For anyone who has been bass fishing for at least 30 years, the name Cotton Cordell will no doubt bring up images of Th’ Spot. For anglers who have been at it for more than 40 years, the name Cordell brings up much more. Today in Cotton Cordell 1970, we take a look at a Cordell catalog from 1970, a time when bass fishing was sweeping the nation and Cordell was at the heart of it.
First, I’d like to thank Robert Farrar for loaning me this catalog, along with many more we’ll be featuring on the site in due time. Robert has been collecting Cordell baits and memorabilia for some time and is an expert in the subject of the Cordell Big-O, amongst other things.
Of the catalogs that Robert loaned me, I believe this is the earliest catalog he has. The reason I say this catalog is the oldest is, although the others he loaned me don’t have a date, through patent searches and ad campaigns, I must place this as the earliest. It’s a beautiful catalog filled with early Cordell baits, but more important, a lineage of lure designs for the collector.
In 1945, Cotton’s father purchased a marina on Lake Catherine near Hot Springs, Arkansas and this is where Cordell honed his fishing skills and became a bait maker.
Cordell didn’t have much money so he would buy surplus military survival kits, which included a leadhead jig with deer hair tied on it. Cordell started his path to lure making due to these survival kits.
His first lure was a leadhead jig that mimicked the leadheads found in these kits and fashioned out of deer hair. When deer hair wasn’t available, it’s said he’d use the hair from his English Setter dog. The jigs flat caught fish and would become the cornerstone of Cotton moving into the lure business.
His second bait was a spinnerbait, using the same banana head jighead for the body. From there Cordell kept building his company by either designing lures of his own or buying the rights to baits designed by others. By 1970, Cordell Tackle was one of the biggest lure manufacturers in the nation.
Let’s get on to the catalog.
The cover of the catalog features several of the baits offered by the company in 1970. There’s the weedless banana head, Th’ Hot Spot, Boy Howdy, Crazy Shad and others. I big print, it says, “Cotton Cordell’s Liveliest Lures, a slogan became synonymous with the company for decades.
Page two leads with the Cordell Red Fin, a bait that has a sorted history regarding who actually invented it. Some say Cordell bought the rights to the lure from J.C. Boucher, a lure designer from Tyler, TX. Other interviews with Cordell himself reflect his claim to the design of the lure.
Beyond the turf battle, the Red Fin became one of the legendary minnows of the day and is still considered one of the best designs ever produced. Unlike the Rapala and Bagley’s Bang-O-Lure, which were made from balsa wood, or the Rebel and Norman, the Red Fin was molded with the diving lip. Because of this, the baits were consistent out of the box and the angler would never have to worry about the lip breaking or moving.
The Red Fin would gain even more of a following in the early 1980s due to this lip design. At this time it was discovered that with some heat, this lip could be adjusted by a little heat from a lighter. Once the plastic was heated enough, the lip could be moved closer to a 90-degree angler with respect to the bait. What this did was make the shallow diving lure into a wake bait, a secret that was held on to by anglers in the know for a long time. The Red Fin became a renowned wake bait and is still a bait that has few competitors.
In 1970, the bait was offered in three sizes, the series 700, 800 and 900 weighing 1/4-, 3/8-, and 5/8-ounce respectively.
Page three brings us to another interesting bait, the Cordell Super Shad. This bait was patented in 1968 by Cordell and may be the first line-through vibration bait. It was made from soft plastic, like that used in a plastic worm.
Ballast was placed into the bait during the molding process and provided most of its 1/3-ounce weight. The line was run through the plastic on the top of the lure, where the angler then tied a knot to the split ring that was home to a treble hook. When the fish ate the bait, the lure itself could move up the line leaving little leverage for the fish to throw the bait.
In this catalog, there were 12 colors offered and they weren’t shown. It is assumed the colors were the same as shown in the color chart on the following page, but I’m not certain of this.
The following two pages provided a color chart for the catalog. In this chart, Cordell utilized the Spot for most of the colors, only deviating twice with colors that were specific for their “Cotton’s Crab.” In all, there were 36 colors available, including 12 metallic finishes. The colors were standard for the era, but crude for today’s market.
