When I originally wrote this article back in April of 2013, underspins had become a staple in the bass fishing vernacular, mainly due to Aaron Martens’ near win of the 2004 Classic. What’s changed over the years since is minimal with respect to the bait, but the landscape with respect to Blakemore, the originator of the underspin, has changed drastically since this article was first written. So, in addition to the original article, I’m going to add some updates to Blakemore Lures – A Look Back.
The first change in Blakemore happened in 2017 when T.J. Stallings, the person I originally interviewed for this story, passed. T.J. was not just head of “Marketing and Crazy Ideas” for TTI- Blakemore, he was a good friend to all he came in contact with. It was T.J. who helped fill some of the gaps I had with respect to Blakemore and its history in the industry.
Then in 2019 and 2020, Blakemore lost two more of its heavyweights – company owners Wes and Steve Campbell. Since then, Wes’ wife Kerry, has taken over the helm. Kerry has been involved with Blakemore since the Campbells bought the company in 1978.
Another update to this piece since it was first written is a 1973-74 Blakemore Catalog I’ve acquired. Instead of just black and white ads from the 70s, I’m including the entire catalog in this article. It’s a neat look back into the history of the company.
So, without further ado, Here’s Blakemore Lures – A Look Back.
When one thinks of some of the first lures designed for light-line finesse fishing, three companies should come to mind. In no particular order, one of the first companies was Bass Buster Lures and the Beetle Spin. Manufactured by early bass pioneer Virgil Ward, this bait was the brainchild of Chuck Woods.
The second company that that should come to mind would be Charlie Brewer’s Crazy Head Lure Company, makers of the Slider Rig. Brewer developed an entirely new technique based on his observation of minnows as they moved through the water. The concept was not only new but the required tackle was on the other end of the bass-fishing spectrum at the time.
The last company that should rattle your memory – especially with the latest number of underspins that have entered the market – is the Blakemore Road Runner.
Blakemore came to life in 1959 when Bert Hall and a fishing buddy started manufacturing the Road Runner in Branson, MO. Back then it was manufactured solely of marabou and was mainly designed for use on local lakes such as Taneycomo, Bull Shoals, Table Rock, and the Arkansas River. The bait was designed to catch anything – and that it did.
Recently I’ve been going through a lot of bass magazines and it’s difficult not to find a magazine from the 60s to the 80s that didn’t have a Blakemore ad of some sort in it. What really caught my attention, though, was the number of baits associated with the Blakemore name. In the hay-day they not only made the Road Runner, but they also made a number of bass-centric baits that included crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and they even sold batteries.
Although it’s difficult to determine why these baits (and the battery) were discontinued from the Blakemore lineup, more than likely it had to do with sticking with the girl who went to the dance with them.
Anyway, let’s look at what Blakemore was offering to the bass angler in the 1970s.
I think this crankbait definitely falls into the Darwin-esque type of baits we’ve covered before here on the Bass Fishing Archives. I don’t know if that’s why Blakemore stopped making the bait or not but, in any case, several companies have tried the air-trapping concept before and to my knowledge none of them have become a mainstay in our tackle boxes.
The ad shown is from a 1978 Bassmaster Magazine. 1978 is a key here as that was the year in which the Campbell’s purchased Blakemore from Bert Hall. This is also the last ad I can find for Blakemore in Bassmaster through 1981.
According to TJ Stallings, Blakemore-TTI’s Marketing and PR guru, the crankbait was dropped from the lineup around the 1989 time frame. A more thorough search for ads will need to be conducted to see if I can find any ads after this 1978 ad. Of note, the crankbait isn’t present in the 1973-74 catalog so it’s assumed its production came after those years.
By the time this ad came out in 1978, several companies were manufacturing a buzzbait in reaction to the Harkins’ Lunker Lure that had won several high-profile tournaments in 1976-77. Although the ad shown here was part of the Trouble Shooter ad from 1978, the Twister was present in the 1973-74 catalog shown below. So, who came out with this style buzzbait first? Harkins or Blakemore? The first Harkins ad I’ve seen came out in 1977 in the National Bassman magazine and Rick Clunn broke the news of the bait in 1976 when he nearly won the Cordell Hull Bassmaster Tennessee Invitational.
What I like about this Blakemore bait is the spoon-style head. But there’s some discrepancy between the 1978 ad and the 1973-74 catalog regarding the weight of the lure. In the 1978 ad, they state two models offered, the 8004 which weighed 1/4-ounce and the 8007 model that weighed 3/4-ounce. In the catalog, though, they mention that the 8007 weighs in at 5/8-ounce.
