Today in Smallmouth Magazine – Volume 1 Issue 12, we’re looking at the final issue of the inaugural year, December 1985. This was a pivotal issue for Tom Rodgers and team as it confirmed that there was indeed a need for a smallmouth-only publication.
In this issue there is the usual cast of Smallmouth contributors, Tom Rodgers, Billy Westmorland and Tom Zenanko. But there’s also another well-known writer/angling guru by the name of Rich Zaleski who made his Smallmouth debut in this issue. We’ll talk a little about that later.
The magazine starts off with Tom Rodgers, publisher and president of Smallmouth, talking about their first year and what a success it was. What got me about the piece was on two different fronts. First off, I was amazed the membership fee was $29.95 per year for 1985. That’s a lot of Hoss Flies for a predominantly four-page newsletter. I wonder if that’s what kept the newsletter from breaking the 5000-subscriber ceiling the first year. On the other hand, Rodgers got enough sponsor support in 1985 that he was able to lower the membership fees for 1986 to $19.95.
The second thing that grabbed my attention in Rodgers’ piece goes back to the 5,000-member mark for membership. Rodgers didn’t say how many more members they needed to hit that mark, but he alluded that they were close. Those numbers are surprisingly low compared to what I figured the membership was, but I’m sure it had to do with the cost of membership.
The second piece on the cover was penned by Billy Westmorland and was titled Dale Hollow’s December Smallmouth. Like all of Westmorland’s articles to date, he talks about monthly patterns for smallies and the baits to catch them, namely the Spinrite.
For those of you not familiar with this bait, the Spinrite is a tailspin, arguably the first tailspin, developed by Cecil Pedigo in 1956. The bait came in two configurations, one that resembled the tailspins of today with a belly hook and spinner off the tail. The other design, the one that Westmorland fished, had a wire extending from the head, a belly hook as well as a long wire coming out the tail where the spinner was attached along with a feathered treble hook. By the 1980s, the Pedigo company had been purchased by Uncle Josh.
The next page is dedicated to piece by Tom Zenanko called Things “That Hold Smallmouth.” I have to say there is more good information packed in that 400-word article than I’ve seen in a long time. I suggest this article to anyone that fishes bass – it’s that good.
Page three of the newsletter was an ad placed by Smallmouth for their new subscription fee. Not much more to say about that. On page four, there was a short article on the new South Carolina smallmouth record and another short on how to winterize your boat. The gem of this page is a quote from Jason Lucas’ book, Lucas on Bass Fishing, 1st ed. That said, “Have you ever noticed that nearly all resort owners are gray or bald, with distraught, hopeless expressions on their faces?” You got to love Lucas and his candid way of expressing himself.
At this point, we turn to page 5 and are greeted to a piece by Rich Zaleski or, how most people know him, RichZ. His article, Spoon Jiggin’ for Smallies, is as relevant today as it was in 1985. As usual, Zaleski takes a topic and writes an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand article that’s spot on. The only thing that dated the article, though, was his comment, “The new long-handled ‘crankin’’ rods are ideal for casting tackle…” Yep, back then the rod of choice was still a 5-1/2-foot pistol grip rod for most bass fishing techniques.
Page six ended the newsletter with the remainder of Westmorland’s piece on Dale Hollow’s December Smallmouths – complete with a picture of an Uncle Josh (Pedigo Lures) Spinrite.
That ends the first year of Smallmouth and soon we’ll get on with year two. In the meantime, the entire issue is posted below in the gallery. Click on the first image for a full-size, readable picture and use the arrows to scroll through the newsletter.