When it comes to tackle companies of the 1970s that made a mark, it’s hard not to talk about Fleck Products INC. of Birmingham, AL. Fleck owned the mid-70s when it came to spinnerbaits, having claimed Bass Masters Classic wins from 1974 through 1976. And their other baits were no slouches either. Their small plastic worms were awesome finesse baits and came in some not-so-standard color combinations compared to the rest of the industry. Because of this, I felt it might be cool to look back on the company in their heyday and show you the Fleck Products 1978 Catalog.
If you’re looking for a 100-percent color catalog with all the bells and whistles, this isn’t the catalog for you. The only color parts are the front and back cover along with the color chart insert. Other than those, the entire catalog is in black and white. But don’t let that dissuade you, there’s some great history and detail between the covers.
To start off, the cover of the catalog is a great display of their plastic worms, what appears to be their 4-inch and 8-1/2-inch models in every color they offer. The baits are arranged in a starburst fashion with one of their Classic winning baits in the center. The spinnerbait appears as if it’s been photographically shrunk down to fit in the center or, it may be one of their 1/8-ounce baits. I’ll have to defer to someone that has fished that bait to confirm which is correct.
Turn the page and the inside cover has a dedication note from J.D. Robinson. Robinson talks about the company, how it was started, their plastics and of course their spinnerbaits. Typical verbiage coming from one of the brass at any company. What I found confusing was the line on the bottom of the page that states: A Division of Hank Roberts, INC – Boulder, Colorado. I understood the company was from Birmingham, AL so I turned back to the cover to check and yes, the cover states they’re from Birmingham. So, what’s the Boulder, Co connection and what was Hank Roberts, INC? It’s another mystery I’m going to have to research.
Page three starts the retro goodness with the “Weed Wader.” Fleck is surely taking advantage of their Classic wins and you see it right at the top of the page in bold print.
Fleck’s “Weed Wader” Champion of Spinnerbaits – Choice of the Pros.
The page lists their tandem spin blades (Indiana blades) in four sizes, 1/8-, 1/4-, 1/2-, and 7/8-ounce, 17 skirt colors and two blade colors. Below the product description table is another plug regarding the Classic wins and an interesting read. They state that in 1974 their bait not only won the Classic but placed in 2nd, 4th and 7th place. Pretty impressive and good reason to gloat.
Page four is more Weed Waders, this time in tandem willowleaf and tandem painted Indiana blades. Color selection has dropped from 17 to 11 for the tandem willowleafs and eight colors for the painted blades. Also, the 7/8-ounce option appears not to be available in these series.
In between the two series of baits is a paragraph that says, “The Weed Wader is the only spinnerbait that comes with a trailer hook and plastic keeper packaged with each lure. A secret the pros have been trying to keep hidden.”
I don’t recall any other spinnerbait company doing this at the time, but I do remember selling a ton of trailer hooks at the shop even before this.
Page five displays their long shaft single spin, in sizes 1/8-, 1/4-, and 1/2-ounce in 7 colors and two blade configurations. And at the bottom of the page are their trailer hooks and keepers. Below the trailer hook table is a description of why to use a trailer hook and how, for years, pros tried to keep their use a secret.
The next page reveals another bait I grew up fishing that killed not only the spotted bay bass in the local bays but the largemouths at all my local lakes. The Fleck Natural Shad. The lure is described as, “The Lure Bass and Speckled Trout Can’t Resist.” If you don’t remember this bait, there’s a picture on the back cover of this catalog to give you a better idea what I looked like.
The next lure in the lineup, a genre that has completely disappeared from the boxes of anglers, is a short arm spinnerbait called the “Falling Star.” This bait, as with most short arm spinnerbaits, was designed to be fished as a jig on the bottom. Here’s an example of how it was fished.
Position your boat off a point in deep water and make a long cast to shallow water and let the bait sink to the bottom. Then rip the bait off the bottom, letting it fall back to the bottom. Repeat the process until the bait is vertical below the boat. As the bait drops, watch the line for any sort of jump and set the hook.
