You probably won’t recognize the angler in today’s historical news photo, but you’ll certainly recognize his contribution to the sport. Jesse Payton is shown here (in 1970) holding a 10-pound bass he caught on what was originally known locally as the “Jesse Payton Rig.” Jesse and his wife retired in 1964, moving from their Indiana home to the big bass lakes of central Florida. There, Jesse became known for his great catches of bass, both numbers and size, and his peculiar way of fishing for them. Jesse only threw a plastic worm, and he only threw them in purple. But it was his unique rigging method that accounted for his catches and garnered all the attention.
While Doug Hannon would be the angling personality to put the ‘swimming worm’ on most bass anglers radars, even designing and selling his own version, it was Jesse who created the technique and rigging in the late 1960s, around the same time that Doug caught his first bass. Hannon once stated that about 90 percent of his big bass catches came on a 6-inch worm that was standard for Jesse’s rig.
Jesse passed in 1980, and Doug in 2013, but the swimming worm is still around and catching bass for those who will take the time to learn the unique rigging method and retrieve that made this one of the best big bass lures in Florida.