Fred Arbogast July 1945 Sports Afield
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been on a run with ads and catalogs from the late 1970s.  Today in Bass Lures 1945, we’re going to shift gears and go back to a time just before bass fishing really took off.  A time when not many were fishing, let alone fishing for bass.

The year is 1945 and World War Two is still being fought in the European and Pacific Theaters.  Stan Fagerstrom was on a hospital boat in the Pacific, the doctors and nurses trying to get him well enough to fight the Japanese in the invasion of Tokyo Bay.  Fishing was on the minds of many fighting the war, and it kept their hopes up that the war one day would end.

One of the Big Three outdoors periodicals of the time was Sports Afield.  I happen to have about half of the 1945 issues and thought it would be cool to go through them and see what they offered.  First off, I was reminded that this was the year Jason Lucas was introduced to the angling world through a six-part series in 1945, which we’ve already posted article one.

Second was, reading several of the ads, the war effort influenced many of the companies that produced fishing tackle.  Materials were hard to come by and some companies retooled to make equipment for the war.  It was a different time.

Over the course of the next few days, we’re going to look back at these ads, not just to remember the times, but also what was available to those who could fish.

Today we’re going to delve into the world of 1945 bass lures.  At least the ones that advertised in Sports Afield.

Fred Arbogast

One would look at the ads placed in the 1945 magazines by Fred Arbogast and think there wasn’t a war going on.  Out of the five issues I have for this year, Arbogast placed eight different ads in Sports Afield.  You’ll see by comparison how he out-advertised his competition.

During this time, companies like Pflueger, Shakespeare, and Heddon took government contracts (Virden 2017).  Because Arbogast had a smaller operation and minimal tooling, he couldn’t compete for these contracts, which worked in his favor.

But these times did have an impact on the company when it came to materials.  Most metals became hard to find as well as hardware.  Arbogast made do with what he could get and when he couldn’t get a needed material, he adapted.  For instance, for his Jitterbug Arbogast went from using a metal lip to a plastic one.

The first ads from the March issue show anglers holding fish caught on the Jitterbug and the #2 Hawaiian Wiggler.  One thing I have always liked about Arbogast ads from this time was the company always placed the picture of the anglers front and center.  There was no company sales pitch, just a letter from the angler(s) talking about how well the baits worked.

Jitterbugs and Hula Poppers

Fred Arbogast March 1945 Sports Afield
Fred Arbogast March 1945 Sports Afield

In the May issue we have two more ads featuring happy anglers who caught their fish on the #1 and #3 Hawaiian Wiggler.  All of the Hawaiian Wigglers used Arbogast’s patented rubber skirt but each was designed for a different part of the water column.

Fred Arbogast May 1945 Sports Afield
Fred Arbogast May 1945 Sports Afield

The June and August issues only had one ad for each month and again, the Jitterbug and #2 Hawaiian Wiggler were the baits of choice.  The June ad isn’t much when it came to the size of the fish but the angler was no doubt proud of the catch.

When you look at the August ad, though, you see a much different string of bass.  Five fish for 21-12 to be exact.  That’s a heck of a string of fish even by today’s standards.  The anglers caught their fine string out of McDaniel Lake in Missouri.

Fred Arbogast June 1945 Sports Afield
Fred Arbogast August 1945 Sports Afield

In July Arbogast was back to two ads and again, they featured anglers with hefty fish caught on the Jitterbug and the #2 Hawaiian Wiggler.  I ad number one, three anglers are holding a 16-bass string that pushed the scales down to 68 pounds.  All fish were caught on the #2 Wiggler.

Fred Arbogast July 1945 Sports Afield
Fred Arbogast July 1945 Sports Afield

The second ad was as impressive, although there was only one fish in the ad.  In this ad it’s reported that Arbogast baits had helped two anglers win 1st- and 2nd-place in the annual Field and Stream Fishing Contest for 1944.  Each fish was caught on a Jitterbug and weighed in at 11-pounds, 12-ounces and 11-pounds, 8-ounces.

Creek Chub Bait Company

Creek Chubs ads for 1945 were bleak compared to Fred Arbogast’s.  CCBC placed two ads that I could find in the five issues I have, most likely due to the war effort.  Each ad was different but feature the same two lures.  Let’s look at the ads in more detail.

In March, CCBC’s ad featured the Creek Darted and the Pikie Minnow.  At the top of the ad is a pretty big fish but I’m not sure if it’s the fish they’re talking about in the text directly below the Creek Darter.  In that paragraph, it states that a 12-pound 3-ounce fish was taken on the bait and won 2nd place in the 1943 Field and Stream Fishing Contest.  It then goes on to say that 1st place was caught on a CCBC Dingbat.

