Recently acquired Tony Accetta Jigolet lures.

Recently I reviewed Ernest Liotta Jr.’s The Technique of Baitcasting. As I researched Liotta another name kept popping up: Tony Accetta. I knew of Accetta, but only superficially via the fishing lures that bear his name. So I did a little further digging, and today in “Accetta Jigolet Popper 1940s” I’m going to share with you a bit of Tony Accetta’s personal history, a few old ads for the Jigolet Popper, and an interesting big bass story.

I should say that while looking into Accetta I also picked up three of the Jigolet poppers that were the impetus for this piece (picture above). But first let’s talk briefly about Tony Accetta. In July of 2023 Terry Battisti published a piece, “Bass Lures 1949,” highlighting Accetta’s Weed Dodger lure. In that article Terry mentions that “Accetta was a world-class casting champion in the 1930s and 1940s…” Yes, Accetta was an active tournament caster, winning multiple championships, including twice winning the U.S. Amateur All-Around Bait and Fly Casting Championship and winning the U.S. Professional title at least five times. Like Liotta Jr., Accetta used his fame as a casting champion to his advantage. He was a rep for the Shakespeare company, and toured the country, giving demonstrations and speaking to crowds of anglers. He also starred in a two-reel motion picture titled Let’s Go Fishing, which was very popular. 

Ernest Liotta Jr. and Tony Accetta together at a casting event. The Indianapolis Star, Aug. 27, 1946.
Tony Accetta promotional brochure, 1938.

Accetta, an Italian immigrant who settled in Cleveland, also started an extremely successful fishing lure business in the 1930s, Tony Accetta Fishing Tackle. The story goes that Accetta was sitting on a dock one day when a button popped off his shirt. He watched the button flash as it sank into the water, before a fish grabbed it and swam off. That got Accetta thinking. He went home and began designing, testing and refining until he came up with his famous “Pet” spoon. The Pet spoon was hailed as behaving like a wounded minnow. Many more lures followed, including the Weed Dodger and Jigolet.

As Accetta was spending a lot of time in Florida, he moved his company to Riviera Beach permanently in 1956, and built a new factory to house Tony Accetta and Son, Inc. Accetta semi-retired and his son, Ray, ran the business. But Tony continued to test lures and oversee the company into the 1960s.  

As I searched for information on the Jigolet surface lure I came across numerous newspaper stories from all over the country where the Jigolet was mentioned as being an exceptional bass lure. Apparently the lure was introduced in or around 1941 and continued to be produced, as far as I could tell, into the 1950s. It may have continued even further than that, I don’t know, as I couldn’t find anything mentioning it beyond the early 1950s. But it was indeed a popular lure in the 1940s, often being mentioned in the same breath as the Jitterbug and Hula Popper.

1941 Tony Accetta ad for the Jigolet lure.
1948 Tony Accetta ad for Jigolet lures.

One story in particular caught my attention. It was written May 10, 1951, by Charles Schilling in his “Fishing Lines” column for The Stuart News, of Stuart, Florida. To be more precise, it was the phrases “13-pound bass” and “Jigolet” that caught my attention. Schilling writes,

“Some weeks ago we warned all the big bass in Jensen savanna to keep their mouths shut on weekend nights as Jim Langford of Jensen Beach was out to take a big fish. A 13-pound bass disregarded our warning Friday night and after putting up a stiff battle was boated by Langford.”

“According to Frank Jordan, who was fishing with Langford at the time, there is some question of just who caught who. Langford claims that as he grabbed the fish by the lower jaw to land it, a hook was accidentally caught in his hand and was removed with Jordan’s assistance, but from Jordans account of the action, it seems there is a possibility that Langford, making a pass at the bass as he swam by, was seized by the hand and was released only by the combined efforts of both fishermen after hoisting the bass into the boat. Jordan claims Langford was yelling, “He’s got my hand!” during the struggle in the boat, while Langford recalls the phrase he used was, “He’s hard to land!”

“At any rate, it is a well-known fact that the Jensen bass have a low opinion of Langford. We all remember the incident of last summer when a large bass charged Langford’s boat repeatedly, butting his head against the sides in an effort to sink the ship, and while Langford claims to disregard this theory, it is noted he fishes these savannas always accompanied by Jordan who is well-known as a good man in a pinch.”

“All this does not detract from the fact that this is one of the largest bass taken locally in a good many years. John Mann weighed this fish at the fire house and this department took pictures which we will run in due course. Congratulations Langford, on a grand fish! For the record, he was caught on bait-casting tackle at about 9pm, night clear, west wind, on a Tony Accetta redhead Jigolet, which is a top water popper and was attached to 4 ft. of 12-lb. nylon leader.”

True to his word, Schilling later published a photo of Langford and his 13-pound, 4-ounce bass on May 31 (below).

I looked through some of Schilling’s columns and found that Jim Langford was something of a big-bass-catching machine. Several stories recounted his catches of multiple bass weighing 8-pounds or more. The fact that he caught the 13-and-a-quarter pounder on a red head Jigolet makes me happy that I have two red head Jigolets, because you know what I’ll be throwing this year.

The Stuart News photo of Jon Hall and Jim Langford, with Langford's 13-lb. 4-oz. bass he caught in Jensen Savanna, Florida, on a red-head Accetta Jigolet surface lure. The Stuart News, May 31, 1951.

Tony Accetta passed away in 1972 at the age of 76. His son Ray died in 2010 at the age of 89. The Tony Accetta and Son fishing lure business continued well into the 1980s. While Tony didn’t live to be as old as his son, his passion, joy and excitement for life and for fishing was said by all to be contagious. He famously once said, “Every month spent in piscatorial pursuit adds a year to one’s life,” which earned him the tag of “the Methuselah of Fishing.” But even though he didn’t live to be a hundred years old, his 76 years were packed to the brim with a love for life and fishing. Tony Accetta was an Italian immigrant with a 3rd grade education, yet he was one of the most interesting, traveled and successful tournament casters, anglers and businessmen of the 20th century.

1947 Tony Accetta ad for snagless Jigolet.