Classic lures good as gold for top-water bassin'

Posted: September 25, 2018 at 1 a.m.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Classic lures that still catch bass today include Bass Oreno (from left), Crazy Shad and Jitterbug. They're shown here with an Ambassadeur 5000 C reel the author bought used in 1976 that's still in use. The rod is a Lew's Speed Stick with pistol grip handle purchased new the same year.

Word from the water is that top-water action for black bass is getting livelier now that it's autumn.

A morning of first-light fishing at Beaver Lake found me searching the tackle box for just the right surface lure. There in the gray dawn, a silvery plug with propellers on each end caught my eye.

A Crazy Shad it's called. I hadn't fished it in years.

Classic lures like the Crazy Shad catch the dickens out of bass today, as they have for decades. Casting that Crazy Shad out on the calm lake got me thinking about two other vintage favorites, the Bass Oreno and Jitterbug. First, the Crazy Shad.

One of the first guys I fished with when I moved from Bull Shoals Lake over to Beaver in 1980 was Johnny Sams. Johnny lived in a quiet cove east of the Arkansas 12 bridge. If I'm not mistaken, he was a retired sheriff.

The things I remember most about Johnny were his big booming voice, his dog that was his constant fishing companion, and all those bass Johnny caught with his Crazy Shad. I treasure the Crazy Shad I fish with today because Johnny gave it to me.

It's so easy to use. Give it a cast, then pop it through the water so the propellers put up a commotion and splash. You'd think it'd scare bass more than catch them, but Johnny caught the fire out of them.

A little research shows the Crazy Shad was one of a long list of lures developed by the legendary Cotton Cordell of Benton. He introduced the Crazy Shad around 1955. Other Cordell innovations most anglers have in their tackle boxes include the Redfin, Boy Howdy and Near 'Nuthin.

The Crazy Shad is still sold today. I got one bass on my Crazy Shad, but on the right day it'll catch 'em like crazy.

Another tackle-box classic is the Jitterbug. No telling how many millions of bass have bitten a Jitterbug since Fred Arbogast unveiled it in 1937. The Jitterbug is still going strong today.

Like the Crazy Shad, it's a simple top-water lure to use. Just reel it in with a slow to medium retrieve. A metal plate on the front of a Jitterbug gives it a swimming action with a gentle splash that bass see as an easy meal. It's the perfect surface lure for beginners because it's so easy to use.

The Jitterbug is great on the lake and deadly on our Ozark streams. I like a black Jitterbug best. It's fooled some dandy smallmouth bass on the Kings, War Eagle and Elk rivers.

Somewhere, somehow over decades of fishing I ended up with a true antique, the Bass Oreno. Truth be told, I've never fished it. It's been inside a cardboard shoe box with a tangle of about 50 other vintage lures.

I need to move it from the shoe box to the tackle box after reading some Bass Oreno history. South Bend lure company came out with the Bass Oreno in 1915. Those early versions didn't have eyes. In 1927, the company began adding glass eyes to the Bass Oreno. The one I own has these glass eyes.

There are pictures of fishermen holding heavy stringers of bass caught with a Bass Oreno, long before catch and release got popular. Next trip I'll be sure to give this old-time plug a cast.

Catching fish on any lure is a joy. It's heart-thumping excitement when a bass crushes a classic surface lure.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at

Sports on 09/25/2018