This catalog, Okiebug 1974, has been a long time in coming to the site. I’ve had it quite a while and every time I go to write about it, the thought of scanning it scares the heck out of me. Twenty pages of this 116-page catalog are loose of the binding and to scan it properly so everyone can read it would mean the total destruction of the catalog. I knew one day I’d have to scan it to share it here and I guess that day is today.
What we have here is the only Okiebug catalog I have ever seen. I know there are more but finding them is like finding hens’ teeth. This is Catalog Number 4 printed in 1974, which means that there must have been Catalogs 1-3, for the years 1971 through 1973. This is an interesting fact and when you consider the year of this catalog, 1974, it makes me wonder how many more years Butler printed these catalogs.
What’s so curious about the year is that it’s the first year Johnny Morris came out with his infamous 1974 Bass Pro Shops catalog. Obviously, Butler and Okiebug Distributing Company had been around a while, but it’s also rumored that Butler had a hand in helping Morris start his fledgling Bass Pro Shops back in the early days. A buddy of mine, Mike McCabe of Angling Archeology, brought this to my attention a few months back, and at that time I didn’t believe it true. I’m still pulling that string to verify the answer.
What strikes me about this catalog is how perfect it is with respect to its contents. Everything within the pages was something a bass angler of the time needed and used. There were no gimmicks or extraneous items clogging up the pages. It’s a lot like Morris’ inaugural catalog, although Morris’ was a lot nicer being full color.
This catalog is lengthy at 116 pages and mostly printed in black and white. Twenty-four pages are full color and looking at the companies dedicated to those pages I suspect it was the companies that asked for color print. I say that because those companies were front and center of the 1970s bass boom and they knew what advertising could do to their bottom line. Of course, that’s just a guess on my part.
The catalog is too long to fully cover it in this article so I’m going to concentrate on what I deem the important stuff. The entire catalog is presented at the bottom in the gallery should you want to scroll through it. If you see something in it that I didn’t deem important but want to know more about it, drop a comment below and I’ll address it.
Let’s move on to the catalog itself.
One of the things that draws me to this catalog is the front cover. Printed on a blue background is the year, company name and the ever-famous Okiebug logo. Inside the cover is a picture of Don Butler, owner of Okiebug and also the winner of the 1972 Bass Masters Classic and 1973 Arkansas Bassmaster Invitational.
Page two has a welcome letter to the anglers reading the catalog. Of course, there’s always the “thank you for supporting us,” portion of these notes, but there’s also a paragraph where Butler talks about his new TV show, “Fishing with the Pros.”
The final paragraph, though, had some chilling words and a piece of advice for those running bass boats. Butler brought up the death of fellow bass angler and boating components manufacturer, Vernon Fowlkes. Fowlkes was killed at Bass Masters Classic III on Clark Hill Reservoir when the steering cable on the boat he was in broke and ejected the three men. The boat wasn’t equipped with a kill switch, something that was mandatory in all B.A.S.S.-sanctioned events since 1972, and had single-cable steering. Butler stated in this paragraph that he believed in dual-cable steering but had “mixed emotions” of kill switches. It shows how different boating safety was during this time.
Pages two through four present some of Okiebug’s offerings in the day from Hackle Tail spinnerbaits, plastic worms, the Okiebug-Aerator, as well as hats and patches. Then on Page five, the color starts with Okiebug’s Small Okiebug Spinnerbait, or S.O.B. for short. This 1/4-ounce spinnerbait won the 1972 Bass Masters Classic for Butler and at $1.14 each, how could you go wrong buying a few of them.
On Page seven, Butler shows off his standard Okiebug spinnerbait in two sizes and three configurations. First you had the 3/8- and 1/2-ounce single spins, followed by the 3/8- and 1/2-ounce tandem spins. Then there was a 1/2-ounce Magnum Copper tandem spin. The final offering was the 1/2-ounce Sputter Spinner that featured an early buzz-bait-style blade forward of the main spinner. The spinnerbaits were offered in 10 colors and what appears to be both vinyl and rubber skirts.
Page eight is an awesome display of Jim Bagley’s Balsa Bs. This page is really cool in that it is prior to Bagley giving numbers to the early squarebills. Instead, this was the time they were called the Little B, the B and the Big B. Look at the price of them, $3.89 each or $42.00 per dozen. There are many of these baits today where $42 won’t even get you close to purchasing one of them.
The next seven pages, nine through 15, feature none other than Mann’s Bait Company. Of course, the opening act is the Jelly Worm in all 15 berry flavors. The colors are all fish-catchers, but the prices are fisherman-catchers. A bag of 20 six-incher would only set you back $1.29 and if bigger fish is what you were after, you’d have to drop down $2.69 for 20 eight-inchers. I’ll take a hundred please.
