Over the past few months, we’ve been posting a lot of product catalogs. I hope you all aren’t getting bored with that. The reason for this is we’ve had an outpouring of support from readers since the start of the year, wanting to share their collections for all to see. Today in Bass Buster 1973, we have another catalog from the collection of Dustin Lucas.
For those of you who watched fishing TV back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, you’re more than familiar with Virgil Ward’s Championship Fishing show. Ward, who started his show in 1963, was already a bass fishing star, having won the 1962 World Series of Sport Fishing as well as the 1958 Missouri State Championship. But what Ward was best known for was his tackle company, Bass Buster.
Ward’s influence on the tackle industry started in 1955 with two lures, the Beetle and the Beetle Spin. Ward also invented the fiber weedguard, which he held the patent on. That weedguard would change jigs and jig fishing for decades to come.
This catalog, which dates to 1973, comes three years after Ward sold the business to Johnson Diversified, makers of Johnson Wax and today, Johnson Outdoors. After the sale, Virgil’s son Bill, took over the management of the company, which allowed Virgil to work more on his TV show.
But let’s get back to the catalog.
One look at this cover and you know exactly what company you’re dealing with. The Bass Buster logo, two opposing silhouettes of leaping bass is hard to ignore. In tackle stores you could be 100 feet from baits hanging on the wall and know exactly where the Bass Buster baits were.
Opening the cover brings you to the most famous baits ever produced by the company, the Beetle Spin and the Beetle. There is a lot of here say about who exactly invented the Beetle and Beetle Spin. For years I’ve heard it was Chuck Wood of Missouri who invented it, while others have said it was Ward. I’ve searched for this answer for years and finally have proof that it was Wood.
Through a search of lawsuits, I was able to dig up a trademark suit against Dan Gapen’s Gapen MFG. Co. INC. from 1976, where Bass Buster was suing Gapen’s for infringement on the Beetle name and use. In the court documents, the history of the company is discussed, with Ward telling the story of how the Beetle came to be.
The Beetle and Beetle Spin came in four different weights without the weedguard and three weights with the weedguard. Sizes ranged from 1/32-ounce to 1/4-ounce in the plain jig head and 1/4-, 3/16-, and 1/2-ounce in the head with the fiberguard. The court documents didn’t mention whether Ward invented the fiber weedguard and I have not been able to find proof from the Patents, Trademarks and Copyright office of the United States.
Page 4 of the catalog features another of Ward’s best baits, the Scorpion spinnerbait. Growing up this bait accounted for an untold amount of pond bass for my friends and me. The short arm and single blade came through the vegetation quite well and the fact that the arm was so short meant that it provided a nearly 100% hook-up ratio. In fact, because of the short arm, the hook rode up, which was probably the reason for it’s great hook-up ratio.
I loved the head design, essentially a flattened lead ball that provided a ton of ballast and helped the bait run true even after it had caught a dozen fish or more. The other attribute I liked was the soldered loop with which the swivel was attached to. I never lost a blade because of this.
You’ll also notice that the skirt on this bait was the old-fashioned vinyl skirt material of the day. Known for its lack of action, these skirts actually caught fish and provided a different silhouette than the newer flat rubber skirts that were gaining popularity at the time.
The following page showcased the Tandem Spin, which was a long-armed double spin. The head was a standard bullet head and the arm extended back past the hook point. This was to make the bait more weedless. What is curious to me is this spinnerbait was only offered with copper blades and was designed for murky water. I’m not sure why they put the blinders on when making that bait.
The other interesting thing I noticed about this bait was the two different sets of eyes used in the images. The model used to describe the bait had stickers for eye that look like the same stickers used on the McCollum Bush Hog. Then below in the color samples, the eyes are painted on. I don’t remember ever seeing anything but painted eyes on any of the Bass Buster spinnerbaits, but I’m prone to not remembering these little facts.
Page 6 featured two more spinnerbaits, the ever-famous Tarantula and the Spider Spin. I have the fondest memories of the Tarantula. Like the Scorpion, it caught a ton of fish for us as kids in the local parks. It was the exact same bait, other than the difference in the skirt used. On this bait, thick, wide rubber was used for the skirt. It provided a profile unlike any spinnerbait since its time, and it caught fish.
The second bait on the page was the Spider Spin, a double spin based off the Beetle Spin concept. It came in 1/4-, 1/3-, and 1/2-ounce sizes but you could swap out any head for a different weight. I never saw or used this bait so I have no personal experience with it.
On the next page were two hair jigs tied with banana heads. When I see this jig, I’m instantly reminded of Dee Thomas and his flipping technique. Although I don’t believe he used a Bass Buster Bucktail or Hair Raiser jig for his flipping, he did use one that looked a lot like this.
These jigs featured the fiber weedguard and a gold Aberdeen hook. The hook alone, which was a thin wire, is the reason I don’t think Thomas would have flipped with this jig. It would have straightened out on his hookset with 25-pound line. For a casting jig, though, it was probably a good bait.
Next in the line-up was Ward’s first lure, the Maribou jig. I believe it was Ward who first started using this material on jigs back in the 1940s. Used mainly for crappie today, anglers caught everything on them back in the day and tipped them with small strips of pork rind for added action and feel. There’s no telling how many millions of these jigs have been sold over the decades.
The final pages of the catalog feature Bass Buster’s plastic worms, the Slinky Worm. Offered in four different sizes, the Slinky Worm looked like any worm of the day except for the tail. It was almost like companies used the same body design and then added some sort of different tail to their baits. The Slinky Worm had a tail that looked as if a Mann’s Jelly Worm was split down the center and splayed a little.
It came in 4-, 6-, 7 1/2-, and 9-inch sizes and six colors. Page 11 shows all the forms the bait was offered in, including pre-rigged worms, slip-sinker rigs, and jig-head worms. All the standard rigs of the day.
That about ends it for this catalog. Again, I’d like to thank Dustin and everyone else who has contributed to this run of catalogs. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible. If you have a catalog or catalogs you’d like to see featured here, please leave us a note in the comments below. We’ll get back with you to arrange it.
If you’d like to go through the entire catalog, please see the gallery below. Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through the entire catalog.