If you take a good look at the Twister in both the ad and the catalog, you’ll notice the use of a vinyl skirt attached to the hook. This was the material used for most spinnerbaits and jigs at the time. The Harkins Lunker Lure used rubber for their skirt.
Buzz-Spin and Baby-Buzz-Spin
Blakemore offered a few spinnerbaits in the day, all based off the same head design but in different weights. The Bass Buzz-Spin weighed in at 1/2-ounce, while the Baby Buzz Spin was 3/8-ounce. You’ll have to look at the catalog in order to see the smaller Quarter-Oz Buzz-Spin. They also had a bait called the Tail-Spin, which essentially looks like their Quarter-Oz Buzz-Spin without the skirt and dress with a beaver tail grub.
The Bass Buzz-Spin also came with a weedguard where the smaller baits don’t seem to have the weedguard.
What I find interesting about this spinnerbait is its head. The head resembles more of an Arkie jig head than the standard bullet weight head of the time. This is more prominent in the Catalog picture than the ad. The reason I find this interesting is this is the same head design you’d see Lonnie Stanley come out with in the late 80s with his VibraShaft spinnerbait. I personally liked this style head as is seemed to roll less than the bullet head.
The blades used on these baits were reported to be 30-percent heavier than those used by other companies. The back blade was attached by a standard barrel swivel. According to Stallings, the spinnerbaits were discontinued in the 1986 time frame.
Magnum More Power Battery
Here’s a little tidbit that I bet even the nerdiest bass angler didn’t know – and it’s not that Blakemore made batteries. It’s the fact that Blakemore’s battery was the “official” battery of the 1973 Bassmaster Classic. Not sure how long Blakemore was in the battery business but here’s some proof they were. Even T. J. Stallings was surprised when he saw this ad.
But the battery wasn’t just in the ad. It was also in the 73-74 catalog. I’m not sure if Blakemore manufactured these batteries or they were made by another company and then put their name on it. In any event, reading either the ad or the page in the catalog, the batteries seemed decent for the day. I particularly like the graph they show that says, “Compare These Facts!” It’s just an empirical chart comparing Initial Amp Output vs. Amp Output Over Time. No numbers, just two lines with, of course, the Blakemore battery showing longer life over a charge. Without any numbers on the graph, it’s just empirical to me.
As stated previously, the Road Runner came in only marabou but over the years its design has morphed in many ways. For example, in the ads you see here, several of the heads feature a weedguard. The weedguard was discontinued in the early 80s – probably to aid in hookups.
Also shown in the ads are various versions with a beaver-tail grub configuration and even a plastic worm – both of which have been discontinued. Also apparent is the use of Indiana-style blades, which are still used on several Road Runners today.
Although the Road Runner is seen mainly as a crappie bait, it has a big following amongst bass anglers, especially after the 2004 Bassmaster Classic was nearly won on one. In fact, Stallings says about 40 percent of their sales go to bass anglers.
“Even elephants eat peanuts,” Stallings said. “In fact, the biggest known bass that has come on one of our baits is a 16-pounder from Beinville Plantation.”
After the near Classic win by Aaron Martens in 2004, Blakemore came out with the Rollin’ Runners models designed for Martens and Randy Howell. These heads feature willow blades, head weights up to 3/8 ounce and double keeper for fluke-style bodies.
Stallings said that after buying the company their mission was to improve all of the Road Runners. This included new molds, head designs, hooks, eyes, paint and blade colors and styles. It’s obvious if you look at what Blakemore-TTI is doing now that they’ve definitely made a better mouse trap.
Another recent addition to the Road Runner lineup is the Reality Shad Buffet rig, which is really a Road Runner umbrella rig.
It’s obvious that the design concept that Bert Hall came up with over 60 years ago was a solid one. Not many companies can boast that kind of longevity and still produce. To see what Blakemore is doing today as compared with the ads and catalog shown in this piece, you can check them out at www.ttiblakemore.com/home.
The 1973-74 Blakemore Catalog I have is a piece I treasure. The cover art is some of the best ever and really feels of the time. The leaping bass with the Buzz-Spin in its mouth and the various forms of Road Runners – all in color – leaping out at you. The back cover is just as special. What appears to be a Plano 747 filled with Blakemore baits, dealer cards of Road Runners, a battery no one can tell me much about, and the classic early 1970s bass boat, with Blakemore “More Fish Lures” painted in red and black script over the yellow gel background. You can’t get more 70s than that.
Below is the entire catalog for you to check out. Unfortunately, other than the inside covers, the rest of the catalog is in black and white. But it’ll give you a good idea of what was offered in 1973-74 from the company that originated the underspin.