Tom Manns Baits and How to Fish Them Front and Back Cover

When it comes to the history of bass fishing, it’s hard to imagine it without mentioning Tom Mann.  Mann may not have been around at the start of bass fishing, but he was front and center when Ray Scott started holding tournaments in 1967.  Today in Mann’s Baits 1974, we’re going to look at some of the baits Tom Mann had available that year and just what else this 31-page catalog had to offer.

The Mann’s Bait company started out humbly in the late 1950s with the Sting Ray Grub and various jigs he’d developed.  At the time, Mann’s Bait Company didn’t exist, and he was making baits out of his house as a side job.

In 1960, Mann got a job as a Game and Fish officer with the Alabama Department of Conservation.  He kept his side job as a bait maker but in 1966, he left the Department and went full time with his namesake company, Mann’s Baits.  At that time, Mann moved the business from Enterprise, AL to Eufaula, AL to be closer to the lake and its fishermen.

By now Mann had several products he was producing that included the Flexible Worm, Fan Tail Worms, Glo-Jigs, Monster Sting Ray 9-inch worm, Wooly Bully spinnerbait, and The Little George.  Then in 1967 Mann came out with the Jelly Worm, which became one of his biggest sellers of all time.

Also in 1967, Mann was approached by Ray Scott to fish his second event, The Dixie Invitational on Smith Lake, AL.  Mann placed fifth in that event and went on to finish second in the second Dixie Invitational held a year later the same lake.  It’s difficult to determine how many of the early Bassmaster events Mann fished as records only show the top 20 contenders in the standings.  But, by 1971, Tom Mann was a fulltime pro on the Bassmaster Trail and qualified for the first BASS Masters Classic at Lake Mead, NV.

With Mann’s success on the tournament trail came more business to Mann’s Bait Company.  At one point Mann employed over 700 people, all making baits or selling baits.  Then in the late 1960s, Mann, Yank Dean, Steve Fulton, and Blake Honeycutt developed the Humminbird depth finder and started Allied Sports Inc.

By 1974, when this catalog came out, Tom Mann was producing no less than 15 different lure genres and many more within each group.  On top of that, Tom was publishing books through his company as well as through the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, while competing on the BASS Master Tournament Trail.

There’s a little history of Tom Mann and his bait company.  Now let’s take a look at the catalog.

Although the first 25 pages of this catalog displays the products of Mann’s Bait Company, it isn’t just a product catalog.  The final four pages are filled with pointers on how to fish the many baits Tom Mann produced.

So, let’s get on with the catalog.

The front cover is artwork fit for the times, with what appears to be a leaping bass with a Little George in its mouth.  I’m not an artist but I would describe the artwork as folksy.  The price of $1.00 is pretty cheap for a catalog of the day and I wonder where Mann sold them?  Did he send them to tackle shops to sell or did he sell them through the mail or both?

Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 2 and 3

Turning to the first page (actually page 2) is a great introduction to Mann’s Bait Company and how it came about by Tom Mann.  You can tell by Mann’s words that he was truly grateful for the opportunities he was presented while at the same time proud.

The next page starts a 4-page extravaganza on the Jelly worm starting with a size and color chart as well as a good description why the Jelly Worm was the king of worms in the day.  In 1974, Mann’s offered six sizes from 3 inches up to 9 inches in one-inch increments.  In my childhood I primarily used the 4 and 6-inch baits but there were times at Lake Casitas I’d tie on a 9-inch bait.

Colors such as grape, black grape, dewberry and scuppernong all took up places in my tacklebox as a youngster and if I was going to the Colorado River lake, I made sure to have some strawberry too.  I can still smell the scent today in my mind all these years later and if I forget, I have a few hundred in the garage to jog my memory.

Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 4 and 5
Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 6 and 7

Pages 4 through 6 then describe the packaging and costs per different pack.  Starting with the “Spare Pack” prices and quantities varied depending upon the size of the worm.  Next was the $1.00 pack and again, depending upon the size worm, the quantity varied.  The $1.00 pack was the general package size we bought for most baits except for the colors black grape and scuppernong, which we’d purchase 100 packs.

Page 7 shows a bait that I’d never heard of the Twintail Tadpole.  This is a bait that I would consider as a jig trailer and would have used it as such.  But Mann describes it as being used on its own with a weedless hook or as a spinnerbait trailer.  There’s no length given in the catalog, but they were packaged 5 five baits per pack.

The next page shows another bait that I’ve never seen and that’s the Jelly Dog.  Mann’s take of a plastic water dog was offered in three sizes and 10 colors.  It has the tell tail Jelly Worm tail and a beefy body.  If they’d been in any of the shops I’d frequented as a kid, I’d have bought some just to try.

Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 8 and 9

Next is the full lineup of the Little George tail spinners.  There were four different sizes of this bait starting with ¼-ounce and moving all the way to a full ounce.  The Little George, along with the Pedigo Spin Rite, were some of the first tailspins to come out and they were productive baits from the start.  If you ever read Roland martin’s 1980 book, Roland Martin’s 101 Bass-Catching Secrets, you’ll see he relied on the Little George a lot in his early years on the BASS Master Trail.

On the next page, Mann is introducing his new Big George, a vibration bait.  Having never seen one of these baits, I’m not sure if it’s made from lead or plastic, but I have to assume it was plastic with ballast.  If that’s the case, I’d have to say it was Mann’s response to the Cordell Spot or the Heddon Sonar.  There is no length or weight given for the lure.

The Super George is the next lure in the catalog, and it appears to be an exact body of the Big George but instead of having two trebles attached, the rear hook has been replaced with a spinner blade.  Reading the description, Mann says it’s a tailspin that was designed to be fished slow and that its sink rate is also slow.  He also mentions the bait vibrates, which is why I believe it’s the same body as the Big George.  Interesting concept for a tailspin and one that currently isn’t offered right now.  I wonder how long it’ll take some company to “re-invent” this bait?

Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 10 and 11
Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 12 and 13

Page 13 has a classic Mann’s Crankbait and one I spent some lunch money on, the Fat Albert.  Named after the cartoon character made popular by Bill Cosby, the Fat Albert crank was designed fully in response to the Big-O.  I can’t say I ever caught a fish on one, but they were always in my box.  I wish I still had them.

Mann’s lineup continues with a bait we wrote about a while ago as one of the best baits to ever be offered, the Sting Ray Grub.  These two pages surprised the heck out of me as I never knew the Sting Ray Grub was offered in any size other than 3 inches.  But Mann’s offered the bait in 1-1/2, 2, 3, and 4-inch sizes.  He also offered the bait rigged with a leadhead or without a head and in the same 15 colors the Jelly Worm was available in.

For the spinnerbait angler, Mann offered both the Wooly Bully Pro Model and Pro Tandem Models.  Each bait came in a blister pack with a skirt and two Sting ray Grubs for trailers.  This is different than the first Wooly Bullies that came out which were just adorned with the Grub.  The Pro Model was offered in 3/16, 1/4, 3/8, 5/8 , and 1-ounce sizes while the Pro Model Tandem started at ¼ ounce and worked up to 1 ounce.

Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 14 and 15
Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 16 and 17

The Razor Back was next and is unmistakably a vibration bait.  Weighing in at 3/8 ounce, the bait seems to have a fatter belly than top, which makes me wonder if that was space for rattles.  By this time the noisy Cordell Spots, which would eventually become known as the one-knocker, were becoming popular and the Rattle Trap was already making a name of itself in the east Texas and Louisiana area.

Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 18 and 19

Pages 19 through 21 cover the Mann-O-Lure spoon and Mann’s crappie, panfish and bass jigs.  Page 22 has the New Mann’s Frog Mann, a topwater bait that I’ve never seen before.  The next page that grabs my attention is page 25, with the Mann’s patches and stickers.  I have two of the back patches, but man would I like to be able to go back in time and get the rest of the patches and stickers on this page.

The rest of the catalog consists of sales areas and their representatives as well as the main office employees.  You’d never see a list of the main office employees on the web today or a way to reach them.  How times have changed, and mostly not for the better.  Gone are the days of the small manufacturer and its customer service.

Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 20 and 21
Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 22 and 23
Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 24 and 25
Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 26 and 27

The last four pages of the catalog are Tom’s suggestions on how to fish the baits presented.  He talks about techniques to fish the jelly Worm, Little George, Wolly Bully, Big George, Super George, etc.  It’s obvious that Mann wanted to sell baits and the best way to do that was make sure every angler out there knew how to fish.  But, from talking to people who really knew Mann, they have told me he truly like to teach people how to fish, sales or not.

The back cover (see lead-in image) of the catalog features Tom’s new book, Tom Mann’s Methods for Catching Bass, printed by B.A.S.S. in 1973.  This is another great book by Mann and one every serious angler should have in their library.

Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 28 and 29
Tom Mann's Baits and How to Fish Them Pages 30 and 31

Over the course of Mann’s BASS Master career, he fished in 104 tournaments, won two events, had four 2nd-place finishes, five 3rd-place finishes and 61 top-30 finishes.  In that time, he amassed nearly $36,525 in a day when the winner would receive between $2,000 and $3,000.  Mann left the tournament trail as a fulltime pro in 1984 and continued his work in the tackle industry.  Tom Mann passed away February 11, 2005 from complications of heart surgery.