That’s the moniker given in a June 1965 Fishing News article (Surface Fishing: Tips from a Real Expert) detailing the topwater expertise of one Jack Smithwick Sr. If you’re familiar with the old black, red and white packaging of Smithwick Lures, you might realize that Jack A. Smithwick’s father, Jack K. Smithwick, was the original founder of Smithwick Lures back in 1947. Jack A., Sr. was the “& Son” on the box.
In the article, Jack stated, “Many years ago I became a ‘top water’ man. That’s why I designed the Warhorse.” Though trying to follow and tease out the specifics of the Smithwick line-up is fairly confusing, at least to me, it appears that the Warhorse was basically the now recognized Devil’s Horse, the earliest versions maybe being without the prop spinners, and perhaps a little thicker in the nose. Making things even more confusing is the name changes that went on in the early days. From online research I’ve been doing, it seems like the bait went by the name “Devels Warhorse” beginning around 1960. Sometime around the later 60s through the early 70s, it’s called “Devils Warhorse” (spelled with an “i” instead of an “e”). Finally around 1973, it appears that Smithwick changed the name of this lure to Carrot Top.
Another historical account lists their first mass-produced lure as the Devil’s Horse, which it states was introduced in 1949. Back in the early days they made other baits including a jig called the “Devil’s Pony Tail.” There was also a lipless vibrating bait called a Water Gator and a crankbait called the Bo Jack amongst many others.
Back to the article on fishing topwater plugs, Jack stated, “I feel that in surface fishing, proper action is the big thing. The fisherman puts the action in, but the plug must be designed and balanced just so. Everything I turn out has this balance. Colors are important, yes indeed, but action is first.”
A few tips that Jack gave are probably just as pertinent now as they were when the article was written over 50 years ago:
- Always JERK the bait, NEVER pull it.
- Never use a snap SWIVEL. Get rid of those swivels.
- Blustery windy days are the best fishing. When it’s so windy that you can’t see your bait on top of the water, that’s the best fishing you will have.
One other item that Jack A. Smithwick is credited with is the naming of the Smithwick Rogue, one of the most popular early jerkbaits to hit the market. They made both a rattling and non-rattling version, and Jack A. preferred the non-rattling version. However, the rattling version was much easier to throw due to the extra weight, and it quickly caught on and outsold the non-rattling version by a wide margin. Smithwick ended up selling his lure company to PRADCO-Fishing in 1991.
For those interested in a cool look back at some real vintage and even some never-seen-before Smithwick baits, head on over to Retro Bassin’s You Tubes channel. Chris with Retro Bassin’ made the journey to Shreveport, LA to Bacon’s Bait and Tackle. Mike Bacon’s father, and Mike himself, was a personal friend of the Smithwicks and owns probably the largest collection of Smithwick baits and memorabilia known to exist. The links to two of the videos are below. We hope you enjoy.