When you consider the tens-of-thousands of lures that have been developed over the course of time, very few have become cult legends. Of course, the original Rapala Floating Minnow, the Heddon Zara Spook and Jim Bagley’s Balsa B fit this bill to a tee. The Storm Wiggle Wart is another one of those iconic baits.
Unfortunately, for a lot of these baits, what made them produce was the original manufacturer. Take for instance the Balsa B or the Diving Balsa Bs of the 70s and 80s. Here’s a line of baits that terrorized the tournament circuits back in that time, when Jim Bagley owned the company. Then Jim sold the company in 1988, manufacturing was changed and voila, Bagley’s baits were no long flying of the pegs like they had been.
The same can be said of the original Smithwick RB1200 Rattlin’ Rogue or the original cedar plugs carved by Milton Poe of northern California.
Another of these cult classics gone wrong is the original Storm Wiggle Wart – the one manufactured by the Storm brothers prior to its sale to Rapala in 1999.
But the history of the Storm Lure company is where the magic was.
The company was started in the mid-60s in the garage of Gary and Bill Storm in Norman Oklahoma. Over time a third brother would join the group. The Storms owned a local plastics company and used their plastic formulation to manufacture their baits. They also made their own molds.
Between the three brothers there was two physicists and a mechanical engineer – all the knowledge you need to understand plastics as well as design and build things.
But let’s get back to the ad.
Of all the baits that Storm manufactured over the years, none of them had an impact on bass fishing like the Wiggle Wart. Although Storm had been advertising in outdoor and bass magazines for quite a while with nice, full-glossy ads, the first Wiggle Wart ad I’ve come across is this one – in black and white cartoon form. The ad is from a Bassmaster magazine in 1976.
Why storm didn’t pimp the Wiggle Wart as they’d been doing the Thin Fin is beyond me. One thought would be they didn’t have time to get a full-glossy ad made and sent in before printing. But that thought is negated with future ads as Storm continued to run this ad for another year.
What got me about the ad was it signifies the humble beginning of a lure that would become synonymous with Table Rock Lake and numerous other lakes in which it was like American Express – don’t leave home without it.
The Wiggle Wart for over 20 years was manufactured by Storm in the same manner – the same molds, the same plastic and the same weight system. It caught the snot out of the fish. Then Rapala – a company known for making some of the best baits in the industry, bought Storm and it all went downhill from there.
Rapala had new molds made, reportedly used a different base plastic and came out with the “new and improved” Wiggle Wart. Unfortunately, “new and improved” wasn’t the case as the new baits didn’t have anywhere near the action as the old ones.
After that, anglers went on a spending spree to buy up all the original Storm-manufactured baits still on the shelf and today if you want one of the originals, you have to spend a mint on eBay for even a rough used one.
I always have the same question when this happens. Why do companies buy existing, successful companies and ruin their investment? It’s happened time and time again in the fishing tackle industry. To me it all comes down to arrogance and/or bean counters. They’re arrogant in thinking they can improve that mouse trap design they bought. Or the bean counters, who are more interested in the bottom line, talk the head shed into finding a way to make them cheaper.
One thing I say to that is did they sell enough Warts after they bought Storm to pay for the “upgrades” and the cost of buying the company? I’d have to say no by looking at the Rapala website. Here you see a bait that doesn’t even resemble the original and they only offer eight colors in it. I wonder how much longer it’ll be before it’s relegated to tackle history.