1961 DeLong Lures ad for their Jigging Squirm Doodle Socking bait. Photo 1961 Don Fuelsch's Southern Angler's and Hunter's Guide.

Today’s post, Doodle Socking 1961, is a timely topic since the father of Flipping, Dee Thomas, recently passed.  There’s no question that Thomas was a tule dipper as evidenced by how much was written about him in the northern California newspapers of the 1960s and early 70s.  But when he was talked into fishing a tournament in 1973 with his future team partner, Frank Hauck, Thomas quickly had to change tactics or forget about fishing competitively.

In an interview I conducted with him in late 2011 about the subject, Thomas told me that the restrictions placed on him back in 1974 by Western Bass Fishing Association (WBFA), actually forced him to develop a new method in which to present a lure that had not been done before.

It has been written here a lot about what Thomas did in order to become legal in the Western Bass events.  Western Bass rules initially stated that the rod only had to have a baitcasting or spinning reel attached to the rod.  But after winning his first event, the other anglers complained that Thomas’ technique was not sporting, they called him a “meat fisherman.”  This left Wayne Cummings, Tournament Director for WBFA in a tight spot.  Cumming called Thomas and told him he’d have to reduce the length of his rod.  Thomas and Cummings agreed to the 7-foot 6-inch length.

Story on Tule Dipper, Dee Thomas from the Oakland Tribune May 14, 1964.
Story on Tule Dipper, Dee Thomas, from the Oakland Tribune January 20, 1965.

Thomas had already seen the writing on the wall and had been practicing with a 7 1/2-foot rod in his garage.  He’d developed a technique where by pulling line with his left hand off the reel between the reel and the stripper guide, he had better control over the jig.  And, because the rod was shorter, it effectively allowed him to work the bait back to the boat.  With the standard 12- to 16-foot Hawger rod he’d been accustomed to using while tule dipping, you could not do that.

This opened Thomas’ eyes and he further developed the technique with respect to boat position, sun angle, wind angle, etc.  The new rules imparted by the anglers and WBFA would come back to bite them in the rear end.

Now that we have the history of Flippin’ under our belts, let’s look at this 1961 article on Doodle Socking, or tule dipping.

Before flipping was unveiled in 1974, anglers wanting to probe the shallows very often did so with the long rod. Standard equipment was a 12- to 16-foot cane pole with anywhere from 60- to 100-pound line attached to the tip. The length of the line ranged anywhere from a couple of feet to the length of the rod and the angler sculled the boat down the shoreline and probed openings in the grass, tules or shoreline willows with a surface buzzer. Other baits used were spinners and a crazy worm developed by DeLong called the Jigging Worm.  Recently I went to the DeLong website and saw that they’d brought the Jigging worm back but it looks like it’s been relegated to the sale bin.  I’m going to have to get some just for the heck of it.

Recently I was thumbing through the 1961 Southern Angler’s and Hunter’s Guide by Don Fuelsch and saw an article he penned on doodle socking. Although it’s short, it’s a great look back on a technique that’s pretty much gone the way of the paper graph.

Another cool thing about the article is it shows a couple of great vintage pictures of the technique in action. We all know what it’s like to hook a hot fish right at the boat as you’re pulling a bait out of the water – there isn’t much time to react at all.  With this technique, though, you’re inviting that sort of heart attack material to happen.

1961 article on doodle socking page 1. Photo 1961 Don Fuelsch's Southern Angler's and Hunter's Guide.
1961 article on doodle socking page 2. Photo 1961 Don Fuelsch's Southern Angler's and Hunter's Guide.

Looking at the pictures, the angler has no more than two feet of line hanging off his pole as he fights what appears to be some decent fish. Makes me wonder how long they played them or did they just lift them out of the water as fast as they could?

The pictures also show that doodle socking wasn’t anything close to flipping at all. The major differences are:

  • the line is attached to the end of the pole,
  • the amount of line the angler’s able to use on each flip,
  • the fact that in flipping, because of the shorter rod, you have more control over your bait,
  • flipping allows you to work your bait back to the boat due again to the much shorter rod.

Yeah, doodle sockers will always claim that flipping is just doodle socking, but overall they’re a completely different means in which to present a lure to a shallow bass. Take it from the man who originated flippin’ himself. He started out as a tule dippin’ doodle socker but he took the knowledge of that technique and developed an even better one.