In today’s post, DeLong Lures 1960, we’re going to look back at one of the first tackle companies to make soft plastic baits out of PVC. I’m not going to get into the argument of who was first, Creme or DeLong, but rest assured, between these two companies, they had the soft plastics market cornered for nearly 20 years before another sole would enter the industry.
This company hits home with me as I grew up fishing the 4-, 6-, and 8-inch DeLong KILR worms in the San Diego lakes. I vividly remember their scent, oil of anise, and every time I eat a piece of black licorice, DeLong worms flood my mind with images of Lake Wholford and Lunker Bill Murphy.
DeLong offered a number of dual-colored, or double pour, worms that the fish of the west liked and I believe they were part of the reason double and triple pour baits became the mainstay of southern California pourers to this day.
DeLong has had an up and down history, having gone into and out of business a number of times over the years. Back in their heyday, though, they were hard to beat. But they were also hard – as in you could drive them in wood like a nail.
As a kid, I just thought that was the way it was but wondered why I didn’t catch many fish on them compared to a Jelly Worm or other soft plastics. Then I was awakened by a trick when I started working at the tackle shop in 1978. A customer was buying some 6-inch KILRS and I asked him why he didn’t fish a softer bait. He smiled and said, “son, you have to boil them for 2 minutes and they’ll soften up.” From that point on I started catching more and more fish on the DeLongs.
Let’s get back to the catalog.
I can’t say how long I’ve had this catalog but it’s been a while. In fact, I didn’t remember having it until I recently unpacked another box that’s been stored through five moves. The catalog blew my mind when I opened it. I had no idea DeLong had offered so many baits, especially back in 1960.
As I stated above, my DeLong experience was only through their smaller KILR worms, which aren’t even in this catalog, as well as the 16-inch Snake. I do believe they also made a 12-inch Snake. Anyway, thumbing through the catalog it reminded me of BURKE and I believe Evans tackle companies. These companies made a variety of plastic bugs and frogs over the years and this DeLong catalog is filled with baits that resemble the BURKE and Evans creations. It makes me wonder if BURKE and Evans jumped on this bandwagon after DeLong had introduced them.
Another bait that’s offered in the catalog was the series of Tadpoles on page 2. I remember this bait but not from DeLong. It was another small outfit in southern California that was hand pouring them in the early 80s. For a couple years, we couldn’t keep them on the shelf and then, all of the sudden, we couldn’t get them anymore. Now I know who developed this bait.
Throughout this catalog you’ll see a plethora of different pre-rigged baits, with hooks as well as spinners. Pre-rigged worms and eels have been a huge success over the span of the last 60 years. Although you rarely see a tournament angler fishing them, they still sell and catch fish.
Some of DeLong’s offerings in the pre-rigged bait genre were the Lucky Harnessed Blood Worm (page 3), Lucky Harnessed Eel (page 6), Heavy Duty Witch (page7), Lucky Harnessed Dew Worm (page 10), Rigged Night Crawler (page 10), and the NEW Weedless Fat Dew Worm (page 11).
For those that wanted to rig their own baits you could buy the Dew Worm in a bag of three for $0.50 per bag. The colors they offered are on the front cover of the catalog.
Another bait that got a lot of attention back in the day was the DeLong Witch. A bait that resembled a piece of tire, the worm caught the attention of anglers and the fish, especially if you fished in the Florida region. The catalog only offers the Witch in an 8-inch version but I remember a 6-inch and a 10- or 12-inch version as well. I’m sure DeLong released those later as the bass boom of Ray Scott’s Bass Anglers Sportsman Society started in the late 1960s.
Another surprise was listed at the top of page 4, the Heavy Duty Flash Minnow. At first, this bait looks like a contemporary soft plastic swimbait. But on further inspection, the bait doesn’t have a boot tail or segmented body to provide movement. Then, when you look at the length, 5 1/2-inches, you realize this bait could not have had any intrinsic action on its own. Plus, the hook placement and braided wire line through the body would inhibit any sort of action.
Another interesting thing I found in the catalog was located on page 5, the “New! No. 517 Adjustable Depth Weedless Floating Worm.” First off, we posted this as a tip found in Don Fuelsch’s 1962 Southern Angler’s and Hunter’s Guide. In that guide, it wasn’t presented as an ad nor was any credit given to DeLong for the rig. Yet, here it is.
You might ask why this is so interesting to me? Well, if you do a search for the New Free Rig on the Google machine, you’ll see why. This rig has been stated to have been invented in South Korea the past two years. Nope, sorry, it was invented by DeLong lures in 1960.
Earlier I stated that DeLong has had a storied past. I remember they were resurrected back in the late 1990s but went out of business again in 2012. Just by chance I Googled them again and low and behold, they’re back. The company was purchased in 2021 by two brothers and a cousin and moved back to Ohio, where DeLong started out. Their online catalog brings back a lot of memories and it looks like they’ve brought back to life a number of the original baits and added a few new ones along the way.
If you’re interested in scrolling through the entire catalog, look below. Click on the first image and then use the arrows to move through the pages. And, if you’ve got a story about DeLong, please leave a comment in the comments section below.