Today in Mann’s Bait Company 1979, we’re going to look at several ads from the iconic bait company and man. Bass fishing and bass fishing history can’t be discussed without the mention of Tom Mann. Mann started out in the tackle business in the early 1960s and by the end of that decade was one of the powerhouses of the fledgling bass industry.
But making baits was only part of Mann’s repertoire.
Tom Mann was one of the first people Ray Scott called to fish his first event at Beaver Lake, Arkansas. He was also a major player in the start of Humminbird electronics, then known as Allied Sports INC. Mann also was one of the top anglers in the newly formed BASS Masters Trail, winning two events along with four 2nds, five 3rds, and 40 Top-10 finishes over his short career.
Although his angling prowess was respected by all his contemporaries, Mann’s biggest talent was designing baits that caught fish. From the Little George to the Jelly Worm, Mann only had a couple of flops over his 50-year career in bait design.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, you couldn’t open a bass fishing magazine without seeing ads from the Mann’s Bait Company. Tom Mann understood advertising and took it to another level. But there’s one thing about the Mann’s Bait Company I don’t understand. That is what happened to all of Mann’s Baits catalogs? One would think that with the volume of ads he placed, he must have also printed copious amounts of catalogs. Yet, they’re as common as hen’s teeth in the wild.
Let’s check out these ads.
The first ad (Lead-in for this article) is for Mann’s new metal flake Jelly Worm. I don’t remember whether it was Mann’s that put flake in worms first or Mister Twister. Looking back at the 1977 Mister Twister catalog, there are two or three color SKUs that offer silver flake. From memory, that was the color flake that Mann’s offered at the time too.
In the ad, Mann’s states that, “Metal Flake adds a new dimension to work fishing that you have never before experienced. By gathering and reflecting light, these little shiny particles will entice more strikes , which means more pounds on your stringer.”
As with all of Mann’s ads during that time, they weren’t just the typical ad showing you a new bait or product. These ads, as with all his ads, were mail-order offers too. In this particular ad, if you sent $3.50 you get four $1 worm packs in the new metal flake colors plus a boat decal and patch. Not a bad deal.
Before going on to the next ad, I’d like to talk about the design of the ad. The ad featured the well-known Indian Jelly Worm on the front. At this time, this design was placed on a sticker/boat decal. The background color was bright yellow and the worm was Strawberry. Looking back at the 1974 Mann’s catalog we have posted here, the cost was $0.50. what gets me about this sticker/design is it would not fly in today’s political environment, even though Tom Mann was a Native American.
The second ad we have, also from the 1979 ad campaign, featured a multi-bait offer. The ad is titled, “Six-Time Bassmaster Classic Qualifier Tom Mann Offers 6 Good Reasons Why You Should Fish a Mann’s Lure.”
From there he lists his six reasons, Number 1 being his Jelly Worm. Reasons Number 2 through 5 were also baits, namely the Little George, The Sting Ray Grub, The razor Back Pig, and the new Deep Piglet Razor back. I’m not sure of the thinking or logic behind the “reasons.” His reasons for fishing Mann’s Lures are the lures themselves.
The final reason was confidence. Now that is a reason to fish Mann’s baits.
For a mere $5 and $0.25 for handling, you could get one each of these baits in colors that Tom would pik based on your area. No patch or boat decal was in the offer but holy mackerel, that was a good deal just for the baits. Just think what those baits would cost today.
Ad number three was the only color ad in the bunch and featured the Mann’s Jelly Fish and Swimmin’ Grub. Although the ad says that freshwater species, such as black bass, striped bass and crappie could be caught with these baits, I tend to lean more towards the other fish he mentioned, the speckled trout. At least in the colors shown in the ad.
The offer associated with this ad was two packs of Jelly Fish, one pack of Swimmin’ Grubs, heads and a boat decal plus patch all for $6. One thing is for certain, Tom Mann made sure he gave you a bargain.
