Today in Fred Arbogast 1992 Catalog we’re going to take a somewhat contemporary look at a company that was started prior to the 1930s. For those of you that follow the Bass Fishing Archives you know that David Smith posted a book review of Fred Arbogast – A Biography of Akron’s Greatest Angler, back a few months ago. We’ve also posted a few early 1940s ads over time and I felt it only appropriate that we talk a little about the later years of the company prior to its being purchased by PRADCO in 1997.
So, let’s get on with this catalog.
The cover for this 1992 catalog is awesome. It’s a painting of a picture taken while Fred Arbogast was out on a lake while field testing lure in 1943. The artist is Barrett Taylor and he captures what I think is a really cool scene. Arbogast is fishing from a wooden boat and leaned against the seat is one of Arbogast’s split bamboo casting rods with casting reel loaded with black braided line. On the rod is a white red-head Hula Popper and there’s a Jitterbug sitting on the seat, you don’t know if he tried that bait first or it’s next in his lineup. What really has my attention, though, is the stringer attached to the seat support. I wonder how many bass are on that thing.
Aside from the contents list on Page 2, it and 3 are predominantly pushing the new Fresh Water Snooker bait. The bait was made out of wood, although all they say about the wood type is that it is highly buoyant yet has enough weight to cast well.
They used this body pattern to make six new Snooker baits for the freshwater, three topwater baits and three minnow-type divers. Of these various models, there were three sizes each in the lineup, 3 1/2-inch, 4 1/2-inch and 5 1/2-inch in length. The baits came in eight colors and each model seems like it would catch fish.
Further, on Page 2, they also introduce their saltwater version of the Snooker as well as a new saltwater lineup of lures and a new Dri Rind bait in the coming pages.
Page 4 we get into the meat of what everyone knows as Fred Arbogast baits, the Jitterbug. The Jitterbug was first introduced to the market back in 1939, making this the 53rd year of its production. Within the Jitterbug line there were 18 different models to choose from. Mix that up with 18 different colors and that means for the collector of Jitterbugs for this year alone they’d have to acquire 324 different baits to fill out just the 1992 offerings, not including any custom colors that may have been made. That’s a lot of baits.
Next, on Page 5 we move on to another stalwart in the Arbogast line, the Hula Popper. First released in 1940, this isn’t the Hula Popper that Arbogast originally brought to market. That bait resembled a more traditional fly rod popper that used his patented rubber skirt he designed for the Hawaiian Wiggler.
The next Hula Popper he’d design would be the casting version which weighed 5/8-ounce. This model was released in 1948 in plastic only and would become one of the companies all-time best sellers having sold north of 20 million baits between its release and 2017. It and the Jitterbug are certainly the defining lures of the company.
By the time this catalog was released, Arbogast was offering four different sizes in this model of the Hula Popper in 20 different colors.
Turning the page we’re met with two relative newcomers to the Arbogast lineup – the Jitterstick and The Windwalker. The Jitterstick, released in 1985, looks a lot like a Musky-sized Jitterbug but it’s 4 inches instead of 4 1/2-inches. Also, the Jitterstick has only two trebles where the Musky Jitterbug has three. The bait was offered in 12 colors.
The Windwalker was another topwater bait that found its home in the Arbogast line in 1991. The bait was made out of wood and had through-wire construction so it could hold up to anything a big fish could give it. It was a tail-weighted lure that sat vertical at rest and would dart upon a steady jerk retrieve. The bait was 4 1/2-inches long and weighed in at 3/4-ounce.
On the following page we’re met with the Sputterbug and the Sputterbuzz. Introduced in 1955, the Sputterbug was for all intents and purposes an inline buzzbait with a plastic body. This bait was offered in two sizes, 1/4-ounce and 5/8-ounce in 14 different colors. It would be discontinued five years later in 1997.
Its brother, the Sputterbuzz, was the exact same lure but this bait wore a much bigger buzzer. Introduced in 1984, Arbogast was probably trying to take advantage of the buzzbait craze that was still taking place in the U.S.
On Page 8 we get to the original Hula Popper, the Fly Rod Hula Popper. This bait was still offered in three different sizes and the 1/16-ounce version also came in a weedless model to boot. Armed with a single hook, the Fly Rod Hula Popper was fashioned with Arbogast’s rubber skirt and in this iteration was accompanied with living rubber legs coming out of the side of the body. I wish I’d known these existed when I was a kid fly rodding the local ponds for bass. I bet they would hold up much better than the cork or deer hair spun poppers I fished back then.
