One of my favorite quotes is: You have to look to the past to gain an appreciation for the present and perspective for the future by Gordon B. Hinkley.
This quote can also be applied to fishing. Sometimes we need to stop and think about how things were in the past. By doing so, we will appreciate what we have in the present.
It is with that in mind that I have put together this post. In this post, we are going to look to the past at some of the best bass lures of all time to see what we can learn from the men behind their designs.
What are the best bass lures of all time?
Here is a quick preview of the top 7 baits, please continue reading below for more information on each one.
- Bill Lewis’s Rat-L-Trap
- Bob Carnes’ Arkie Jig
- Lauri Rapala’s Rapala Original Floater
- Fred Arbogast’s Hula Popper
- James Heddon’s Zara Spook
- Gary Yamamoto’s Senko
- Lunker Lure’s Buzzbait
The first on our list of the best bass lures of all time has to be Rat-L-Trap.
Back in 1960, Bill Lewis introduced a bait to the fishing industry that it had never seen before. In fact, with the rattle trap, he created a whole new category, the lipless crankbait.
It had the profile of a baitfish, a deadly wiggle, coupled with a unique rattling sound. Not only did this lure do a good job getting fish hooked, but it quickly hooked most anglers as well. For good reason, this lure caught fish.
The Rat-L-Trap has come a long way in the last half-century. Initially only available in a few different colors, you can buy it now in more colors than you can even think of!
There are also different types of this unique bait on the market. Take for example, the Floating Trap – Rat-L-Trap. A lipless crankbait that you can work like a topwater lure.
(You might also enjoy this article, Best Bass Crankbaits, an in-depth look at this category of bass lures)
Back in the day, jigs were made by each fisherman himself and then used to fish in their local area. Many anglers fished what was called a banana head jig. Though it was effective in catching fish, many times it would just fall on its side and get hung up.
That was until Bob Carnes came along with the idea to change the jig fishing lure forever. With just $38 dollars in his pocket, he set out to create a more balanced jig. That goal shortly turned into a reality when he modified the existing jig to create the much-loved fishing lure that we know today, such as the Arkie Jig.
He started off by making small adjustments like moving the hook eye to the front of the head to create a more balanced lure. Next, he replaced the wire weed guards with fiber ones. Lastly, he added the skirt. Interestingly, the skirt was originally made from rubber elastic thread taken from a woman’s girdle, nowadays it has since been changed over to silicone.
So the next time you reach into your tackle box to grab a jig, think about how far this fishing lure has come.
It all started with a simple observation by Lauri Rapala: Big fish eat little-wounded fish. It was with that observation in mind that he set out to create a lure that would imitate a wounded baitfish. The end result is what we know today as the Rapala Original Floater.
However, the original didn’t look anything like the one that we see on most shelves. The Original Floater was hand carved from a single piece of cork by Lauri himself. He then used tinfoil from chocolate to wrap it and give it some flash. Lastly he used melted photographic negatives to offer some protection.
Now the time had come to put to test what had started off as an observation. It was time to see if big fish really like eating wounded fish. The results proved true- boy did this lure catch fish! Many have claimed that his first lures could catch up to 600 pounds of fish in a single day. Quickly word spread and Lauri Rapala became busy creating more of these lures. He even tested every lure to make sure it had that unique, yet deadly action.
Since then Rapala has become a leading company in the fishing lure industry sticking true to testing every lure to make sure it will run true, right out of the box.
Learn more about Rapala’s history in the folowing video:
What started off as a hobby for Fred Arbogast, that of carving fishing lures for his family and friends, quickly became so popular that he quit his job and went on to create some of the topwater bass fishing lures known today.
In 1926, he quit his job at Goodyear to pursue his dream of making lures. His first lure was the Spin-Tail Kicker. This lure was made of tin and gave the anglers the ability to manipulate the wings according to the fishing conditions. Fred didn’t stop there, he then went on to create the Tin-Liz. It was very similar to the Spin Tail kicker, but it was made available in more sizes.
It was also during this time that many people became interested in the Hawaiian culture. Motivated by this trend he created the Hawaiian Wiggler. To give this lure unique appeal, he cut rubber sheets into narrow strips and made what we know today as the hula skirt.
In total, Fred Arbogast created 11 different fishing lures, some of which are still very popular today such as the Arbogast Hula Popper. A lure that has a cupped mouth when brought across the water will give it a unique pop noise and action.
He also created the Arbogast Jitterbug. This lure has a double cupped lip that creates a unique sound that draws bass in. It is arguably one of the best topwater bass lures of all time.
James Heddon started carving his own fishing lures out of broom sticks in the 1890’s. In 1902 he created his first fishing lure called the Dowagiac Expert. When he heard about the success of the Zaragosa Minnow in Pensacola, Florida he started creating his own minnow.
During the 1950’s they began experimenting with materials by making these minnows out of plastic. Because the lures were plastic they were transparent and somewhat resembled a ghost. It was for this reason that in the beginning they were called spooks. They then became known as the Zaragosa Spooks and finally shortened it to Zara Spook. We know them today as the Heddon Zara Spook.
The Heddon Zara Spook has seen a lot of changes over the years and not just to its name. It has also been modified a few times to perfectly execute a technique bass anglers love: the walk the dog technique.
To this day the Heddon Zara Spook is by far one of the most popular topwater bass fishing lures on the market.
Sure Gary Yamamoto lures don’t have the many decades of use that some of the other lure mentioned in this post do, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had an impact. Gary Yamamoto is the creator of the very well-known stick bait called the Yamamoto Senko.
The creation of this lure actually happened by mistake. Gary was trying to improve an existing plastic worm design. He was trying to create a twitch bait that sits on top of the water and can be twitched with the stroke of the rod. However, after doing some testing, he quickly realized that he had created something special. He created a finesse bait that gave off a lot of action- something bass just simply can’t resist.
Over the last decade, this lure has taken the plastic worm industry by storm. He has since then gone on to create a number of different worms such as the: the Swim Senko, the Shad Shape Worm, the Kut Tail Worm, and the California Roll.
Recently, Gary has added a few hard baits as well to compliment his plastic worm line up.
Another one of the best bass lures in recent history is the Lunker Lure Buzzbait.
Yes, the buzzbait has been around for quite a while, but the Lunker Lure original is the one that really has brought this lure to the forefront. Two things that made this lure unique were a new prop that helps to keep the lure on the surface of the water and a squeaky prop.
It was a well-known fact that a squeaky prop would get the fish’s attention that many fishermen would attach the buzzbait to their side mirrors so that the props would get more wear and tear. This additional wear time would be in hopes of creating a louder squeak.
Since the release of this lure, buzzbaits can be found all over the country due to their ability to create commotion and catch big bass.
Taking a few minutes to reflect on the past and all the hard work that has gone into the design of some of our favorite bass fishing lures really helps up to appreciate where we have come in the fishing industry. Starting off with simple designs and recreating, as well as improving them over the years has only contributed to the success and fun of this sport.
What do you think are the best bass lures of all time? Share with us your thoughts in the section below.