Back in the days of Remote Antiquity---or the 1950s and -60s, if you prefer---lure choices were pretty limited in design and variety. Over the years, some lures such as the Zara Spook remain very popular. Others, like the spoon and bucktail, have continued to find their niche in modern tackle boxes, although their use is generally limited. And still others such as the Plugging Shorty Shrimp, have faded into the mists of time.
Still, by and large, most of these lures were effective for trout, redfish, snook and flounder. For various reasons they fell out of favor with fishermen.
Perhaps the strongest reason so many classic lure designs have been relegated to closets and attics is due to what is called in the computer business "evolved obsolescence." The other lures were developed to be more effective than the old reliables. Ironically, most of the new are based on the old.
An excellent example is a permutation of one of the most popular trout lures ever used on the coast, the 7M. There are several popular twitch baits out there that are catching stringers and stringers of large trout and redfish on the coast, but in some way, they resemble the venerable 7M in shape, size or action. The Ol Number 7 is still strong medicine on the Texas Coast.
Similar fates befell Tom Manns Stingray Grub and the Boone Tout. None of them stopped catching fish, they just stopped being *en vogue*.
Photo: Pradco Fishing
For those whove never heard of it, the late Anton "Pluggin Shorty" Stetner invented the Pluggin Shorty Shrimp in the 1930s. Legend has it the first lures were carved out of toothbrush handles. They, and the minnow plug that also bears Stetners nickname, became so popular that Stetner couldnt keep up with the orders. Doug English Lures and then the Bingo Bait Company later put it into production after merging with Englishs company. The Pluggin Shorty Shrimp and all the Bingo lures havent been produced since the mid-1980s. Again, they didnt stop catching fish, just fishermen.
The Pluggin Shorty Shrimp is actually considered a collectors item, with one in pristine condition with its original packaging selling for upwards of $40 on eBay.
Another lure in unjustifiable disfavor among saltwater fishermen is the broken-back minnow, most notably the Cotton Cordell Jointed Redfin.
Broken backs were the go-to baits for a very long time and they worked well. A state record trout fell to a Redfin, and a video still floating around on store shelves shows a 12-pound trout falling to one.
It isnt only lure styles that fall out of favor. Some great colors and color patterns disappear from tackle boxes, too. For decades, alongside the venerable red/white patterned plastics were those in chartreuse tiger, which was a chartreuse bait with black tiger stripes. I remember my Uncle Bob Renaud swore by that pattern in the spring and early summer, especially in the surf. We caught hundreds of trout with it. It is nowhere near as common now as it was up until the late 1980s.
Another popular pattern was "Texas Chicken"---pink back/silver sides/yellow belly. Many considered the pattern the ultimate trout and---as I learned on a trip---snook killer.
The biggest snook I ever landed---a fat 32-inch fish---fell to a Texas Chicken-pattern Redfin. The water was murky and all I saw before the strike was a silver flash and a toilet-flush swirl underneath the plug.
Redfins are effective because they not only have the disjointed wiggle that the segmented body gives it, but they also increase a fishermans chances at hooking up. Most topwaters are low-percentage lures. A fish will blow up a popper or dog-walker, but chances are they will miss the lure completely. With its sub-surface action, a Redfin is more likely to get swallowed by a striking fish, thus improving the chances of the hooks gaining purchase.
Jointed lures are coming back into favor with coastal fishermen, especially in Lower Laguna Madre, where many have discovered that snook seem to prefer them. Currently, the most popular snook plug appears to be the Jointed Long A in chartreuse. Several other jointed lures are on the market now, especially multi-segmented designs that give a "slinking" swimming pattern.
Several other venerable lures stand up well when they go hook-to-hook with modern wonders. The classic Jitterbug and Hula Popper are still catching as many bass as any "New and Improved" topwater out there Ive also found that the Musky Jitterbug is a lethal trout and redfish plug, especially in windy conditions. Mepps and Roostertail spinners still claim plenty of game fish every year. Has anyone ever considered how most of the modern minnow baits still bear a striking resemblance to the original Rapala?
It comes down to how much faith a fisherman has in a lure. If he believes a lure will catch fish, hell fish it like it will. Hell fish it more aggressively and stick with it, even if it doesnt produce right off the bat. With use comes expertise, and with expertise comes success that someone with the newest and brightest may not match.
Sometimes, as the saying goes, age and guile trumps youth and style.