Page 10 brings us to another bait that was part of Arbogast’s early offerings, the Hawaiian Wiggler. This bait was first introduced in 1934 as the Shaker and was a spinner-type lure designed to get deep. The lure was designed to compete with the Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler, which used pork rind as the body.
The problem with the Shaker was its deer hair or feathered hook. Tying these was labor intensive so Arbogast looked to his past in the rubber industry and developed what would become the first rubber skirt in the industry, calling it the Hula Skirt. He placed the skirt on the Shaker and voila, he had the Hawaiian Wiggler. It debuted in 1936.
The insane thing about this lure is that over the next few years, Arbogast would offer the lure in 4 different configurations as well as a spoon. And, looking in this catalog, all of them were still available. This can only mean one thing, it still caught fish. The crazy thing is, I never heard of anyone catching a fish on the bait or asking for the at the shop I worked in from 1978 to 1988. Did Arbogast hold on to the lure because of nostalgia, or was it still catching fish? I’d like to know.
Next on the list is Arbogast’s little crankbait, the Arbo-Gaster. This little bait accounted for a lot of fish over its life and worked from coast to coast. It was just a nice little morsel for a bass to eat.
The Arbo-Gaster was first released in 1957 and was designed as a floating diver. Its metal lip made the bait run true and deep and with the rubber skirt on the rear treble, the bait had a lot of action. It was originally offered in two sizes, 1/4- and 5/8-ounce but some time later a 1/8-ounce version was added to the lineup. In 1992 it was offered in 15 colors.
Pages 12 and 13 feature another well-known bait, the Mud-Bug. This is one of the few baits not designed by Fred Arbogast or the company, but was designed by a man by the name of Tony Dana, from the Tru Shad Manufacturing Company. Fred Arbogast Company, INC. purchased the Mud-Bug and added it to its repertoire in 1969.
I think it’s obvious that Dana designed the lure to compete with the ever-popular Original Bomber. In 1992 it was offered in six different sizes and 32 different colors. Over the years, some of the Mud-Bugs were offered with or without rattles as well as scent tubes and other fish(erman)-catching models.
On the next page we get to a piece of tackle that changed the face of bass fishing and maybe fishing in general. Arbogast’s Hula Skirt. As stated earlier, Arbogast designed the skirt to replace the deer hair and feathers he was tying on his baits. These skirts would go on to become integral parts of many baits to come, most likely to be found on spinnerbaits.
In this catalog the company offered four different sizes of the skirt from the Midget 5000 series up to the Giant Size 6000 series, which was 5 inches in length. Twenty different colors were offered in 1992.
Turning to pages 21 through 26 we come to another interesting development by the folks at Arbogast, the Dri Rind. It had been a decade since the third resurrection of pork rind that happened in 1982. And, although the pigskin proved worth its weight, it was still, after 100 years, a pain in the sphincter to deal with. An angler had to keep the bait wet for it not to dry out on the hook. This meant when an angler picked up another rod, they had to drag the jig-n-pig in the water, which caused all sorts of other problems if you weren’t paying attention.
One of those solutions was Fred Arbogast Company’s Dri Rind. Made out of sheepskin, essentially chamois, the tanned skin was cut into several popular pork-rind shapes and sold in a myriad of colors. The cool thing about the Dri Rind was it would absorb scent.
The thing I didn’t like about it was it didn’t have the thickness of the real deal. Plus, being more pliable than pork, it tended to get fouled in the jig hook more often. It did have great action and the fish did eat it. I believe this product was one of the first to be chopped by PRADCO when they purchased the company in 1997.
Well, that about does it for this catalog. For the full catalog please look below at the gallery. Click on the first image and then use the arrows to scroll through the pages.
Note: The research done for this article was conducted using Kevin Virden’s books, Fred Arbogast – A Biography of Akron’s Greatest Angler, and The Fred Arbogast Company, Incorporated Fishing Lure Collector’s Guide 1940-1997.
I’m with you on the cool factor in the cover painting. Love it when tackle catalogs employed the plastic arts in their catalogs. It just adds a warm, personal touch that’s hard to beat. I’ve got a gene that pushes me to collect things, and I’ve been thinking for a few months of collecting something from the Arbogast line-up, haven’t decided what yet exactly. But your computing that their are 324 Jitterbugs to fill out a collection for 1992 alone has effectively scared me off that one. I don’t have then room, money or sanity to spare in trying to complete a collection of that size! Maybe I’ll just go with old catalogs…