I feel confident that anyone reading this blog knows the name Tom Mann and Mann’s Bait Company. Mann was responsible for creating baits like the Jelly Worm, Little George, Razor Back, Razorback, and Deep Pig, to name a few. He also authored several books and helped put offshore structure fishing on the map when most bass anglers were flogging the bank.
What a lot of people under 40 don’t realize is that Tom Mann was one of the three individuals who started Humminbird.
In the late 60s and early 70s, depthfinders were expensive. But there was a mail-order electronics kit available, called a Heath Kit, that would allow anyone to make their own depthfinder. The problem with the Heath Kit and other depthfinders of the day, was electrical interference from a big motor would mess with the readout.
Blake Honeycutt and another gentleman from Eufaula, AL started working on a way to shield the interference. Once they had it figured out, they showed Tom Mann and the rest is history. The trio started Allied Sports Company and began selling Humminbird flashers.
The original Humminbird Depth Sounder had a depth scale of 0-100 feet. It was also the first depthfinder able to read depth without interference at high speeds. They also claimed the brightest lights that wouldn’t wash out in direct sunlight.
Around 1975, Allied Sports did another first. They made their units waterproof. That year they also introduced the Super Sixty, a unit with a 0–60-foot depth scale for increased resolution. This was likely done to compete with Lowrance’s units at the time.
What I have today is a look back at several Humminbird ads from their Allied Sports Company days. The ads are from 1973 and 1977, and provide a good look at the technology of the day, as well as when Tom Mann owned the company.
The first ads are from the 1973 time frame and nearly all feature Tom Mann in one way or fashion. The lead-in photo is an ad featuring the Super Speed depth sounder. The ad states that the unit will read “even the smallest targets” at “Speeds up to 55 mph.” The flasher was also touted to be readable with the sun at your back. Incorporated into the ad was the Fisherman’s Prayer and the opportunity to buy the print in several different forms.
The second ad features another interesting concept that Allied Sports was using to promote the flashers – Tom Mann’s Hawg Pen Club. Just send in a picture of you with an 8-pounder or better and you become a member of the Tom Mann Humminbird Depth Sounder Hawg Pen Club. Did anyone of you out there do this and do you still have the certificate? That would be a piece of memorabilia we’d love to share here on the Bass Fishing Archives.
The third ad, also from 1973, talks about the construction of the unit and actually compares itself to the VW stating, “Like a VW All of our quality improvements can’t be seen from the outside.” To me, that’s an interesting ad campaign – considering that in the early 70s, foreign cars were not too popular in the South. The rest of the ad states the ruggedness of the unit and how it was made.
The fourth ad is pretty much a rerun of the first three (also run in 1973) but this one has a picture of Tom Mann fishing. Mann was an avid proponent of the spinning rod and in this ad, you see him sporting the Garcia Mitchell reel – one of the most popular reels of the time.
The next series of ads is from 1977 and finally we get a look at the most famed unit of ‘Birds’ existence – the Super Sixty flasher. I can say from experience that at this time ‘Bird had the market share amongst anglers, at least in the West. The unit was bullet proof and its little brother, the Super Thirty was a close second for shallow water units. One caveat about the Super Thirty, though, was in order to get better definition in the shallow water, they sped the frequency of the unit up 100 percent. If you ever fished in a boat with one of these units, you know how noisy it was and, on a calm day, the vibration from the spinning bulb would actually transmit through the hull and into the water, creating rings or waves moving away from the boat. Imagine 100 spectator boats around a Classic angler and the noise that would create?
The fifth ad, ran in 1977, features Tom Mann and Bill Dance and goes into detail how back then, most anglers were fishing the ‘Bird on the Bassmaster Trail. It’s a cool look back into who was using what in the day.
Ad number six is also from 1977 and talks about the coaxial connections ‘Bird used. It’s another cool ad that shows to what depth (pun intended) the companies were going to drive sales their way.
The final ad in this series is a powerful one. They start out by touting their 2-inch titanate transducer, stating the industry standard is 1-inch. The increased size gave their unit better sensitivity to detect small depth changes, bait and even read in water only 1-foot deep.
They hammered the shallow-water capability coupled with their noise rejection by stating, “To make sure you see what’s below you and not the firing order of your motor’s sparkplugs, our positive noise rejection system positively eliminates false electrical signals.”
Those are some confident words.