Fishing in the Central Valley: A trip to the fishing past

I was out in my shop recently -digging through my long- stored piles of fishing lures, equipment and accessories - some of which went all the way back to the 1960s. It was like stepping into a time machine.

Most anglers go through various phases as they try new things.

For example, I went through a period of using rubber worms and had boxes of them in every color. My different eras were marked by trays of the current flavor.

Often the thinking was to get every size, model and color available as you searched for the “secret weapon” before others did. Why chance it, when you could buy it, and cover your bases. I’ve talked to other guys who have also realized decades later, that the initial response to a “ breakthrough bait” was to overkill things too, winding up with a lot of lures that just filled up your tackle box. I was guilty of this and my old tackle boxes tell the story.

One of the first things I uncovered in my digging was a box I didn’t recognize- but it smelled nice. I opened it and to my horror, there must have been at least 100 rubber worms of every color possible melded together in a giant mess. Early in the worm plastics explosion back in the late 1960s to 70s they didn’t realize that the chemicals on the plastic worms not only melted any other nearby plastic worms but that even the other hard plastic lures, or your tackle box, could end up half melted down.

I lost a bunch of my good lures that way. Sometimes pulling the congealed plastics apart worked, but I quit putting my worms in the same tackle box as my lures or anything else I wanted to use again. The plastic worm companies finally figured out how to stop this. Funny, guess I keep a box of these gummy worms around just to remind me of that time. The crème purple worms were the bomb then.

Another early epoch was marked by tons of topwater/ jerk bait lures. It all began with the floating balsa Rapala. In the beginning you couldn’t even get them but I guess the stores would even rent them for the day. They were deadly and so it was off to the races. Trays full of similar lures, then divers and bigger models in every color. I found all kinds of boxes of knockoff Rapalas and the following models from the competitors. It was a race and I didn’t want to be left out.

Digging in deeper, I found a layer of early swim bait lures that I think was from the late 1970s. Old plastics and paints don’t play well together and the stuff from that era was falling apart.

Back in the early days, all I had was a tackle box with a few of my best lures. I found it and inside was my trusty old Hula Popper ( frog pattern) a Hawaiian Wiggler ( early spinner bait ) a black rubber worm, a River Runt and a medium silver black Rapala and a few hooks.

My old tackle box was a treasure and a reminder of my early fishing days and the way most anglers fished back then.

When I got to some of my stored boxes from the late 1990s, the many boxes of jerkbaits, topwater, divers and swim baits screamed out overkill to me.

Yes, collecting all of these is a disease, but it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out the newest things and what really works. And it is cheaper than therapy.

Each era had its own flavor and focus that made it unique in my fishing journey. I think most serious anglers have gone down this same road, too.

Yeah, my enthusiasm and imagination can take off and you can see the evidence in my storage.

I had a lot of fun visiting the past but of course I have given up those fanatical obsessive ways and act much more rationally these days. Well, at least I try…. Never give up!

Roger George:, Rogergeorgeguideservice on Facebook and @StriperWars.

Roger George
Roger George