Today’s post, Hand-Poured Plastics 1962, we’re going to deviate from the topics we’ve been talking about lately and look into something different. That subject is hand-poured plastics, a topic many had no clue about until the early 2000s, when Robo Worm finally made it east through western anglers such as Aaron Martens.
But first, let’s look at a little history of the hand-pour industry.
Some say it was Nick Creme who invented the modern plastic worm in 1949 – others say it was Dave DeLong. In any event, the new PVC material took artificial worm fishing to an all-new level. Prior to PVC, artificial worms were made from rubber – the kind your car tires are made of. They were hard, not very lifelike and left a lot to be desired when it came to action. Polyvinyl chloride changed all that.
Having grown up in southern California, hand pours were more the norm than the exception. In fact, hand pourers in southern Cal during the 1990s were as plentiful as wood carvers in east Tennessee.
But prior to the 1990s, there were only a few individuals pouring plastics in southern California. The first was Jim Smith, who started in the 1960s. Then John Viazanko and Al Numora started pouring in the early- to mid-1980s. Through the eighties you saw companies like Western Plastics, Buddah Bits, and others.
Yeah, we used Jelly Worms, Diamond Backs, and Mister Twisters, but in the 1970s and early 80s, if it was a tough bite and you wanted to catch fish, the ticket was a hand-poured worm by Jim Smith. Smith and his wife Carol ran a successful business out of their house in Glendale. Together they supplied their Smitty Worms and custom painted worm weights to nearly every tackle shop in the southland. But, if you ventured out of southern Cal, you were hard pressed to find anything hand poured let alone anyone who knew what a hand poured worm was.
Looking back, this surprises me because of all the ads placed in Bassmaster and other magazines featuring MF Manufacturing and Lurecraft hand pour kits. These kits normally offered a couple molds, a quart of plastic, a couple colors and maybe some flake. Maybe they didn’t sell because the wife didn’t like the way it messed up the kitchen, maybe it was because without a lot of practice, it was just easier to buy finished baits.
Today, though, it’s a lot easier to make plastics than it was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the early days, high quality molds were expensive, and the inexpensive ones were pretty bad. Not only that, the method of heating the liquid PVC was constrained to a hot plate and ladle with which you poured your molten plastic into the mold. It was messy and didn’t produce very good results for most anglers experimenting. And with one slip, you were met with second- and third-degree burns.
A major advancement came when Lee Manufacturing took one of their industry-standard lead pots and retooled the heating element on it so it would operate at a lower temperature. This advancement by Lee brought a much easier way to heat and distribute molten plastic into the open cavity molds used in this industry.
After this advancement in the late 80s, garage pourers started popping up everywhere – at least in southern California. It’d take the rest of the U.S. another 30 years or more to catch up.
What brought on this small history lesson in hand pours was an article and ad placed in the 1962 edition of Don Fuelsch’s Southern Angler’s and Hunter’s Guide. Although the article is titled, Mold Your Own Jigs, most of the piece was about making plastic worms. The directions on how to make plastics were rudimentary at best and really didn’t give the reader much to go on with respect on what was involved in making baits. It was also a little misleading in that they said the plastic had little odor – I guess we all have a different definition of how much something stinks.
The ad, which featured the Plastic Lure Company’s 666 Plastic Lure Kit, offers three molds and some plastic – no mention of coloring, a hot plate or ladle. The kit cost $3.95 back in ’62, not much for a do-it-yourself kit, but I wonder how many people bought them and whether or not the name effected sales?
To read the entire article, please go to the Gallery below, click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through the pages.