The fourth ad was another multi-lure offer, this time featuring the Bionic Buzzer, Deep Diving Razor Back Pig, Little George, Tom Cat Super Spin, and a pack of Jelly Worms. This offer would set you back a measly $6 and Mann threw in a patch for good measure. I’ve often wondered how many people took advantage of these offers.
Four of the baits in this ad are fairly well known but the Bionic Buzzer is a bait I don’t remember. It’s obviously an offshoot is the Arkansas Rig that Bobby Murray used to win the 1978 BASS Masters Classic. I just don’t remember seeing them at any shops. Taking a look into my 1980 Bass Pro Shops catalog, I see Mann’s had changed the name to the Mann-Buzzer. I wonder if he got sued by ABC for encroaching on the Bionic Man TV show. I could see it if he’d called it the Bionic Mann, which of course he didn’t.
Fifth in this series of ads features none other than the Jelly Worm and good old Leroy Brown. Th story of Leroy Brown goes back to a day that Mann caught a typical 1 1/2-pound bass. Upon getting the fish to the boat, Mann and the fish locked eyes and instead of Mann throwing it back, he placed it in his livewell to take back to the office aquarium.
Leroy Brown ended up becoming the most aggressive fish in the tank, yet he wouldn’t eat just any artificial lure. In fact, legend has it Leroy Brown would keep other fish from eating artificials. Mann figured that if he could get Leroy to eat a bait, it must be special. So all of his designs were tested using Leroy as the guinea pig.
In this Special Introductory Offer ad, Mann was using Leroy Brown’s exploits to sell Jelly Worms. In the four images you see a Jelly Worm fall into the tank and it gets Leroy’s attention. Leroy then goes over to the bait and lightly picks it up by the tail.
I’m not sure how this is supposed to sell Jelly Worms but the story Tom Mann tells in the text will lead one to believe the Jelly Worm is the best plastic worm on the market. Seriously, it was damn good bait and through the offer you could get six $1 packs for $4. Not a bad deal at all.
In ad number six, Tom Man turns to winter, and this ad having run in the January/February issue of National Bassman, it makes sense. In this ad, Mann concentrates on three deep-water baits, the Mann-O-Lure, the Little George, and the Sting Ray Grub. Although not all of these baits were designed for vertical fishing, they excelled at that technique and could be fished fast on a long cast too. Mann knew how and when to market his baits, because he was a master at fishing them.
This was probably the best deal of all the offers presented so far. If you sent Mann $3.50 and $0.50 for postage, you get two each of these baits. With another $0.50 he’d throw a patch in the box too.
If you aren’t tired of seeing Jelly Worm ads by now, you’ll be happy to see that ad number seven is just that. Another Jelly Worm ad.
This time Mann talks about other worms on the market that “bubble and boil,” or “gurgle and breathe.” Saying all of these attributes were designed to catch fishermen. His Jelly Worm, on the other hand, was designed to catch fish.
Mann then lists several pros of the day who were committed to using the baits. Pros like Jack Chancellor, Bill Dance, Johnny Morris, and Paul Chamblee all relied on the Jelly Worm. And for just $3.00 and $0.50 for handling, Mann would pick out his five best baits and send them to you along with a boat decal.
The final ad for today is a new concept Mann introduced in 1979, the Hacklback. One thing Mann noticed over time by watching the fish in his aquarium was that when a predator fish was about to feed, it would raise its dorsal fin up. This put other fish in the aquarium on point as they knew carnage was about to unfold.
Mann decided to incorporate this trait in a series of vibration baits and crankbaits, calling them the Hacklebacks. The Finn-Mann and Bullfin were two vibration baits coming in at 1/4- and 3/8-ounce respectively. The Bullfin Rooter was the Bullfin with a deep-diving lip placed on it for even deeper depths.
Readers could get a set of all three baits for the price of $7.50 as well as a patch and boat decal. Considering the cost of crankbaits back then, this was another deal worth the postage paid.
That end it for the Mann’s Bait Company ads from 1979. Eight different ads, all featuring mail offers well worth the time needed to write out a check and apply a stamp. How I wish companies would do this today.