Next in the line-up was the Rigid Super Shad and the Bronco Spinner. The Rigid Super Shad was the hardbait version of the Super Shad, made out of the same hard plastic I assume the rest of the Cordell hardbaits were made out of. The difference between the Rigid Super Shad from the soft plastic Super Shad was the fixed hook and the tail spinner on the Rigid bait.
The lure came in one size, 1/2-ounce, and in and nine stock colors. It mimicked the Mann’s Little George as it was a true tail spin and in this day, if you didn’t offer a tail spin, you were losing out on a lot of business.
Below the Rigid Super Shad was Cordell’s second lure design, behind his banana head jig, the Bronco Spinner (bait). I don’t know what it is about this bait, but I’d throw it today. I like the head design as well as the short arm holding the blades. You just don’t see a spinnerbait of this design today and trust me when I say it would still work.
The lure came in only a 3/8-ounce version with eight colors available.
Page seven offered another new lure, called the Huncho. This bait is an obvious reaction to the Rebel Humpy and the Norman Little Scooper with its flat bottom and humped back. It was offered in two sizes, the 7000 series and 7100 series, which were 1/4- and 3/8-ounce respectively. I have several of these baits new in the box.
This catalog has them listed for $1.50 and $1.75 each, but my boxes have tags for $0.59 and $0.86 each on them. I’m not sure if these were sale prices but the price tags are the only ones on the hard plastic containers and there is no residue indicating that old price tags had been removed.
The next bait in the catalog was the Hot Spot and New Cordell Floating Hot Spot. This is another bait with a controversial history, again due to Boucher claiming to have invented it in 1959. I’m not sure who to believe, but I know one thing, Th’ Spot essentially put vibration baits on the map.
The bait was first released without any sound, but as baits would be used, the ballast weight would work loose in some, creating a knock that would attract and catch fish. Soon, Cordell would be inundated with calls requesting more noisy baits, of which he had no clue what the anglers were talking about. He then realized that some of the ballast weights had freed themselves of the glue and he started marketing the one-knocker Spot. This in turn would spur Bill Lewis to produce the Rat-L-Trap, unless you believe what Boucher claims.
The final pages in the catalog provided information on Cordell’s Mr. Whiskers, Cotton’s Crab, Swimming Shad, Crazy Shad, Boy Howdy, Gay Blade and other not so well-known baits.
Mr. Whiskers and Cotton’s Crab were definite reactions to the Original Bomber out of Gainesville, TX. Mr. Whiskers had a single treble hook adorned to the body with what appears to be nylon rope strands coming out the back to resemble crawdad pinchers.
The Cotton’s Crab was a little different in that it had a bent diving lip and two hooks. The back end of the bait had a spinner on it, much like the Whopper Stopper Hellbender did.
The Swimming Shad looks an awful lot like a Bayou Boogie, except for the three line tie positions. Each line tie position was to give an extra 18 inches of depth moving from front to back.
There were two different versions of the Crazy Shad, one with no props and a lead weighted rear and the version with props fore and aft.
On the next page was the infamous Boy Howdy topwater bait, configured with no props and a lead weight on the rear as well as the more recognized version with two props. This bait was a favorite of many angler and was meant to compete with the Smithwick baits of the day.
The back cover of the catalog featured several hair jigs and a spinnerbait that started Cordell’s career in the bait industry. What’s interesting about this page is the poly rope strands used as a weedguard shown on the jig in the upper left of the page. This form of weedguard is the same guard that Dee Thomas used on his flipping jigs back in the days that he was developing that technique. I had heard rumors that Thomas had been getting his jigs from Cordell and maybe this is proof of that.
Overall this catalog provides a great look back into the history of one of the most renown lure companies in U.S. history. Without a doubt, Cordell cemented his name in the annals of bass fishing and this catalog serves to document his company and the baits they provided.
Of course, Cordell was purchased by EBSCO in 1980, shortly after their purchase of PRADCO, makers of rebel Lures. Since that time, Cordell has been manufactured and marketed under the PRADCO line and many of the baits you see in this catalog are still available.
I’d like to again thank Robert Farrar for his generosity in loaning us these catalogs so we could share them with you all. In the meantime, if you have catalogs from the early bass tackle manufacturers you like to share, please leave us a note in the comments below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see the entire catalog, please view the gallery below. Click on the first image and then use the arrows to scroll through each page.