Steve Blazer, maker of Tennessee Toughy crankbaits, shows off some of his Tapp crankbaits. Photo Terry Battisti, at the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club meet at Pigeon Forge, TN, January 2023.

This week I’ve had the privilege of being at my first National Fishing Lure Collectors Club (NFLCC) meet in Pigeon Forge, TN.  I’ve been a member of this club off and on for over ten years but have never had the chance to attend one of their shows.  I’ll be writing more about the show and will post more videos in the coming weeks but today, I’d like to share with you a video interview I did with Tennessee Toughy Steve Blazer.

Blazer started making balsawood crankbaits for himself because the baits he’d been using wouldn’t hold up to a day’s hard fishing.  By the end of the day, he’d find his wooden crankbaits destroyed and in order to keep using them, he’d have to repair them to use on the next trip.  When it got to the point where the baits could no longer be repaired, that when he figured he could build a better bait, one that would last more than a day’s hard fishing.

Enter the Tennessee Toughy crankbait.

Blazer started with no knowledge of crankbait design, other than what he’d seen from repairing his store-bought baits.  With that knowledge, and some spare bills retrieved from his worn out store-bought baits, he spent time designing his first bait.  After some work at the drafting board and fiddling, he got his first bait to run.  That was his first success, as he knew if her could get a bait to run straight and to the depth he intended, he’d have this design thing down.

His next bait, known only as the Tennessee Toughy with the dorsal fin, was the first bait he’d sell to the local tackle shops.  Maybe a few hundred were made.  His next bait, which he referred to as, “the bait that looks like nothing in nature,” had what could only be described as a pot belly.  It was fashioned from 3/8-inch thick balsawood and had a swooping back coupled with a potbelly.  He didn’t intend on designing the body that way, but for the bait to be weighted right, that’s what was required.  That bait also made it to the local tackle stores, again only known as a Tennessee Toughy.

Blazer’s third bait design would include what would end up becoming one of his signatures, the coffin bill.  This bait was a big departure from the pot belly lure, having a shape that resembled a shad remarkably well.  Known as the pointed-nose Tennessee Toughy, this bait was a deeper diver than any bait he’d designed before.  It too made the tackle store shelves and played the leading role in winning the 1993 BASS Masters Classic on Lake Logan Martin.

But the bait that gave him star status, and his designs’ first Classic win (1984 Arkansas River) was his fourth design, again, only known as a Tennessee Toughy at first.

This bait was specifically designed to consistently hit the 10-foot depths and quickly became a staple bait of the Carolina cranking crowd.  Gerald Beck would run them from Tennessee to the Carolinas and one of the anglers he gave the bait to was an angler by the name of Ronnie Tapp.  The crankbait brought Tapp so much success that it became known as the Tapp crankbait to the local Carolina tournament crowd.This is Part One of the story of Steve Blazer, developer of Tennessee Toughy crankbaits and how his baits have gone from fishing tools that held up to the rigors of angling, to that of legend.

We hope you enjoy the video.

To see the video, click on the link below.

Video:  Steve Blazer Tennessee Toughy – Part One