good.

So my tackle box back then was limited.  Rapalas, Humpbacked Rebels, Midge-orenos, Shannons, Tiny Torpedos.  I casted the Rapalas with a Abu-Garcia 314 spinning reel which I had cut the bail off.  Everything else was fished with a 5 ft. solid glass rod and a Shakespeare Presidential direct drive casting reel.  I started fishing in April, when the redbuds started blooming, and switched to walleye fishing around late October, no winter fishing for smallmouth.  I bought my first canoe the year I graduated from high school.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know and have fished with every lure you named except the Peck and Hawk. I found a capt hawk (see below) but could not find a peck.

hawk lure.jpeg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I started fishing the Meramec way back in the middle 60s when I was 9 or 10 and we got our rental cabin at Twin Springs by the caverns. I used most of the lures you mentioned and the River Runt was great for walleye along with smallmouth. My go to bait back then was the original floated Rapala and I still use it today. We also used some in line spinners like the Mepps with the squirrel tail trailer and Shasta. Spoons were used by the deep bluffs and we would get catfish on them.

We also fished some live bait with hellgrammites being my favorite. The old timers around there showed us how to take a screen and hold it in the water behind big rocks, which were turned over and the current would sweep the crawdads and hellgrammites onto the screen and hold them there. And a hellgrammite was a great bait because you could catch 3 or 4 fish on it before it would get tore up.

Amazing to think there were no motors with jets back then and everyone ran the river with props. We have a 14 foot Johnboat with a 7.5 outboard that had the shallow drive. But we still went through a ton of shear pins each summer probably spent more time wading then fishing from the boat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMG_1851.JPGIMG_1853.JPG

Some of the old lures in the top picture...how many can you name (the Hawk has already been identified)?  Bottom picture shows three variations on the Shannon.  An original, still with the package, from the late 1960s, one with odd tear-drop shaped blades--the blades have "Shannon Strike-o-matic" etched on them, and one with hinge where the arms meet the shaft, so that the arms rotate up as the lure sinks, then back down to the sides of the head as you retrieve it, and willow leaf blades.  Both of those are probably 1950s era lures.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I started fishing for smallies back in the late 60's early 70's.  We used to fish primarily below Scott's Ford for trout and smallies.  Since I grew up fly fishing that's what we did.  Buggers and hoppers.  Later when I could drive myself and went with my buddies I made a Fenwick ultralight rod.  Then it was marabou jigs and trout worms like they sell at the trout parks.  Although the trout worms would catch small fish they were deadly on big fish too. We never kept a fish in all those years.

Once I could drive and could afford the gas my focus switched to the While and Norfork for what Gavin refers to as ditch pigs. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

    I see a midge oreno, river runts, lazy ikes and a lucky thirteen maybe ?   Not quite as old as you are Al I am not far behind. Spending the first sixteen years in Southern California I did not get the fishing start some of you did. I have used some of these old lures and can say I probably lost some with the cruddy equipment I did get to start with. I will work up a photo of some assorted old ones,

  BilletHead

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

      Some of the BilletHead's old stuff,

DSCF2172.JPG

   Lots of assorted river runts all plastic. Then a baby zara upper left. An Arbo Gaster and not sure about the double propped white on in the upper right.

DSCF2177.JPG

   The wooden ones. I was afraid to get the soap and water after them. They are all hand me downs from Grandpa,

BilletHead

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Al Agnew said:

IMG_1851.JPGIMG_1853.JPG

Some of the old lures in the top picture...how many can you name (the Hawk has already been identified)?  Bottom picture shows three variations on the Shannon.  An original, still with the package, from the late 1960s, one with odd tear-drop shaped blades--the blades have "Shannon Strike-o-matic" etched on them, and one with hinge where the arms meet the shaft, so that the arms rotate up as the lure sinks, then back down to the sides of the head as you retrieve it, and willow leaf blades.  Both of those are probably 1950s era lures.

Of the three down the right side of my upper picture, the top pinkish one is a River Runt knock-off, a Millsite Wig Wag Floater.  The middle one is a wooden River Runt.  The smaller bottom one is the Heddon Midget Digit.  Top one in the middle right column is the Hawk in the color that the old timers I knew preferred...and they would always add a one-inch strip of white pork rind to the back treble.  Middle one is a Midge-oreno from South Bend Lure Company, circa 1970.  Bottom one is a wooden Baby Lucky 13 in a crackleback finish.  In the middle left row, the top one is a lure that I think was made by an Ozark lure company, called a Bright Eyes.  Middle one is the old timers' favorite night fishing lure for Ozark streams, the Heddon Crab Wiggler.  That particular one caught a bunch of big bass at night for me before I retired it.  Bottom one is a triple-jointed Beno that I found about three years ago on the middle Meramec, half-buried in a gravel bar.  The hooks were gone, as they are in the photo.  I wonder how long it had been in the river.  On the far left top is the Peck, and the bottom lure is a Kautzky Flex Ike.

The Bright Eyes is interesting to me because I knew a guy who whittled out his own version, almost exactly like that one, out of cedar.  He would whittle it with a pocketknife, use a file to smooth it somewhat, and add hardware--no painting or varnishing.  He liked the color of the cedar when it was wet, and if he found the right piece of cedar he could carve it out so that the belly was lighter than the back.  He was a guide on Current River and if his client lost one, he'd just climb a bluff when they would stop for lunch or a break, find a dead cedar, break off a limb the right size, and carve out another one.  His knife was always extremely sharp, and he could whittle one out in just a few minutes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.