Mepps Bass brochure, panel 1, front cover.
Mepps Bass brochure, panel 2.

In the mid-1980s Mepps, and more specifically Sheldons’ Inc., produced a series of species-specific brochures that offered tips on what Mepps lures to use to catch each species. The set of brochures I have are for musky, panfish, walleye, pike and bass. I believe Mepps also produced trout and salmon brochures. Today we’ll look at the Mepps Bass Brochure to see how the company was marketing to bass anglers in mid- to late-1980s.

Each brochure is a single sheet, folded into four vertical quadrants, making eight total panels. The covers are simple, with the Mepps name at top, a center photo of an angler holding whatever species the brochure is geared toward, with the species name in bold at the bottom, along with Sheldons’ Antigo, Wisconsin address. The image on the front of the bass brochure is of “Illinois fisherman George Hammermeister” holding a “6-pound largemouth that nailed his Mepps Bass Killer.”

Mepps Bass brochure, panel 3.
Mepps Bass brochure, panel 4.

The bass brochure opens with an invitation to throw the Mepps Combos or the Bass Killer spinnerbait through the weeds. The opening declares that “These revolutionary ‘new’ bass lures can be dragged through a salad bar, and come back clean.”

Then, to emphasize the weedless nature and effectiveness of the Mepps lures, the next section is titled Bassin’ Experts Speak, where four noted personalities offer testimonials to the spinners. Here’s the brief text in total:

          Outdoor writer Morris Gresham, in Popular Lures magazine noted Texas bass guide, Weldon Wims, had the following to say about Mepps Combo Killers.
          “I have never thrown any type of bait, including a worm, jig and pig, or standard spinner bait that could be worked through brush as easily as these. The ability to get through thick, thick, thick brush – especially with as large a blade and as much wire that’s on them – fascinates me.”
          Jack McQuarrie in U.S. Bass said about the Mepps Bass Killer, “You can throw it into heavy moss and come back with a clean bait…When I was told how they can be worked through brush, I thought, ‘this just can’t be.’ But it is!”
          Another advocate of Mepps Black Fury and Comet Combos is Bass ‘n Gal pro Kathy Magers…”The Black Fury yellow dot is a great imitator of bream and other small panfish,” Kathy advises, “as are many of the Comet Combos. Because they’re weedless they can be worked slowly over rocky and sunken brush. Hungry bass find them irresistible.”`
          Even Woo Daves, runner-up in the 1988 Bassmasters Classic, has attributed much of his success to the Mepps Bass Killer. “Some of my best stringers in the past few years,” Woo comments, “have been caught on…a ¼ or ⅜ oz. white Mepps spinner bait with a Mister Twister white Double Tail trailer.”

Mepps Bass brochure, panel 5.
Mepps Bass brochure, panel 6.

The Mepps bass brochure offers some pretty standard Bassin’ Tips, but also makes sure to include a sales pitch for their lures. For example, “Schooling bass are ‘suckers’ for in-line spinners. Combos are deadly. If bass are breaking all around you, but you can’t get them to hit, Hot Tip…offer them a Combo Killer. So what if they’re in the weeds.”

And,

“Chartreuse Mister Twister tails attached to a #3 gold Mepps Comet Combo are ‘deadly’ in dingy water; while white Twister tails attached to a silver Comet Combo will draw strikes in gin-clear water.”

Mepps was really pushing their Bass Killer Spinnerbaits, as well as the newly acquired Mister Twister company, which Mepps purchased in 1982. But they made sure to also highlight some of the old tried-and-true bass catchers in their catalog, like the Comet Mino. 

In addition to Mr. Hammermeister’s 6-pound largemouth on the front cover, the brochure shared four other photos of anglers with big bass. Three of these fish – 9 lb. 2 oz.; 11 lb. 10 oz.; and 11 lb. 3 oz. – were caught on the Mepps Comet Mino. The fourth is a chunky bass, no weight given, caught by a young Mike Dills on a Mepps single adjustable blade Bass Killer spinnerbait. The 11 lb. 3 oz. beast is especially impressive – caught by Mepps Expert Fisherman Don Shade, who wears the Mepps jacket patches to prove his standing – because this fish also qualified as the Pennsylvania state record largemouth.

Mepps Bass brochure, panel 7.
Mepps Bass brochure, panel 8.

I contacted Mepps President Mike Sheldon and asked him about the brochures. He had some interesting things to say about the anglers pictured. Concerning Mr. Shade, Mike said, “Don Shade caught a lot of big fish on Mepps in PA. He may have had more than one state record.” Indeed he did. In addition to Shade’s 11 lb. 3 oz. state record largemouth caught in 1983, in 1980 he also recorded the Pennsylvania state record brook trout, a 25.5 inch, 5 lb. 11 oz. fish he caught using a Mepps Aglia Long Mino Spinner. Interestingly, the Pottsville Republican newspaper that ran the story of Shade’s record brook trout also had an entry immediately above it noting that the PA northern pike state record had also been broken in 1980, with a 33.5 lb. monster that was caught on, you guessed it, a Mepps spinner (#3 Aglia).  

The small photo, on the final page, of the angler wearing the Mepps patch-adorned vest and holding a crappie also sparked Mike’s memory. He said, “The guy by all the Mepps patches is Todd Plath. As a kid he was crazy for fishing and the Mepps Master Angler patches. He eventually went to work for us as a Sales Rep and Territorial representative. He’s still about as avid as any fishermen I know. Lives in WI and has been out on open water fishing countless times already this year.” I did a search for Todd Plath and found several articles, along with a couple of photos showing him holding trophy walleye and channel catfish, caught on Mepps spinners. Todd is wearing his Mepps vest in all of the newspaper photos. Mike continued, “When Todd was working for us we had a sales meeting in Eagle River. All the salesmen came in and we’d have meetings for part of the day and guides/fishing set up for whoever wanted to go out. Todd caught a 50” musky on the Eagle River Chain, which we were told was unheard of on that water at the time.”

Bill Kremkau is the South Carolina angler holding the 11 lb. 10 oz. lunker in the Mepps bass brochure. That bass was caught in 1972, but the weight of that one fish is not the most impressive thing about Kremkau’s catch. In 1972 Kremkau was seeking to overturn the SC state largemouth record of 16 lbs. 2 ozs. and in that year he caught three trophy bass over 10 pounds: the 11-10 he’s shown holding in the brochure, a 10 lb. 2 oz. largemouth, and a 12 lb. 1 oz. pig that was the only one not caught on a Mepps spinner. Kremkau fished a 200 acre lake, mostly “using the largest Mepps Mino they make.” Kremkau learned the lake by spending more than 8 months going around it with a rock tied to a rope to record depths. 

The brochure ends with a pitch for the Mepps Angler Awards Program, where an angler could earn patches like those worn by Shade or Plath for catching qualifying fish. The other species brochures follow basically the same format. All in all, these brochures were a great, inexpensive way to effectively promote specific Mepps lures for anglers targeting certain species. They offered “expert” opinions and testimonials, photos of impressive big fish caught on Mepps lures, some rather predictable tips and fish habits, and a good reason for anglers to develop a relationship with the company via the awards program.

Mike told me that Mepps probably did just one print run of the brochures and then used them up over the next two or three years. The last reference I was able to find on these brochures was in a March, 1990 issue of the Wisconsin State Journal, which would put their publication date at around 1987 or so. As a fan of these kinds of promotional efforts from lure companies, I’d love to see Mepps resurrect these brochures and update them for modern anglers.