We’ve hit on the name Tom Seward here a few times in the past talking about his crankbait design abilities. His first venture was with Lazy Ike producing a crankbait for them called the Natural Ike. That relationship didn’t last long before he started his own venture called Crankbait Corporation in the late 1970s. Today in Crankbait Brand 1989-90, we’re going to look at a catalog from the company after it was purchased by Luhr Jensen with Seward still in charge of all design efforts with respect to the Crankbait Corporation baits.
Before we get on with the catalog, though, let’s look back at a little Seward history.
A few weeks ago, we posted a story on the Bagley’s Small Fry series of baits that were introduced in 1979. The story, as told to me by Lee Sisson, was Seward had sent Bagley a model of a lure he wanted produced. Both Bagley and Sisson marveled at its lifelike paint scheme and realized they couldn’t match it. They sent Seward a letter thanking him for his idea but that they wouldn’t be able to produce it.
Seward then went to Lazy Ike and they bit. Lazy Ike and Seward debuted their new crankbait, the Natural Ike, at the 1978 American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association (AFTMA) show. It wasn’t only a hit, it won Best of Show.
Seward’s stock was on a rise.
Seward then parted ways with Lazy Ike and with the help of a couple investors started Crankbait Corporation around 1980 under the Highland Group Company umbrella. With his own company he could do as he pleased design wise . His first releases were the Fingerling Series that included the Bullcat. The Fingerling was designed to mimic a small fish, with lifelike contours and scary-realistic finishes. The Bullcat was the same, mimicking a small bullhead.
These baits were made from closed-cell foam with an engineered lip to provide good action at any speed. Other features were hook hangers and a ballast weight, not to mention the realistic finish, which included oversized eyes.
Crankbait Corporation, which at some point turned into Crankbait Brand, continued developing baits through the 1980s until they purchased by Luhr Jensen out of Hood River, Oregon. Seward packed his bags and went with the company to continue as lead designer.
At this time, Crankbait Corporation along with sister corporation Angler’s Pride, was producing several baits that included the Chowpuppy, Chowhound, Clearwater Spinnerbait, Hot Lips Express, Super Dawg, and Triple Deep baits.
Now, let’s get on with the catalog.
This catalog was printed just two years after the acquisition of Crankbait Brand and Angler’s Pride. The cover of this catalog, see lead-in image, features nine baits, five of which were not in the original Crankbait Brand line-up. Those five originally belonged to South Bend and the Florida Fish and Tackle Company. We’ll go through each bait as it comes up in the catalog.
The first page of the catalog is important in that it features a new bait from the company and the mind of Tom Seward. The Speed Trap is one of the most highly regarded squarebill crankbaits ever designed. I don’t know what it is about this bait but it flat catches fish.
The body design was taken from the Hot Lips Express, kind of triangular in cross-section. I’m not sure of the reason Seward designed the body like this but it works and I can’t think of another bait on the market that has this body design, other than the Hot Lips.
I’ve been using this bait now for close to 30 years and have gone through dozens of them. This bait comes through wood better than nearly all other squarebills, casts like a dream, and I haven’t found a color that doesn’t catch fish. In 1989, the bait was only available in one size, 1/4-ounce. It would be a couple years before Seward and Crankbait Brand would develop the smaller 1/8-ounce size.
There is one thing about this bait you should know, and that has to do with the snap that comes stock on the bait. I have tried to replace the snap with a split ring many times over the years. When I do this, the bait doesn’t run the same. It doesn’t have a free a movement and doesn’t go as deep as it does with the snap. Leave the snap on the bait as it is obvious to me that Seward designed the bait for the snap.
On the following page are the Hot Lips Expresses, three sizes in all. This was a legacy bait first designed by Seward before the acquisition. This bait attained depths most crankbaits only dreamed of reaching. And the funky bill deflected off wood and rock like no other crankbait at the time or since.
As mentioned above, the bait came in three sizes, 1/4-, 1/2-, and 3/4-ounce. The 1/4- and 3/4-ounce sizes were new for the year and were developed based on the success of the 1/2-ounce model. I never threw this bait much, only under certain conditions, but if you lived in the Pacific Northwest this bait was a must for not only bass but steelhead and salmon. It blows my mind that Rapala has discontinued it since their acquisition of Luhr Jensen.
Page 4 features another legacy crankbait and Seward design that was way ahead of its time, the Triple Deep series. These were some of the first truly deep diving baits that actually did get to the depths they touted. Manufactured in three sizes, the TD-10, TD-15, and the TD-20 were the Rapala DTs of the day. Seward’s brilliance was showing again, producing baits that would cover areas of the water column few baits could hit.
The following page has another legacy crankbait, this time from Angler’s Pride, the Chowhound and Chowpuppy. This, to my knowledge, was the first and maybe only crankbait designed with a spinner located under the lip. This bait’s design was credited to Dr. Loren Hill, the same man who brought us the Color-C-Lector.
I never bought or used one of these baits, so I can’t attest to its ability to catch fish. They weren’t on the market very long so that tells me they were a flop. I do wish I had purchased a few as they’ve become a bit of a collector’s item over the last few years.