Pages 10, 13, and 15 show off the ever-famous Little George, Super George, and Big George tail spins. Nestled between these pages you’ll find the Mann’s Wooly Bully spinnerbait, the Mann’s Sting Ray Grub, and Fat Albert, Tom Mann’s answer to the alphabet lure craze.
If you’re a Whopper Stopper fan, Page 16 is just for you. This is probably the best color chart I have seen for the Hellbender. It’s two pages long and also provides the angler with a size chart.
The next pages, 17-23, are for the Cordell fans and it starts out with the famous ad with Cotton Cordell, Fred Young and his Brother Odis admiring the new plastic Big-Os made by Cotton. This as was placed in nearly every single bass-centric magazine of the time. And for $9.75, you could get an egg carton of six original colors for your own use. I wonder how many of those are still around?
Page 19 has more Big-Os and colors as well as some custom-built rods, snaps, split rings, guides and pistol-grip handles. Pages 20 on feature more of Cordell’s baits with some of the favorites such as the Red Fin, Boy Howdy, The Spot, Gay Blade, and Chameleons. You’ll also find on page 23 Cordell’s Buzz Gears and ABU Cap Nuts.
For the Jim Rogers’ fans, Page 24 begins with the Hummin’ Rat buzz bait. We’ve previously talked about the Harkins Lunker Lure being the first credited buzz bait but last week we wrote about the Blakemore Twister predating the Lunker Lure by a couple years. Well, here again we have a buzz bait that predates the Lunker Lure. The following page Rogers presents his version of the classic Bomber, the Craw-Pap and Super Craw-Pap. Much like the original Bomber and Arbogast Mudbug, the Craw-pap was a crawdad imitating bait. But this bait is also advertised as being a suspending bait as well as having a rattle. Page 26 features the Rogers Big Jim, another bait answering the Big-O craze and what appears to be a complete color guide.
Page 27 has a cool flat-sided crankbait by Tennessee company, Doll, called the Top Secret. I’ve seen a few of these recently and they have me wondering if this was the start of the flat-side craze. I have seen some Fred Young baits as well as other Tennessee carvers’ products that were also flat-sided but it’s hard to say who came first. It would also take a few years before the flat-sided baits took off.
The next two pages were dedicated to FlipTail. Page 28 has what has to be the best color chart I’ve seen from FlipTail ever. Twenty colors that were available in every style soft plastic they made. The next page offered the price list for 25- and 100-count bags. Man, I wish worms were still this cheap. Today you can’t buy a 10-pack of Senkos for what you could get a 100-count bag of 7-1/4-inch worms for. Also present on this page is the first color marker specifically made for soft plastics.
The following pages are all black and white but don’t let the lack of color dissuade you from reading further. If you’re a fan of Rebel, pages 30 and 31 feature a good selection of the baits that George Perrin and PRADCO were putting out at the time. After Rebel is Bass Buster, then Bomber, then Bill Norman and Norman’s little-known company, Ranger.
Throughout the rest of the catalog you’ll see bait companies like Smithwick, PICO, Bill Plumber, Arbogast, Blakemore, Storm, ZORRO, Uncle Josh, Pedigo, Creme, Yum Yum, the list is too long to name.
There’s also a good section for rods, and what surprised me was Okiebug offered not only factory rods from Fenwick, they also offered custom Okiebug rods made from Fenwick blanks. Top that off with offering Fenwick’s new graphite rod, the GFC555 for only $89.95.
You know this was a serious anglers’ catalog when they dedicated several pages to rod building components. They offered Fenwick blanks, Lew’s Fuji components, Mildrum and Aetna guides, cork grips, and everything else the custom builder would need. They were Mudhole before Mudhole was ever a thought.
Further on in the catalog, you get into the boating equipment. Lowrance finders, anchor winches, trolling motors, Tom Mann’s Humminbird, Fo-Mac products (Vernon Fowlkes company, see intro to this article), and other must-have items from the day.
The catalog had two order forms complete with carbon paper so you could retain a copy of your order as well as a self-addressed envelope to send your order in.
The inside back cover had a pretty funny illustration of an skeleton of an angler and his catch caught in a tree that could be personalized and framed.
To end the catalog, the back cover was an ad for Ranger Boats and that Okiebug could put you in a new Ranger bass boat. I know that Blake Honeycutt had the Ranger account for the eastern U.S., this makes me wonder if Butler had it for the middle U.S.
In all, this is an amazing catalog. I was sorry to have it fall apart as I scanned it but it’s more important for others to see our history rather than it sit in my stacks, only to be seen by me. To view the entire catalog, see the gallery below. Click on the first image and then scroll through.
If anyone out there has any old catalogs they’d like to share here on the Bass Fishing Archives, please drop me a note or leave a comment. We’d love to feature your collection so others can see where we’ve come from.