When we posted the story about the Shannon Twin Spinner a couple days ago, it wasn’t long before we received an email from long-time bass fishing historian Bill Sonnett. Sonnett has been collecting bass fishing tackle and memorabilia probably since before I was born. He’s a self-described cult member of the Jason Lucas fan club and when it comes to the complete history of the sport, there are few who are in his league. He also contributes to a number of historical clubs and websites to include Old Reel Collectors Association (Reel News), Fishing for History and The National Fishing Lure Collectors Club. When Bill Sonnett says something about the bass fishing past, I listen.
In the email that Sonnett sent was an attachment of an early W. J. Jameson Co. ad for the Shannon Twin Spinner (1919) and a promotional write up for the Twin Spinner that appeared in the April 1917 issue of the National Sportsman. The 1919 ad describes two different baits available, the Twin Spinner and the Porker, and that they were the “Sensation of 1917 and 1918.” The bait, as described by Jamison Co., allowed you to “fish where the fish are,” as the lure was advertised as being snag proof.
The write-up from 1917 has some interesting verbiage in it with respect to the bait itself. Here’s what the text says:
“The W. L. Jamison Company, 736 So. California Avenue, Chicago, Ill., is making a new bait which they call the Shannon Twin Spinner.
“This wonderful spinner has taken fishermen by storm wherever shown, as its merits are apparent at a glance. It is an entirely new idea in spoon baits and its principle is the only correct one. It is a most extraordinary weedless device and comes through any kind of weeds clean, no matter how thick they are. It has the blades placed in such positions that no fish can strike at them without getting caught. This means many more fish will be taken, as fish very frequently strike at the blades and with all other spoon baits it means a lost strike. But the Shannon gets them. No matter how slow you run this bait the blades are bound to spin, making it great for deep-water fishing and also for trolling. It is very beautiful and attractive in the water and is a sure winner.”
From this write-up, it’s apparent that the Shannon was the first spinnerbait-type lure to come out. Not only that, I found it interesting that they not only classified it as a “spinner” but also a spoon-type bait. That’s what happens when you design a new genre of lures – you tend to classify them into an existing category even if they really aren’t within that genre of lures.
As Bill and I continued to talk via email, he sent more pictures of early ads along with pictures of various Shannon derivatives he owns. The next picture he sent was from a March 1967 issue of Sports Afield magazine where Jason Lucas had written about the Shannon Twin Spinner – calling it the “Weedless Lure That Isn’t Fishless.” If you don’t know, Jason Lucas was inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame this past Thursday for his contributions to the sport.
Lucas gives a history of the bait and its effectiveness over the course of his career. Then he mentions towards the end a trip he took to Louisiana where he was watching others catch fish – all the while Lucas getting “it” handed to him. Lucas then says he asked the other anglers what they were catching fish on and they said a single spin. He quickly cut off one of the arms on his Twin Spinner and commenced to catching fish.
Lucas then talked about how he discovered that Jess Shannon (inventor of the Shannon) had come out with a single spin at the same time he developed the Twin Spinner.
Sonnett then sent me pictures of an original Shannon Single Spinner along with its ad from 1924. He also clarified some confusion with respect to W. L. Jamison Co. and the J. P. Shannon Co, Lake Geneva, WI.
“There may be some confusion between Shannon and the Jamison Co. in Chicago. Jamison was a big lure company and not only made the Shannons but sold them both under their name and Shannon’s, hence the different company names and addresses.
“[Also,] Lucas, like many outdoor writers had to accept what makers told them about their company and lure history [Hence the 1915 claim of Shannon’s start in his March 1967 article]. One sees this all the time. A common example is that James Heddon invented the wooden plug. This has been repeated so many times that people believe it. The fact is, there were several wooden plugs before Heddon’s.”
A few days ago I did a piece on Dave Hawk. In that piece we mentioned a segment from Hawk’s book, 80 Years on Bass, and his claims to the origins of the safety-pin style spinner, known today as the spinnerbait. In that piece, Dave Hawk makes a claim with its invention, the “Standby.” Obviously that was wrong when you see these ads and baits from the early 20th century. It would be hard to believe that Hawk, as astute an angler he and his father were, would lay claim to inventing the spinnerbait knowing how popular the Shannon was at the time. But crazier things have happened over time.
I’d like to thank Bill Sonnett for sharing his time and the history of not only the Shannon but the origins of the spinnerbait.