This week I’m going to start a look back over Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, or GYCB to those of you cool kids. Yamamoto Baits, over the course of time, has arguably changed the complexion of bass fishing through one of the simplest baits ever designed, the Senko. And although Gary Yamamoto has built a bait empire over the course of the last 35 years, one cannot talk about the origins of the company without mentioning Larry Snyder’s Twin T’s.
This account, at least the first five years, is something I lived as a teenager growing up in southern California. The tackle shop I worked in was considered one of, if not the best, tackle shops in the state when it came to bass fishing and ocean fishing. All of the western hot sticks of the day came into the shop to buy tackle and shoot the bull about the local bite. We carried all of the latest hot baits, many of which were manufactured by local lure manufacturers. Larry Snyder was one of these budding manufacturers.
But let me step back even further in the story before I commence with the story of Twin T’s.
Most everyone reading this have probably heard of the Garland brothers, Bobby and Gary. Bobby and Gary are credited with the invention of the tube bait, which, back then was known as the Fat Gitzit. Prior to that phenomenon, though, they had developed a bait called the Spider Jig. The Spider Jig consisted of a plastic skirt made from worm plastic that looked like a crappie jig that had been split on both ends instead of only one end. You would take the skirt, thread it onto a Spider Jig head and then slip a Garland twin tail trailer onto the hook in order to complete the ensemble.
The problem with the Spider Jig skirt was a lot of the time the tentacles were not cut through all the plastic, leading to a jig that didn’t have too good of skirt. Anglers would complain about the quality control and how they’d have to go home and cut each tentacle individually themselves.
Then around 1979, one of the locals who would come into the shop on nearly a daily basis decided to build a better mousetrap. This was a gentleman by the name of Steve Blackwell. Steve was in his late 20s at the time, he was a master machinist and one of the best anglers in the southwest. Steve did a little dabbling in the garage making his own hand poured worms from molds he either bought or machined himself. One day he came in after a large bitch session about the Garland skirts and handed me and the owner a new plastic skirt.
This skirt wasn’t dipped but injected, had 24 tentacles on one side and 21 or 22 on the other. The meat of the collar was beefed up and on the 21-tentacle side of the bait, one of the tentacles was made a lot fatter to act as a weed guard. By this time the skirt had gotten the attention of all the customers and we passed the skirt around to some of the them. It was truly an awesome design and a much-needed improvement over the current Garland option. It was Steve’s intent on bring the skirt to market, but at the time he had a small boy, work and life taking up his time.
Fast forward a year or so and in walks Larry Snyder, another one of our good customers. Larry proceeds to tell us he’s opening a bait manufacturing business in Long Beach called Twin T’s. Next, he shows us some of his first offerings. First thing out of his bag is a new skirt called the Mini Tease Skirt – although it wasn’t really new. It was nearly an exact copy of Steve’s skirt minus the weedguard. He then brings out a double-tail trailer, designed so the legs can’t stick together like the Garland legs so often did (Garlands trailer was actually a Mister Twister double tail he’d buy in bulk at wholesale prices). Next were his 4-inch and 6-inch curl-tail worms designed with a tail that curled nearly 360 degrees. The molds were perfect. You could barely make out the mold seams in the plastic and the colors were amazing, especially a new color called Salt and Pepper. Bob, the owner of the shop, placed Larry’s first order with a 2-month delivery time as the molds and manufacturing shop were still being put together.
Two months later, Bob gets a call that his order is ready but Larry wouldn’t be able to deliver for a few days. He said we were more than welcome to come over and pick the baits up at his shop if we wanted them sooner. Bob threw me the keys to his truck and off I went in the direction of the Long Beach Airport Industrial Complex.
I picked up the first order of Twin T’s, four large boxes that weighed about 100 pounds apiece and loaded them into the truck bed.
Word spread fast that we had the new Twin T’s baits. At the time, Spider Jigs were all the rage and the new split-shot technique that Dick Trask was kicking everyone’s butt with was also gaining speed. Within a week, we’d nearly sold out of everything except the 6-inch worms.
For the next year, Snyder couldn’t make baits fast enough to keep up with the demand. Still, he had time to develop some other baits, such as the Spade Tail grub and a 6-inch Lizard.
By 1982 Snyder had a complete line of soft baits, jigs and spoons that included fresh and saltwater applications. He was shipping to every state in the western U.S. and had a pretty good operation going.
Then around the 81/82 timeframe he was contacted by an angler based out of Page, AZ named Gary Yamamoto. Gary was originally from California but moved to Page to be closer to Lake Powell. He owned (still does) the Page Lake Powell Campground and had a small bait shop located within the A-Frame building he used as the campground office.
Gary worked out a deal with Larry to make certain color baits that worked on the desert lakes for his shop only. Gary also had Larry add salt to the plastic, much like Gene Larew had started only a couple years prior. The baits being OEMd for Yamamoto would be called Gary Yamamoto’s Triple S Series by Twin T’s.
Business kept growing through the next few years and then in 1985, Snyder gets a visit from the government. The Internal Revenue Service no less.
At this point in time, the Dingell-Johnson Act, also known as the Wallop-Breaux Act, had been recently updated and expanded. This expansion had moved to include more aspects of fishing tackle, and its sales. The Act taxes fishing tackle manufacturers 10-percent of their sales to be collected in order to redistribute the funds to the States’ coffers for fish restoration, wildlife restoration, etc. Unfortunately, Snyder either didn’t know about the Act and its tax or he hoped nobody would find out. He’d never paid his excise taxes since going into business.
After the audit, Snyder came into the shop and told Bob that he was selling the business because he couldn’t afford to pay the tax man his back taxes. He just needed to find someone to buy it.
This is where Gary Yamamoto and Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits is born. Gary agreed to buy the company for the cost of the tax bill.
A few weeks later Gary came into the shop and told Bob that he had just purchased Twin T’s and was moving the operation to Page, AZ. He asked Bob if he would give him a couple of months to get set up and he would send the latest order we’d placed.
Yamamoto moved shop to Arizona and commenced setting up what would become a powerhouse lure manufacturing company.
Those early years he concentrated primarily on keeping the customers he already had but with the U.S. Open on Lake Mead each year, national pros started seeing and hearing about the company and its baits. Word spread and baits started to spread throughout the U.S.
But another potential customer was waiting in the wings. This was Japan. Because of the Japanese anglers who came over to fish the Open, Yamamoto got introduced to the Japanese bass market. Soon he’d be shipping baits to the Land of the Rising Sun, and that would change the face of bass fishing forever.
In the next part of this article, I’ll cover some of the early Inside Line magazines that date from the early 90s as well as a discussion I had with long-time editor of the rag, Jerry “Bubba” Puckett about how Yamamoto got involved with Japan and the bass fishing over there.
Below you’ll find the entire catalog of Twin T’s offered around the 1983 timeframe.