The next page features a bait that I’ve never heard of, the Sea-Bee jerkbait. Evidently they were produced and for this year had been resurrected. Having not thrown this bait I have no clue how to rate it. This is where I rely on you to fill me in on the bait. If you’ve fished this bait, let us know how it performed in the comment section below.
Finally on Pages 7 and 8 we get to the Fingerling, Bullcat and Super Dawg series of baits. The Fingerling series, now called the Hi-Catch, was based off the original Fingerling series produced as the first series of baits made by Crankbait Corporation. Although I never caught a fish on one, these baits sold throughout the U.S., mostly to walleye anglers I imagine. The shop I worked at sold the first shipment we got within a week, the problem we had was with breakage. Customers would come back to the shop with only the lip, asking for their money back. At that point, we quit carrying them.
The Bullcat and Super Dawgs I have no experience with as we didn’t carry them at the shop I worked at. These baits, along with the Fingerling series, must have been good sellers because they were introduced when Crankbait Corporation started back in 1980. For Luhr Jensen to hold onto them, they must have sold.
Page 9 featured a bait that was not part of the Crankbait Corporation or Angler’s Pride line-up. Herb’s Dilly was a bait famous from the 1940s and manufactured by Glen Evans. Considered one of the first buzzbaits, the Herb’s Dilly is a spoon with a buzzbait blade attached to the front.
This bait was available in two different styles, the Original with a small crescent blade and the Slow Retrieve with a contemporary blade. Again, I’ve never thrown this bait, so I am unable to provide any worthwhile information of its ability to catch fish.
The next few pages we get into more non-Crankbait Brand baits, starting off with the Bass-Oreno. For those of you out there with any knowledge of lure history, anything ending in -Oreno brings images to the mind from Southbend. The first two baits presented on page 10 are the Bass-Oreno and the Nip-I-Diddee, both baits produced by the Southbend Bait Company.
Glen Evans Company was the first company to procure Southbend with Luhr Jensen purchasing the company in the mid-1970s. With that, the Bass-Oreno and many other baits died, that was until the early 1980s when the bait was resurrected along with other wood lures such as the Nip-I-Diddee.
On the same page is the Dalton Twist and the Dalton Special, both bait initially manufactured by the Florida Fish and Tackle Company. These baits were left for dead back in the mid-70s but brought back to the market by Luhr Jensen in the early 1980s. I’ve caught quite a few fish on the Dalton Special, but it never was one of those baits that was such a performer I couldn’t live without it. Maybe I just didn’t understand the right conditions to throw it.
The Dalton Fishstick, shown on the following page, is an interesting bait with an interesting history. This bait dates back to 1963 and the manufacturer was Smithwick. At the time Smithwick was producing not only their own lures but lures for up to 10 different companies, Dalton included. To see a reliable timeline for Smithwick, please check out Smithwick Collector’s website.
From the profile and the bait itself, it is obvious this lure was a Devil’s Horse or a very good copy of one. It was offered in two sizes, 4-inch and 4 1/8-inch models with non-Smithwick color patterns. I don’t know if Smithwick painted them or if Luhr Jensen ordered blanks and painted them in-house.
Under the Fishstick is a bait that was new for the year, the Walkin’ Diddee. This bait looks as if it was a version of the Heddon Zara Spook which had been raised from the dead over the past decade. It came in two sizes, 3 3/8-inch and 4 1/2-inch and I’m not sure which size is displayed in the catalog.
Having never used or seen this bait, I have no clue how it compared with the standard of the industry at the time. If anyone out there has fished this bait, please leave a comment below.
The next page has another bait I am not familiar with at all, the Beno Lures. The page says that this bait had been out since 1943. Originally introduced by Oster’s Lures, this bait went through a lot of companies before ending up in Luhr Jensen’s hands. According to the Interwebs and a Luhr Jensen History flyer I have, Oster’s Lures sold the bait to Mill Run and then to Angler’s Pride, where it was then purchased by Luhr Jensen.
The last two pages of the catalog display some stringers Luhr Jensen sold as well as the best hook file I ever used. Other than that, there isn’t much left to talk about.
If you’re interested in checking out the entire catalog, please see the gallery below. Click on the first image and then use the arrows to scroll through the pages.
That is a very attractive catalog. I always liked the design of the Fingerling and Bullcat lures. Odd and unfortunate that they didn’t do enough quality control testing to catch the breakage issue.
Hey David, based on the fact this series of baits lasted for over a decade, I’d say we got a bad batch of them at the time. I’ve talked with a lot of people from other parts of the country, over the years, about the bait and nearly all of them had good experiences with it. What we experienced was nearly a 50% fail rate on them and because of that, there was no selling them.
I’ve still got one or two in one of my tackleboxes from back in the day. Never fished them hard, so I really don’t know about how fragile they might be or not. Glad to hear that other folks have testified to their sturdiness.
Great info! The Speed Trap is still my go to for shallow cranking, love those things. Always with the snap