If you’ve been around the Bass Fishing Archives for any time, you know we love Bill Norman Lures. From the Deep Little N to the Jimmy Houston Red Man Spinnerbait, we’re all about the Norman Lure Company. Today we have a cool piece of history to share – a Bill Norman Lures Catalog from the early 1970s.
The date of this catalog isn’t known but it’s before the Deep Little N was introduced, so that makes it prior to 1975. Looking at the cover, you see Bill in an early-70s vintage MonArk bass boat and he’s fishing a fiberglass rod. That doesn’t give a specific date but since Graphite came out in 1974, it might be safe to say the catalog is pre-1974. The boat looks like it might be a 1973 Super Sport, but it’s difficult to tell for sure. In any event, the catalog documents what Bill Norman was selling at the time.
I’ll go through some of the more important baits of the day and leave the rest for you to check out in the gallery, which will have the entire catalog.
The Big N and Little N
A flip of the cover and one is first met with a picture of Norman’s Big N crankbait. It is rumored this bait was brought to market before Cotton Cordell had reached an agreement with Fred Young, of Big-O fame, to produce Young’s bait out of plastic. Young’s Big-O hit the tournament trail in early 1973 so it looks like we may have dated this catalog to 1974.
Norman describes the Big N as a, “versatile lure and can be fished many different ways. On a rapid retrieve in and around logs the Big N will crawl right over them and is practically free from hangups and travels ten to twelve feet deep.”
He also mentions the bait will dive to 18-feet if being trolled on 14-pound line at 60 yards from the boat. The bait was 3 inches in length and weighed 5/8-ounce.
The next bait presented is the Little N, the Big N’s little brother. The description of the bait defers to the Big N but Norman states it was designed for those who like to fish with spinning tackle or ultralight gear. The bait weighed 3/8-ounce and was 2-1/2 inches long.
Linebacker and Jointed-Minnow
The Linebacker is a bait that originally got Norman in hot water with PRADCO. Norman worked for George Perrin in the 1963-65 timeframe and evidently Norman left PRADCO to start his own company, named Rebel Manufacturing, no less. A court case was brought forth because of Norman’s company name as well as what he called the Linebacker at the time, the Reb 1, Reb 2 and Amazing Minnow, all names that were used by PRADCO in one form or the other.
Norman lost the case and had to change the name of his company as well as the name of the minnow lure, hence the new name, the Linebacker.
The Linebacker, as well as the Rebel Minnow, were both knockoffs of the Rapala minnow – except manufactured from plastic. The Linebacker came in five sizes from 2-1/2 inches to 7 inches in length. To look at them, it’s hard to tell the difference between it and a Rebel Minnow of the day. No wonder George Perrin was a little upset.
The Jointed-Minnow needs no explanation as it’s the jointed version of the Linebacker. It came in four sizes from 2-1/2 inches to 5-1/2 inches in length.
Quarter-Back and Half-Back
The Quarter-Back was described by Norman as, “undoubtedly the best fish producing lure on the market today.” A shallow-running bait, it came in at 1-3/4 inches in length and weighed 1/4 ounce. It was designed to run 2 to 3 feet deep or be used as a topwater lure.
The Half-Back was its big brother, weighing 1/2 ounce and measuring 2-3/4 inches. Norman says the Half-Back is, “for the lunker fisherman.” It too was designed to be fished in the 2 to 3 foot range.
Quarter-Back and Half-Back Deep Runners
The Quarter-Back and Half-Back also came in deep running versions by the addition of a metal lips and line ties that resembled the lip of a Whopper Stopped Hellbender. Depths claimed for these baits was 8-10 foot for the smaller Quarter-Back and 10-12 feet for the Half-Back.
The Norman Little Scooper is the first bait in the Norman lineup that had a rattle. Designed to go 8 to 10 feet deep on the retrieve, Norman also notes the bait doesn’t float, but suspends when the retrieve is stopped. This is the first time I have seen advertised a suspending lure. In fact Norman recommends the angler stop the lure to let it suspend as that is natural for bait to do.
The Norman Flasher resembles the Pico Perch and the Bayou Boogie to a tee. The bait is said to have a “sonic” action and the rattle in the head makes it one of the best all-around lures available. Seems Norman may have been borrowing a word from Heddon, too. The bait weighed in at 1/4 ounce and measured 2 inches in length.
Norman had several topwater baits he manufactured at the time, the most popular being the Chugger-Flash and the Rat-Lur. The Chugger-Flash was a typical chugger-type bait that measured 3-1/2 inches and weighed 3/8-ounce. Norman stated the “Chugger-Flash is at its best when you are ‘walking’ the lure across the top.”
The Rat-Lur, on the other hand, resembled what we normally think of as a walking bait, or Spook. Norman states several times in the description of this lure that it has a rattle in the tail that attracts the fish. Coupled with the metallic finish, it was a double attractor.
Looking at this bait, I would have to say this was Norman’s answer to the Storm Thin Fin, which had become very popular in the early 1970s. It came in three sizes, from 2-1/2 inches in length to 3-1/2 inches and ran in the 2- to 3-foot range.
Spinnerbait and Spider
At this point in time, Norman hadn’t bought the rights to Jimmy Houston’s Red man spinnerbait but he had a couple of his own baits. The first was just named the Spinnerbait. It came in two sizes 3/8-ounce and 1/2-ounce with a single Colorado blade, 5/0 blue steel hook and nylon skirt. The description f the hook tells me it was more than likely a Mustad or Eagle Claw worm hook, which you wouldn’t want on any spinnerbait. The nylon skirt I believe is really a vinyl skirt popular in the day.
Minus the longer arm, the Spider looks an awful lot like Virgil Ward’s Bass Buster Tarantula spinnerbait. It too came in 3/8- and 1/2-ounce versions with rubber legs. Affixed to the upper arm was a single Colorado blade.
Both the Spinnerbait and the Spider had another feature that I have always loved about Norman’s spinnerbaits. That is the no-foul loop where the line is tied. This version is a loop that is crimped but open on the backside. As noted by Norman, if your line gets wrapped around the wire, “it will come back through and straighten itself out.”
Later when he and Houston got together to manufacture the Red Man spinnerbait, the loop was changed but was still not prone for the line to get between the wires and weaken the line. Why spinnerbait makers these days don’t use one of these forms of loop is beyond me.
Here’s another interesting bait by Norman, and not because it’s a worm. The name Ranger was another lure manufacturing company that Bill Norman owned. They made many of the same baits as Norman Lures did but under Ranger Manufacturing. I’m not sure if Ranger became due to the lawsuit or what. More research is being conducted to answer this question.
Back to the worm.
The worm was said to have been designed with a patented cove-shaped tail to provide twice the buoyancy of other worms. The lengths aren’t mentioned but they were probably in the 4- to 6-inch range. It was offered in 10 colors.
The back cover of the catalog showed all the colors Norman lures came in minus one new color. Although there are 22 colors shown, they’re all based off a silver metallic base. Still, I’d love to have some of these old school lures for my collection. Of course, I’d love to have them in the original Reb 1 or Reb 2 boxes.
I hope you enjoyed this look back on Bill Norman Lures. It’s these catalogs that best allow us to document the history of a bait company. If you have or know of anyone who has any old catalogs or baits lying around, please let us know. We’d love to feature them in future articles.