One assumes they sold a lot of product back in the day due to the number of baits they produced. And, if you look back at the old Bassmaster magazines, you’ll see several big-name pros were sponsored by Burke Flex-O. Bill Dance was the biggest name of all of them.
Burke Lures never really made it into my boxes as a kid. I have owned a few Flex Plugs over the years, mostly given to me as gifts, but they saw little use and were more of a novelty than anything. If I was going to spend my hard-earned lunch money and I had to choose between a Bagley’s BB2 or a Burke Flex Plug, the Bagley’s won every time.
Today I wish I had bought a few more of them when they were available as they have become collector’s items. Especially the worms and original Flex Plugs.
Recently I was sent this 1968 Burke Flex-O catalog by a Bass Fishing Archives reader. When I opened it, it brought back a flood of memories from my childhood. It also provided in color what I’d only seen in black and white ads from early bass fishing magazines. I went through it cover to cover.
In 1968 Burke had a complete line of lures that covered both fresh and saltwater applications. Pre-rigged plastic worms, jighead worms, topwater baits, vibration baits, crankbaits, saltwater trolling baits and life-like snakes. I won’t go over the entire catalog, but there are a few things in it I’d like to comment on.
The second page has the index as well as a nice picture of what to look for at the tackle shop with respect to their packaging.
The worms came either pre-rigged or unrigged in sizes from the 2 ½ inch Panfish Wigglers to the 10-inch African Crawlers.
Page five shows several different rigging techniques for their baits, with one that really stands out. Rig 808 by looking at it is a Texas Rig. But read the description and there’s no mention of Texas or rig. Instead, the rig is called the “self weedless worm with special Slide Sinker.” The Texas rig would not receive its name until just after the start of the 70s. Below that they were even selling the EK101 “Professional Series Kit” and the EK102 “Professional Series New ‘Slide Sinker’ Method Erthworm Kit.” Check out the contents of the kit as well as the Plastic Worm Primer in the gallery below.
One of my favorite all-time baits they made was the Chain Worm and Super Chain Worm. I never fished either of them but just the name and design always makes me chuckle. I can’t imagine how pouring a worm with a stainless-steel chain in it could ever be good. Look at their selling points to this worm and see if they don’t make you laugh too.
Next, I turned the page and was met with a curious sight – the Jig-A-Do bait series. This series was defined by the Jig-A-Do head, which closely resembles a Scrounger. I’m not sure how long this head was made by Burke but I do know Scrounger started making their head in 1976, eight years after this catalog came out. Again, nothing is new in bass fishing, only re-branded ideas.
The next couple pages showcase the Flex Plugs. New for 1968 was the Top Dog topwater bait to go with their other Flex Plugs. The most advertised Flex Plugs I remember were the Big Dig and the Ol’ Twitch. But the catalog also showed the Pop Top, Bassassin, Wee Gillie, and Bandit. The Wee Gillie looks to be a knockoff of the Heddon Sonic, where the Ol’ Twitch looks a lot like a Heddon Lucky 13.
Pages 11 and 12 present Burke’s insect offerings. Go into any sporting goods store in the late 60s through the 80s and you’d see pegboards full of these creatures. They always reminded me of the creatures I’d make with the Creepy Crawler set I got one year as a gift.
In 1993 Burke Flex-O sold to Knight Manufacturing, makers of the Tube Worm. Knight then went on to purchase Creme Lures. Today one can find the remnants of Burke Flex-O on the Creme website but there is no mention of the company at all, which is a shame.
I’ve placed the entire catalog below here in a gallery. Captions for each image are shown in the gallery but click on each image for a blown-up view so you can read the catalog print. I hope you enjoy stepping back in time.