My name is Jerry Hundley and I live down at Branson MO. I have a good friend who was Jack Smithwicks brother-in-law. His name is Larry Eggers. He and his wife worked at the Smithwick plant. His wife painted eyes on the lures and Larry was in charge of the lead department.
Larry owns Jacks first Sketter boat. He also has a large number of custom painted Smithwick baits from the 1980’s. His wife was as skilled as they come at painting standard and custom colors. She really enjoyed her work.
Larry saw the picture of the Smithwick factory and observed the following…. The buildings right to left were: lead building, lure production building with metalizer in the back, boat house where Jack parked his boat and stored the overstock, tool and die shop. He also pointed out the old gas pump out front.
Larry Quit full time in 1982 but still worked there in the winter part time until the 1990’s. He also indicated that the first Rattle Trap tooling was made at the Smithwick factory and the then tooling was taken to the Rattle Trap plant to make the baits. The lure Bass Buster was made for Vergil Wardhope at the Smithwick factory because it was the only place at the time that had a metalizer to produce the desired finish on the lure.
Every year we would go to Mississippi for about a month or more and just fish and swim. I think it was about 1951 in Prentiss, Mississippi that I bought a Smithwick at Western Auto. I had a large bass on the first cast. My dad was so impressed, he called Jack Smithwick and took a bus to Shreveport to meet him and saw his operation in his garage. Dad started selling Smithwick lures that summer. He sold to Sears in Greensboro North Carolina and every service station, country store and then around large lakes in North Carolina, and at Santee Cooper in South Carolina. I remember he even went to Bluefield West Virginia to talk to a jobber. He did this for several years.
Jack came to visit us in North Carolina and brought us presents of lures and a Shakespeare rod and reel, open faced. I loved this outfit as I had been using a True Temper perfect stainless steel rod (and boy is it heavy, I weighed about 90 lbs) I still have this rod.
I do not remember the exact number of years that dad sold the lures, probably 5 to 10. Even after he stopped working for them Jack still sent lures for years, and his son even sent dad some in the last 10 years.
You would have had to know my dad, He would never take a chance. Jack wanted him to be the jobber and have a large stock, but my dad only wanted to take orders. So eventually Jack got jobbers in his territory, which was only fair, as they had many salesmen on the road.
I started out using Creekchub darters, injured minnows and a broken pikie, After I bought that first Smithwick I was hooked. It was like the bass had never seen them and they really caught fish.
My first was a top water lure which I still have. I really liked the top water strike, but when I really wanted to catch fish the lure of choice was the sinking S-100. I would throw at the target (this lure sinks slow) and while changing hands, I gave it a pull, and the fish usually struck very quick.
Wayne Clark – Georgia
His Dad With Fish
Wayne Clark’s dad with fish.
Dr. Todd – Fishing Smithwicks
A personal Smithwick story: One of the joys of summer in Northern Wisconsin was going to the local tackle shops with my dad two or three times per week to pick up bait and scope out the new tackle. There were two tackle shops in the unincorporated town of Gordon, WI which was less than 10 miles from our cabin. Another 15 miles down Highway 53 was Minong, WI–home at the time to Link Bros., a famed boat seller who now is even more famous for selling Jack Link’s Beef Jerky treats.
Anyway, in the town Minong were three additional tackle shops. One, which I forget the name of, also had a malt shop. We rarely went into this one, as my dad knew that going in would mean buying malts for all six kids. But one fine summer day when I was eight or nine, he took the whole clan in for malts. While we were delighting in our delicious frozen treats, my dad retreated to the back of the store where the fishing lures were all placed on a large wire rack. I never once saw a box for a lure in the entire time I went to this bait shop. Finishing my malt, I went back to join him.
Now, my dad never met a tackle shop he didn’t like, and always left with at least three or four lures. Mostly they were whatever was catching fish; Mepps spinners, Rapalas, Bill Normans, Rebels, Skinner spoon hooks, etc. My dad unexpectedly said, “why don’t you pick out a couple to fish with?”
My eyes lit up. Not too often was I given the choice of picking lures, as like most kids I was always attracted by the shiny, complicated, and aesthetic and not by whether a lure caught fish or not. We must have 75 lures I picked out as a kid remaining and few of them show any signs of catching fish.
I reached up on the rack and grabbed a lure that had caught my eye. “Smithwick,” my dad said, “Southern bass lure.” I nodded, picking the lure up next to it. “Devil’s Horse, same maker, same story.”
I thought a second. “I want these two,” I said suddenly. My dad’s eyebrow shot up, never a good sign. I decided to cut him off at the pass. “I’m sure they’ll catch fish. Just look at ’em!”.
My dad threw them in the pile silently. By silently I mean by swearing inaudibly under his breath. He clearly did not agree with my choices. When we got home I could not wait to tie on the Smithwicks–but which one? The Rattlin’ Rogue, a Finnish minnow clone, or the Devil’s Horse, a topwater bait? I chose the Devil’s Horse. Three hours later I was still casting it with nary a sign of luck. My dad came down to the lake and saw what I was doing, shaking his head silently. I got the message. The Smithwicks went onto the boathouse wall, where they remained untouched throughout my childhood years.
Fast forward to Illinois in 1998. I was bass fishing with a friend of mine from Florida on one of the local reservoirs. I was fishing a Jointed Jitterbug when I got a hit and the fish hung up on a stump and broke me off. I went to my tackle box to grab another J-Bug when my buddy said, “tie this on.” He handed me a Devil’s Horse. I tied it on, and guess what? I couldn’t keep fish OFF the Smithwick. It absolutely killed. I have had very few days where a fish hit on almost every cast, and this was one of them. Slowly I fell in love with the Devil’s Horse.
So twenty years after I became prejudiced against Smithwick, that bias was completely blown away by over twenty 1 to 2 1/2 pound Illinois bass.
— Dr. Todd E.A. Larson – Ohio
Check out this story about the tournament winning Devils Horse lure.