Recently one of our Bass Fishing Archives supporters, Andy Kinslow, sent us a box of old catalogs and one-by-one we’ve been putting them up for you all to see. Well, today in Gator Grip 1979, we’re sharing another one of these catalogs.
Most every angler over the age of 40 should recognize the name Gator Grip from experience. J & L Tool and Machine produced the only dual-paddle power grip for ABU reels and others until reel manufacturers realized few anglers used the stock handles that came with the reels.
At the shop I worked in, it was typical when a customer purchased a new reel, be it an ABU, Daiwa Millionaire, or DAM Quick Champion, we would fill it with line for free and place a Gator Grip on it for $3.95. I don’t recall ever not replacing the stock handle.
Then in 1977, ABU introduced their version of the Power Handle. ABU’s was a bit longer but the paddles were constructed out of hard plastic and smooth, unlike the textured rubber of the Gator Grip. We continued to replace the ABU handles as our customers preferred the feel of the Gator Grip.
Same with the new Shimano Bantam 100, that was released in 1979. This beautiful little reel with it’s teak handle paddles instantly went under the screwdriver and a Gator Grip was swapped out. How I wish today I had all those teak handles we replaced.
But J & L Tool and Machine didn’t just make power handles for casting reels. They also made handles for spinning reels like Mitchells, Zebco Cardinals, and Zebco 33s. When it came to aftermarket power handles, there was only one company.
Then, as new products and techniques came to the forefront of bass fishing, J & L Tool and Machine continued to keep one step ahead of the game. When Lew’s introduced the Speed Spool in 1975, and the palming plate was revealed, J & L Tool and Machine came out with the Comfort Cap, a rubber cap that fit over the sideplate that contained the spool tension knob.
J & L Tool and Machine didn’t stop there. When Basil Bacon took a 5600C and took out the springs to create the first flipping reel, J & L Tool and Machine came out with the Gator Flip which converted your pushbutton reel into a thumb bar reel. You still had to remove the return springs but now you didn’t have to buy a 5600C.
All that covers the first two pages in this 8-page catalog.
What came next had me scratching my head. On pages 4 through 6, J & L Tool and Machine introduced their new lineup of Babe’s Lures. I’d never heard of these so I took a deeper look into each bait.
There were striper jigs, spoons, Beetle Spin style baits, buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, on the first two pages and then on page 6, there’s a Spook style bait called Babe’s Jim Dandy. That piqued my interest, because I know of a Babe and Jim that in the 1960s were a hell of a team in the World Series of Sport Fishing events. Jim also had a tackle company by the name of Rogers’ World Championship Baits. But why would J & L Tool and Machine company be selling baits manufactured by Rogers? Curiosity got the best of me, and I did some digging.
Thankfully I’d just gotten done scanning all my 1979 magazines and had separated the ads into a separate file. Low-and-behold, there’s a J & L Tool and Machine company ad featuring the new series of baits manufactured by Jim Rogers. By the way, this is the way I dated this catalog due to the fact that there is no date within its pages.
I’m not sure how long J & L Tool and Machine sold the OEMd Rogers baits. Hopefully we’ll be able to figure that out as we peruse more ads in later magazines.
Other products that J & L Tool and Machine offered in this catalog were the Worm Welder, which was essentially a soldering iron that could be used to weld worms back together. I never used this item but did have a soldering iron I used all the time to repair worms I’d buy with my lunch money.
The next item was the Boat Float, which would keep water from coming in the drain plug should an angler forget to install their drainplug before launching.
Then, probably the biggest seller of all, over time, was the Golden Rule measuring board. Of all the Gator Grips that were sold over the years it was produced, I’d venture to say that the Golden Rule has most likely sold more units, because it’s been on the market longer. This board became the standard of all weigh-ins and tournament directors, replacing Jimmy Houston’s Wil-E-Go Board back in the early 80s.
The back cover of the catalog had a couple forms of transom savers and the Bearing Sentinel. Up through the 1990s I used the basic model transom saver, model GG-15 for all my boats until purchasing the newer designs that have come out in the past couple decades.
This catalog brought back a lot of memories for me, so I decided to see if J & L Tool and Machine was still in business. A quick Google search provided their URL and I was on their site. Unfortunately, the company no longer sells anything having to do with the fishing industry. So, I Googled Gator Grip.
The first hit gave me the Gator Grip site and I clicked on it. Up popped the 1970s logo and a quick scroll down the front page showed me they were no longer in Shelbyville, IN but had moved to Bovey, MN. Clicking on the “About” page, I found out that the company had been purchased from Joe and Linda Landwerlen (J & L) in 2006. The company no longer makes the original Gator Grip products except for the Golden Rule. They have become one of the leading weigh-in bag producers, offering four different styles. They also offer a culling beam that looks pretty stout.
That’s about it for this catalog. I hope this brought back some good memories for those of you who used Gator Grip products over the years. It’s nice to see that part of the company is still going strong. I guess with today’s reel manufacturers finally getting on the power handle bandwagon, there was no use for the aftermarket handles.
To view the entire catalog, please check out the gallery below. Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through the entire catalog.