Creek Chub Bait Company March 1945 Sports Afield
Creek Chub Bait Company May 1945 Sports Afield

Below the Pikie Minnow there is a write-up about the new Nebraska State Record bass, a 9-pound 3-ounce largemouth caught on the same lure.  It was supposedly the second cast this angler had ever made with the Pikie Minnow.

Finishing out this ad, I want to bring attention to the reference to the war.  In the ad CCBC stated:

War Production “must” come first!  Some day, soon we hope, this war will be over!  Until then your dealer’s supply of Creek Chub Baits will be limited!

CCBC even put the standard “Buy U.S. War Bonds” in the ad.

In their second ad, which was published in the May issue, was pushing the Creek Darter and the Pikie Minnow again.  This time they again mention the Field and Stream Fishing Contest.  In 1944 the Darter had won five prizes for bass and walleye as well as the 4th-place entry, an 11-pound, 12-ounce largemouth, caught on the Darter for 1943.

Below the Darter is the Pikie Minnow but more impressive is the 123-pound tarpon caught on it.  This fish took 1st-place in the Field and Stream Fishing Contest for 1943.  I wonder if Sports Afield ever got tired of these ads, all talking about the Field and Stream contest?

James Heddon’s Sons

In this first Heddon ad, place in the June issue, Heddon was obviously sidelined by the war as this ad points out.  At the top it states:

The World is waiting for the Dawn of Peace.

Down below the image of the angler with a 7-pound rainbow, they continue talking about, “peaceful days when men, unworried by the tragedies of war, may again enjoy the restful serenity of Nature’s quiet spots.”

Heddon even states that they can’t await the day when they can get back to making fishing tackle.  I think it’s cool that Heddon placed these ads in the magazine, giving a little hope and letting people know they’re still around, supporting the war effort.

James Heddon's Sons June 1945 Sports Afield
James Heddon's Sons July 1945 Sports Afield
James Heddon's Sons August 1945 Sports Afield

The second ad Heddon placed, which was in the July issue, was of a nice string of bass caught on their ever-famous River Runts.  The anglers were from Kansas so it’s hard to know where they might have been fishing.

Down in the text of the ad, Heddon specifically states that their entire facility is dedicated to the war effort and if you have any River Runts to take good care of them.  Anglers and Heddon alike would have too much longer to wait as at the time of this publication the war in Europe was over and Japan would soon fall.

The third and final ad I found was a collage of pictures of happy anglers holding fish.  Again, this ad was promoting the River Runt and its finishes.  There isn’t any talk about the war, but the “Buy more war bond” slogan was still there.  This ad would have been released in the June timeframe, after the fall of Germany.

Eppinger Dardevle

Lou J. Eppinger placed his ads in every issue of Sports Afield I had, but they switched between the two ads shown here.  These were small, 1/6-page ads that covered a couple of their offerings.  No mention of the war, no mention of having difficulty obtaining materials.  It makes me wonder if they were even affected by the war.  Being that their spoons were all made from metal, the war must have knocked their production down in some way or another.

In these ads Eppinger featured the Feathered single hook Dardevle, the original Dardevle and the Winged Dardevle.  All of these baits were bass killers in the day and I bet they’d still catch fish today if anyone would throw them.

Dardevle June 1945 Sports Afield
Dardevle March 1945 Sports Afield

Louis Johnson Company

Like Dardevle, Louis Johnson Company placed small ads in every issue of Sports Afield that I own.  And, like Dardevle, they make no mention of the war or materials issues, other than the image of the Navy Ensign.  Again, being their products were 100% metal, the war had to have had some affect on their production.

Johnson Silver Minnow March 1945 Sports Afield
Johnson Silver Minnow May 1945 Sports Afield
Johnson Silver Minnow June 1945 Sports Afield

The spoons shown in the ads were the Silver Minnow and the Caper.  I’ve used the Silver Minnow a lot of the course of my fishing career but never have I seen a Caper.  Both spoons appear to be built off the same spoon but the caper might have an extra bit of weight at the nose, as well as a different line tie.  The hook is also installed in a different manner on the Caper compared to the Silver Minnow.  Johnson doesn’t go into any sort of discussion on the differences between the two.

Well that about does it for the baits of 1945.  I hope this post gives you a good idea of what the times were like back during the last World War.  Anglers were still buying tackle and a few companies were still making tackle.  By 1946, all of this would change, and bass fishing would boom like it never had before.

Next time we’re going to look at the rods and reels of 1945.  We hope you’ll join us.