ARBOGAST DANCED TO A FISHING TUNE
Top water anglers probably owe more to Fred Arbogast than to any other lure company. Arbogast's Jitterbug and Hula Popper have been go-to top water bass lures for generations. Arbogast began designing his own lures to improve his own fishing. When he achieved that, he began selling them to pay for his casting competitions. The Fred Arbogast Company grew to be one of the largest suppliers of bass lures in the world finally being sold in 1997 to PRADCO (Plastic Research and Development Group) where several of Fred's lure designs live on.
The Fred Arbogast story is pure Americana. Born in 1894 in Ohio, Fred was the starting halfback on his high school's State Champion football team. After graduating in 1913 he went to work at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber factory in Akron. When not making tires, he could be found fishing on the nearby Little Cuyahoga River. He entered his first casting competition in 1916, and won the championship in the ½ oz. class with a distance of 162' . In
1922, he set the World Record for distance casting in the ½ oz. Class with a distance of over 271 feet. He also won the ¼ oz. Class with a distance of over 193 feet. In 1923, he set the World Record for distance in the ¼ oz. Class with a cast of over 208 feet. He was the first person to win the competition 2 years in a row.
He was so skilled with a fishing rod that he began touring tackle shops where he put on exhibitions- casting through hoops, breaking balloons, and knocking lit cigarettes from assistants mouths. He experimented with lure designs in his basement, and it wasn’t long before these same local tackle shops were asking him to make lures to sell. In the mid-1920s, he left Goodyear to pursue lure-making full-time, giving birth to the Fred Arbogast Lure
Company. His first commercially-produced lure was the Tin- Liz in 1932. Lure making required a larger house and the need to hire employees to keep up with the demand
Eventually, his success required a factory to keep up with production of designs including the Hula Popper in 1936, and the Jitterbug in 1938. It was Arbogast who invented the world’s first rubber skirt for lures. All in all, he created 11 classic designs, most of which are still catching fish today. Unfortunately, Arbogast passed away in 1947, at the age of 53, after collapsing while ice-skating.
The original Jitterbug was made of wood, with a metal lip. The colors were Red Head, Black, Black Scale, White Scale, Shore Yellow, Frog, Pearl, and Pearl with Herringbone. The first-generation Jitterbugs had larger bodies than subsequent models, with huge hangers for the hooks. When WW-II broke out, the demand for metal caused the Company to switch the body and lip to plastic. In the 1950's, there was a return to the metal lip, but the plastic body was retained. A few new models were introduced, such as the long-body, the small body and the jointed model. (Original artwork from Bassmaster Magazine)