When anglers today think of tackle boxes, there’s a myriad of companies that come to mind. Of course, Plano has been the stalwart for nearly half a century but there are also companies such as Bass Mafia, Gamakatsu, 6th Sense, and Daiwa. But always on the tail of Plano has been Flambeau – the other tackle box company.
Over the course of time there have been a number of tackle box companies. In the early 20th century through the mid-50s, if you were a serious bass angler, your tackle box consisted of a wooden hip-roof tackle box, such as that shown in the article, we did on Jason Lucas back in August 2021. Thankfully, shortly thereafter, plastic and aluminum took over the market and companies such as UMCO and Old Pal started manufacturing boxes out of those much lighter materials. Then in the late 60s and early 70s, a company out of Plano, Illinois started manufacturing boxes out of ABS plastic, a material that wouldn’t dissolve when a plastic worm touched it, and Plano Molding took off. But as mentioned in the paragraph above, Flambeau wasn’t far behind.
Both companies set themselves apart from the competition by utilizing the new Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene plastic or more commonly known as ABS. At the time, most plastic tackle boxes were made from the same material that plastic worms were made from Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC. If you remember back to basic chemistry and the old axiom, like dissolves like, you might get the picture. But it wasn’t the PVC in the worms that did the melting of your tackle box. It was actually the plasticizer in the worm that would eat the PVC tackle box. But, since this isn’t a chemistry class, I won’t bore you with the details.
The benefits of ABS were twofold. As mentioned above, this form of polymer would not dissolve when in contact with plastic worms. The other benefit was the ABS was much more rugged and could withstand more abuse than the plastics that were being used at the time. Plano and Flambeau essentially took the market because of this.
But these companies didn’t just take the market because of their use of the new plastic. They provided tackle storage solutions that anglers had never seen before. Both companies provided the standard fold-out boxes, and hip-roof boxes but they also experimented with drawer-style boxes. These boxes took up less room and allowed tackle to be organized in a better manner in some cases.
Then they both came out with what is known today as the utility box, or the 3700-size box. As bass boats evolved from having no under-deck storage to having copious amounts of under-deck storage, the utility box took over the market.
What we’ll look at today is an early 1980s Flambeau tackle box catalog with a letter from the VP of marketing, D. R. Butler. The catalog was sent to someone looking for information on the boxes, maybe even a bass club. This catalog not only takes us back in time with respect to the boxes themselves, but also the baits used in the catalog to fill the boxes. It’s a really cool snapshot of the day.
The cover of this catalog is amazing. It features Flambeau’s Adventurer Bass Pro Series double-sided box and within the box are some vintage, lead-lipped Balsa Bs, some Mann’s Jelly Worms, some spinnerbaits with vinyl skirts, worm hooks and worm weights. The only drawback to the picture is the Penn 900-series levelwind reel. Someone really should have used an ABU 5500C or 5600C for the picture.
The first two inside pages give a little information about Flambeau, their line of boxes, and their design. The picture accompanying the text features one of their drawer-style boxes. A bait bucket and a number of their other boxes.
Pages four and five feature the box on the cover, the Adventurer Bass Pro Series, Bass Twin 748 as well as the single sided model, the 724 and Mini Twin 715. Provided are their dimensions, features and that dang Penn reel again.
Moving on to pages six and seven, there are a couple fold out Tourney Series boxes as well as a 1707 Buzz Bait box, my favorite the 1735 Crank-Spinner Combo, three-in-one 1726 and the 1203 Spinnerbait Box.
Pages eight and nine feature the drawer-style boxes such as the 2275, 2277, 2276, 2253, and 2233. These boxes were in no doubt made to compete with Plano’s 777, 747, 7777 and 737 series boxes. They were solid boxes that competed well with the competition.
No tackle box company of the day would have a complete line of tackle boxes without offering a hip-roof style box. On pages 10 and 11, Flambeau featured their hip-roof designs, the 1987, 1986, and 1999 models.
On pages 12 through 14, Flambeau presented their traditional series fold-out boxes. I would venture to say everyone started their fishing career or hobby with a box of this design as it’s practical for nearly everything that swims.
Then on page 15 there’s a box I’d never seen before, the Fishin’ System 2000. This was a fold out type box that came with nine individual smaller boxes that fit in a lift out tray. This looks like it would have been a neat box for terminal tackle and other things such as reel parts.
Also on page 15 are two boxes I vividly remember, the Bass Pak I and Bass Pak II. I remember these because I owned a couple and in the hot desert sun of Lake Mead and Havasu, they warped the first time out. Of course back then we didn’t have under-deck storage so these boxes were dealt the wrath of the 110-degree sun. Still, my Plano 1123s survived. Lesson learned.
The next page that interested me was 22 where Flambeau featured their Worm Tamer boxes. These boxes were the first of their kind and spawned the 3700 Plano. The 3700 has become synonymous with bass fishing over the last 50 years and it al started with this box. The model D box was perfect for 6- to 9-inch worms, crankbaits and Rapalas. By the time I was in my second bass boat, I had a duffle bag I’d carry with about five or six of these boxes.
Also on page 22, above the Worm Tamers, are some boxes you might find familiar. These are the same boxes that Johnny Morris sold under the Bass Pro Shops label, made by Flambeau. I had some of these boxes as well as the BPS renditions and the Flambeau boxes seemed to be of a higher quality. Maybe Flambeau sold Johnny the seconds or he requested a cheaper plastic in the construction of the BPS brand.
The rest of the catalog has some odds and ends in it such as coffee cups, battery boxes, utility boxes, etc. Overall, it’s a great catalog that brought back some memories of my early days of bass fishing.
The entire catalog is posted below in a gallery. Click on the first picture and scroll through the images.
Next week I’ll be posting Flambeau’s Number-One competitor, Plano, from the same era.