New fish like old tricks: A look back on lures

August 2, 2011 

I had an interesting call this past week from Skippy Painter, a longtime Myrtle Island resident. She told me she reads my column fairly regularly and asked if I would come over and glance at some old lures she had found while cleaning out her garage.

From firsthand experience, I know what a treasure trove garages can be. Take my "man shed," for example. Since my home is nearly 80 years old, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if under my shed's slab, ole Jimmy Hoffa might be chillin'.

History has always intrigued me. Even when I was a young pup, it was my favorite subject in school. I would save nearly every newspaper that headlined a major world event. I have the newspaper from when Kennedy was shot, when Alan Sheppard and John Glenn went into space and even the paper when Tricky Dick was caught with his pants down.

When a new president was elected, I would write to him, begging for a reply. Though they are probably all form letters, I did hear from Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, Nixon, Kennedy and all the others. They would send me a short letter thanking me for writing, and enclosed with the letter would be their business card and, of all things, a pack of presidential matches. Somehow, I don't think they do that, anymore.

Getting back to Skippy's lures, it was a real hodge-podge, and many of the lures took me back to my childhood. Remember Shakespeare's Swimming Mouse? As its name implies, it looks like a mouse (complete with a tail) and wiggles along the surface as you reel it in. It got me thinking about the guy who came up with that lure. Had he seen a mouse swimming across the water and, wham-o, a fish came up and ate the little sucker? Better yet, maybe he went to the local pet shop, bought a dozen mice and went fishing with 'em. I am not sure where you would hook them or whether they work better with or without a bobber, but if PETA ever got wind of that one? Oh, Lord.

I, too, have done my share of R&D when it comes to fishing lures. Of all the lures I have made over the years, my blue water lures worked the best. I guess the big, bad fish in the Gulf Stream are a lot less picky about what they eat, because I did pretty darn well on some of my homemade lures.

My craziest fishing invention was a remote-controlled boat. I was about 12 years old when I rigged that boat up with outriggers just like you see on big sport fishing boats. I then attached about two feet of fishing line to the outriggers and used small Rapala top water lures as bait. I took the little boat to a nearby freshwater pond and let her rip. Did it work? A little too well. I trolled along the edges of grass beds and it wasn't long before it was "fish on!"

Now, this wasn't a high dollar remote-controlled boat so when this big largemouth bass hit, it started dragging the boat backward exactly like the boat in the movie "Jaws." I gave it all the juice it had but it wasn't enough to stop that bass as he dragged the boat into the depths. I can only imagine the look on the person's face that found that boat with a bass dragging it around. Another PETA no-no.

Necessity isn't the mother of invention -- fishing is. Every year its something new. Last year it was these long, metal jigs invented by the Japanese. The hooks are on the top instead of the bottom and are used primarily for fish like grouper and snapper. Yep, I got a couple and tried them out, but after two trips I decided they were more trouble than they were worth. You drop them to the bottom then reel and jig vigorously at the same time. They work, but all that jigging and reeling wore me out more than any fish I have ever caught using them. Unfortunately, this is the case with many of the new, better fishing inventions.

This old dog still likes new tricks, but I have come to the conclusion that fish aren't getting any smarter and what worked 10 or even 20 years ago probably works just as well now as it did back when it first came out. Lures like the old Christmas Tree will still catch sea trout, and Clark Spoons will catch mackerel better than any new lure on the market. To prove my point, I want to have an Old School vs. New School Tournament and see who comes out on top. Any takers?

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