A recent post on Instagram, by a very well-known tackle distribution company, got my attention when they claimed to know the “History” of Bobby Garland’s Fat Gitzit. I read the post and although they got the inventor right, their timeline was almost two decades off. Instead of commenting publicly, I sent them a direct message letting them know the mistake and that if they wanted the actual history, to let me know. So here’s the history of the Fat Gitzit or, what most everyone today knows as the Tube.
For those of you bass anglers that were west of the Rockies during the ‘70s, the name Bobby Garland will definitely bring back some memories. Garland’s Bass’N Man Lure Company was probably best known at the time as the company that developed the Spider Jig – the forerunner of what other companies would knock off and eventually call Hula Jigs. But Garland didn’t only make the Spider Jig.
Bobby Garland, and his brother Gary, started out as crappie anglers in Oregon and made the first dipped crappie jigs that I know of in the 1960s. Sometime in the late 60s they started concentrating on bass and manufacturing bass baits. That’s when they started making Mini Jigs, essentially a 3.5-inch-long crappie jig, and the Skinny Squid. The Skinny Squid, a 5-inch long hollow worm, predated the Knight Tube Worm by at least five years.
Then came the Spider Jig. The skirt was a 3.5-inch piece of hollow plastic cut with razor blades on both ends to form the tentacles. This was then slipped on the Garland Spider Head along with a double tail trailer that Garland bought OEM from Mister Twister. The jig was developed as a swimming jig and was made primarily in shad-based hues in order to mimic baitfish – although he did offer the skirts and trailers in colors to mimic crawdads.
With the stellar line of baits mentioned above, you’d think that Garland wouldn’t have to worry about developing anything new. But since he was a major competitor on the western bass circuits, he was always thinking of new and novel ways to maintain his competitiveness.
His next invention would put him on the international map.
I first heard of Bobby Garland’s Fat Gitzit shortly after the Fall 1980 Western Bass tournament at Lake Havasu. We didn’t have the internet back then but news traveled fast via phone. We received a call shortly after weigh-in that Saturday that Garland had won the event up the river in Topock Slough on a new bait he would be releasing soon. The caller wanted to know when we would be getting them.
Having no clue what the caller was talking about, Bob, the owner of the shop, waited until early the next week and called Don Iovino. Iovino was the Garland rep at the time and was also at the Havasu event. Bob asked him what all the noise was about. Don came in and brought the samples and Bob placed a hefty order of the new Fat Gitzit.
Like any new hot bait we got in, the pegs were empty in less than a week.
Soon after articles were written about Garland and his new creation. Garland had designed the bait as a “fall” bait that would mimic a dying shad or even a crawdad. Rigged with a 1/16-ounce Garland head, the bait would spiral until it hit the bottom. After the bait hit the bottom, you’d twitch it once or twice and then reel it in and make another cast.
Another unique attribute of the Gitzit was you could (still can with the thin-walled models) make the bait sit and jump in one spot – making it great for bed fishing. By letting the bait hit the bottom, if you pulled up on the rod until the line was nearly tight and then forcefully pushed the rod forward, the minute backwards jerk of the rod tip would move the bait vertically up and it would then spiral back down in the same spot it started.
The bait remained a western secret except for a few anglers who got paired with Garland at the inaugural Western Bass U.S. Open on Lake Mead, NV in August of 1981. One of the anglers who got paired with Garland was none other than Guido Hibdon of Missouri.
Hibdon was one of the eastern anglers who took to flipping early on. When Hibdon saw the Gitzit and the way it worked, he was sold. He took the bait back to the Midwest and coupled with flipping, commenced to kicking everyone’s butts.
It would be three or four years later, when Western Bass Fishing Association, which soon became U.S. Bass, would expand and head east. That’s when the Gitzit would really make national noise. Not long after that, Basil Bacon, Denny Brauer and Tommy Biffle would be winning events on the fat tube lure.
I know we’ve talked about Bobby Garland here before but after seeing these early 1981 and 1982 Gitzit ads, I felt it important to mention again his contributions to the sport of bass fishing. Plus, the 1982 ad is the earliest ad I’ve seen that talks about how the bait was designed to be fished. I guarantee no one today is fishing it the way it was designed – hint hint.