But the bait wasn’t just a good “fall” bait. Like the Bass Buster Tarantula, the bait really performed in the shallows with a buzzing retrieve. The only downfall of this type of approach was the short arm wasn’t as weedless as its long-armed brethren. The Falling Star was offered in 12 colors, four sizes and two blade colors.
For those of you who fished Fleck worms, pages eight and nine are where you want to be. Fleck’s claim of being “the originator of the small diameter worm,” may be a bit of a stretch as I have a bunch of 4-inch Mann’s Jelly worms from the early 70s that are as thin as the Flecks as well as a bunch of local southern California hand pours from the same time. Maybe Rich Zaleski, or someone else, can shed some light on when exactly Fleck started manufacturing these baits.
The cool thing about Fleck during this time was they were one of the few manufacturers nationally that was making a bait with a stripe and/or dots. The only other companies I remember that were doing this was Sportsman’s Products (Super Float worms) and the local southern California worm makers. Flecks baits were also open cavity, hand-poured baits, which is what allowed them to do this. Their colors were well thought out, consistent and the plastic held up for such a small bait.
Fleck offered their worms in five sizes, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-1/2 and 8-1/2-inches. The regular packs came on card stock packaged in quantities of 11 (4-inch), 10 (5-inch), 9 (6-inch), 7 (7-1/2-inch) and 5 (8-1/2-inch) and retailed for $1.75 per card. An economy pack, 25 baits, was offered in the 4- through 7-1/2-inch baits and cost between $3.60 and $5.20 per pack. Pretty standard prices for a hand-poured worm at the time.
The next page Fleck introduces their Teaser jighead worm. This is by no means the first worm rigged on a jig as that had been done since the dawn of the contemporary plastic worm. It just makes me chuckle when I look at the picture and see a “shaky head.” Below the Teaser are Teaser Heads, offered in 1/16- to 1/4-ounce. This head and one further in the catalog look an awful lot like the head my buddy Bob Micks is looking for that we mentioned a few days ago in The 3-inch Grub post.
The remaining pages are a mix of goodness starting with page 11 and the Super Sal. The Super Sal was Fleck’s answer to the angler wanting to imitate a salamander. It was a big-bodied bait for only being 5 inches long and came in eight colors. They were packaged five per pack and retailed for $1.75.
Turn the page and you see the Goby Grub. I thought the Goby was a bait that was “invented” in the early 2000s. Nope, Fleck was way ahead of the curve as you can see. The Goby Grub came in two sizes, 15 colors and retailed for $1.50 per pack of nine or 10.
Below the Goby Grub are the Grub Jigs, the other head that bares a resemblance to the head Micks is trying to find. The grub head was offered in four sizes from 1/8-ounce to 1/2-ounce.
Jumping to page 14, Fleck is offering terminal tackle in the way of “Slip Leads” and “Worm Hooks.” I call this page out primarily for the costs associated with the purchase of these items back then. The sinkers ranged in size between 1/16- to 1/2-ounce in 1/16-ounce increments. Retailing for $1.00 per pack this equates to an individual price between $0.07 (1/16-oz) to $0.11 (1/2-oz) per sinker. As Edith and Archie Bunker used to sing, “Those were the days.”
Below the slip sinkers are what appears to be Mustad 33637 worm hooks. I say they’re Mustad because of the two keepers on the shaft. Eagle Claw’s worm hook had three keepers. Anyway, they offered hook sizes from 1 to 5/0 and they too retailed for $1.00 per pack. This equates to $0.08 (size 1) to $0.11 (5/0) per hook. Why are hooks so damn expensive today?
The final page in the catalog shows an offering of Fleck’s spinner blades. It’s curious that they only offer Indiana and willowleaf blades. Maybe they figured Colorado blades were ubiquitous and they didn’t need to tap that market.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back on Fleck and all they had to offer in 1978. What amazes me, maybe it shouldn’t, is a company that was so entrenched in the industry with winning baits would soon fade away. By the middle of the 1980s the company just disappeared. I don’t remember the cause of them going out of business so maybe one of you readers can enlighten me as to what happened.
Below you’ll find the gallery of the entire catalog. Click on the first image and then scroll through the pictures. I have also included the dealer price list and the color chart.