With the Classic just around the corner and a ton of 1979 ads to go through, I thought it would be cool to go back to a company that has had a lot of wins over the years in the BASS Masters Classic. So, today in Strike King 1979, we’re going to look at one of the most prolific companies in the industry as well as some of their baits that put them on the map.
The story of Strike King dates back to the early 1960s when an angler by the name of Bill McEwen started a lure business making spinnerbait out of safety pins, a lead mold and pot, some hooks, blades and swivels. At the time Bill Dance was the hot stick in the west Tennessee and Arkansas marinas and was fishing McEwen’s homemade bait with a lot of success.
McEwen hadn’t come up with a name for his spinnerbait yet and was talking with Dance on what he should name it. Dance told McEwen that the bass were “Striking” at the bait. With a play on words, the name of the bait became the Strike King spinnerbait.
By 1964 you could find ads for the bait in the local newspapers as well as one of the most popular fishing and hunting annuals, Don Fuelsch’s Southern Angler’s and Hunter’s Guide. Then, in 1966, McEwen sold the company, which still consisted only of safety pins, a lead pot some hooks and blades, to Charles Spence for the sum of $2,500.
Spence named the company after the spinnerbait and then made the move to buy the C.A. Clark Manufacturing Company and their Clarks Water Scout. With two top-notch baits to offer anglers, he commenced in creating a company that would become a powerhouse in the burgeoning bass fishing industry.
Spence was no dummy when it came to selling baits. He knew he’d need a face for his company and who better to hire than Bill Dance, the man who named the bait. By the late 1960s, Dance was fully sponsored by Strike King and at times was even making baits on the table in his kitchen.
Through the 1970s, Strike King grew into one of the largest tackle companies in the country. Then in 1978, another Strike King angler by the name of Bobby Murray would put the company on top of the pack by winning the BASS Master Classic on a lure he cobbed together using a Strike King Timber Spoon coupled with a Hildebrandt Snagless Sally spinner assembly.
Murray didn’t invent the rig but he borrowed the idea from Ricky Green who had developed it due to his disdain of throwing the Johnson Silver Minnow. Green called the bait the Arkansas Rig.
After the event, Strike King ran with the bait and within a short time introduced the Timber Spin and the Timber Buzz, the new buzzbait version. Anglers from east to west and north to south purchased the Classic-winning bait in droves.
The first ad, the lead-in image of this article, features Bobby Murray and the two baits spawned off the Timber King. Also in that ad is a mail order offer to get the trio of baits for $4.95. I really miss this time when companies made offers like this, send us a few bucks and we’ll send you some baits, a hat and maybe a patch or sticker. I wish companies would start doing this again.
Another thing about this ad, and every ad placed in 1979, was their listing of the professional anglers fishing their baits along with the TV shows they produced. Bill Dance Outdoors, John Fox’s American Angler, The Bobby Meador Show and The Rayo Breckenridge Show. Of the four, only the first two were broadcast on the UHF channels we received in the west.
Spence’s bait development didn’t stop there, as shown in the second ad, which featured Charles Spence himself. His next invention for 1979 came in the form of the Grass King, a spoon with a traditional spinnerbait wire attached to it. This bait came in both double and single spin variants.
The next ad, featuring Bill Dance, again had the Timber Spin, Timber King and Strike King’s namesake Strike King Magnum model spinnerbait. The ad has Dance wading in a field of lily pads, either setting the hook or fighting a bass, water flying everywhere and a big smile on Dance.
The final ad, which was found in American Angler magazine, featured John Fox and the Fox Models of the Strike King spinnerbait. I’m not sure what delineated the Fox Model from the standard Strike King spinnerbait. The writeup says it featured Sampo ball bearing swivels combined with prism bar blades, but all the other spinnerbaits made by Strike King featured these attributes too.
The 1970s was the decade of the spinnerbait, or baits with spinners, having played a major role in every Classic besides the 1973 Classic on Clarks Hill and the 1979 Classic on Texoma. It wouldn’t come back into the limelight until a kid from Kalamazoo, Michigan with the initials KVD would bring the bait back to prominence.
It has always been curious to me why the grass spoons like the Johnson Silver Minnow and the Timber King fell out of vogue over the years. There is no doubt they’d still work if people would just throw them. Same with the Timber Spin and Timber Buzz. Maybe someday, some angler will dig into grandpa’s tackle box, pull one out and win an event on it. Unfortunately, my cynicism has grown over the years.
Wow! I so love reading your articles. Bring back many memories to this 70 year old fellar. Living in Pennsylvania there was only 1 fish, trout and fly fishing was the game of the day. 1979 I worked at Piper Aircraft and a fellow I worked with too me to a beaver dam farm filed along the Susquehanna, we tossed 6″ purple Creme worms and I was very skeptical. We caught fish on almost every cast and most were in the 3 lb. range. I was bitten by the bass bug that day and ever since. Thank you so much for bringing back so many fond memories for me. Yes I still have a boat and I still bass fish but not as long, as much or as far away but I still so love it.
Bob, thank you for the kind words and for your support. It makes us smile when we get messages like this. Glad to hear you’re still getting out on the water at 70! I hope I’m in the same shape when I get there. 🙂
As a matter of fact terry the first 5-pounder I caught last season was on a Johnson Silver Minnow which by the way is 103 years old this year! Reminds me of an incident with my Long-Time Fishing Apprentice Warren Platt. About 15 years ago we were fishing top water with all vintage tackle and the bite faded as the sun moved overhead. Then for the first and only time, since I met Warren, he pulled, from under the boat seat, a well-hidden, graphite spinning rod, rigged with a plastic worm. I was a bit speechless at this transgression and asked him what the heck he was doing. He cackled something about being “prepared” and stated that this was the “only way we were going to catch any bass with the sun on the water.” After a period of hesitation to get over the shock, I said, “If I catch a bass on a pre-1940 lure, will you put that thing away?”. Self-assured, he said he certainly would but there was no chance that was going to happen. You guessed it; I put on a Johnson Silver Minnow and caught a decent bass on the first cast. Warren said something I cannot print on this site and put the spinning rod back under the seat. Love that Johnson Silver Minnow.
LOL. Now that’s a funny story Bill! As you proved, the Silver Minnow and all its copycats will still produce today. My biggest gripe with the Silver Minnow was how difficult it was to sharpen the hook. The metal used in the hook was horrible and I had some spoons where I would file away the point before ever getting it sharp. I’m sure this hat a lot to do with the plating and plating process. But today, they’re using a much better hook on the lure. I should buy some and give them a try. Thanks for the story Bill! It brought a smile to my face!