In the early 1970s, the spinnerbait was king of the tournament trail – especially the Bass Masters Classics. From 1971 through 1976, the spinnerbait either played leading role or supporting role in each Bass Masters Classic win. The most famous of the spinnerbaits was probably the Fleck Weedwader, which had a part in Classic IV through VI wins. But the spinnerbait that kick started the Classic winning streak was none other than a bait made by Stan Sloan’s Zorro Bait Company. Today we look back on Stan Sloan and The Aggravator.
Bobby Murray kick-started the streak with his win of Bassmaster Classic I. It’s also reported that Roland Martin used it to weigh big fish for the same event. Then in 1972, Ricky Green used The Aggravator to place second in Classic II and had big fish for the event on the same lure. Don Butler won Classic II with, you guessed it, his Small Okie Bug (SOB) spinnerbait.
Just skimming through the old Tournament Trial records in Bassmaster Magazine for the period it was obvious that the spinnerbait was the lure to throw. Rick Clunn broke the string when he caught fish on a Lunker Lure buzzbait, Johnson Silver Minnow, and flipping a plastic worm at Classic VII in 1977 on Toho.
Back to The Aggravator.
Sloan’s spinnerbait design was a little different than most others of the time. For example, the Bass Buster Tarantula, had an incredibly short arm, while their Scorpion had an arm that extended to the tip of the hook. The same could be said for Jimmy Houston’s Redman Spinnerbait. These short-arm baits were great for slow rolling and fishing on the fall, but they weren’t as weedless in grass and timber.
To increase the weedless trait of the spinnerbait, Sloan designed the arm of the bait to extend past the hook. Although the arm covered the hook, Sloan’s use of thinner gauge wire made it flexible enough for fish to still get hooked. Then, to add more action to the bait, Sloan packaged each spinnerbait with a hand-poured double-tail trailer called the Lizard.
The Aggravator was one of the most influential lures of the time but the way it was fished by Sloan and a few others is what really changed the face of spinnerbait fishing. At the time most anglers looked at a spinnerbait as a lure to fish in the mid-depths, on the bottom, slow. We call one of those techniques “slow rolling” today but another of the techniques was to lift the bait off the bottom and let it fall.
What Sloan had figured out, and the reason he developed the long arm, was that the bait could be fished shallow, near the surface or even buzzed lust below the surface creating a wake. Today we call that “bulging” a spinnerbait. The long arm allowed the bait to come through brush and even some weeds and not hang up as bad as spinnerbaits with short arms. This is the technique that won Bassmaster Classic I. Bobby Murray – fishing against Stan Sloan in fact – discovered that if he bulged the bait just below the surface, ran it up to emergent brush and killed the bait, the Lake Mead bass couldn’t resist the offering.
The Zorro Bait Company is actually still in business in Sparta, TN. Sloan ran the business into his final days prior to passing in July 2008. Obviously, there was and still is a good following for The Aggravator and many of the other baits Sloan made.
Awesome post, Terry! The Aggravator was the very first spinnerbait I used. Unfortunately, fishing from the shore as a young man, my first cast with it ended up in the top of a tree. God bless my grandmother who purchased the lure for me and then trekked a 1/4 mile into the woods only to watch my first cast end up dangling from a limb above us. You story is dead on regarding spinnerbaits use and effectiveness in the early days of tournament fishing. In the years since, I have purchased literally hundreds of various brands and the Aggravator was and remains one of the best.
Thanks Mike! I loved the Aggravator too! What a bummer you cast it in a tree your first cast. I can’t imagine how you felt….