"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Artificial Lures and the Apple Entrepreneur
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

How a sprawling old apple tree figured in my boyhood bass fishing at Good Ol’ Crothersville (Sweet Jackson County) is a somewhat complicated story.

You see, this old apple tree was a story in itself.  The old tree sat at the north end of a small-town double lot. The house, woodshed and another small building (called “The Shed”) occupied the east half of the double lot. The west lot was the garden, except for the area shaded by the old apple tree (I think it was early transparent).

When I was seven years old (the summer of 1932) my dad bought me a single-shot, bolt-action Springfield .22 caliber rifle. In the following year, he made me the proud owner of a South Bend No. 450 bait-casting reel and a five-foot Gep casting rod (with pistol grip handle). That rig was completed with a pair of South Bend Bass-O-Reno floater/diver artificial lures, a Pflueger Tandem spinner with guinea-feather bucktail, and an off-brand imitation of the old Shannon Spinner dressed with red and white hair. The South Bend plugs had red heads and white bodies (the white had turned to a fly-specked cream in the window of Web (for Webster) Taulman’s corner drugstore downtown.

For a year or two, in my mind, that stable of artificial lures seemed to be the very edge of the artificial lure world--another step and I would fall into oblivion. But as I walked past the display window of Taulman’s Drugstore (I called him Mr. Taulman, and knew him best as an ice cream dipper), the newfangled Hawaiian Wiggler lures of the new Fred Arbogast Company caught my eye as they gathered flyspecks in the display window.

But who, I wondered, would ever have 75 cents to pay for such a contraption? Seventy-five cents, in my corporate structure, was very high finance.

About that time my mother sent me to the apple tree to collect some of the firm, green apples for frying with onions (probably in bacon fryings). And soon thereafter, the thought that other ladies of the town might like some of these mellow fellows flitted through my mind.

At 10 cents a gallon, the No. 3 Hawaiian Wiggler (a spoon type with single hook and 20-tail rubber skirt) took its place in the canvas shoulder-strap bag that my dad fashioned to make it possible for me to carry my angling paraphernalia while walking the banks of the old Muscatatuck River and sundry other waters.

More apple transactions brought in funding for more lures. Soon the flyspecked Arbogast Jitterbug (frog pattern), and the No. 2, and No. 1 Hawaiian Wigglers were mine.

Although my emergence into the entrepreneurial world was short-lived each summer, the sprangling mass of huge limbs emerging from a short, stout trunk made the tree a beautiful climb when the fruit was gone. I could also hide high in the thick limbs of the tree to make strange sounds that befuddled passersby.

Still, when I think of the old apple tree, my exploits with my stable of apple-financed lures are first to grace my proscenium of yesteryear. Each of my lures figured in interesting and productive angling episodes, but the one that pops up first is the one involving the No. 3 Hawaiian Wiggler.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in November  (no school that day), and I was sneaking the old bed of the Muscatatuck River upstream from its confluence with the dredged stretch of the river (west of the Langdon railroad bridge).

My rifle was strung on its makeshift carrying strap as I stalked the banks of the river while fishing the good spots and looking for wood ducks on the water or squirrels in trees that lined the banks.

I belly-crawled through the brush to watch the water ahead for ducks and likely places for catching a bass. Soon I was puzzled by a strange disturbance in the water of a deep hole ahead.

It looked very much like a small, invisible snake crossing the deep water. But, even with my eagle eyes, I could not make out a snakehead, in a scenario I had witnessed on many occasions.

Hastening to get to the deep hole to solve these mysterious goings-on, I had not considered what I might find on the far bank of the river. On sneaking through the brush, I found myself eyeball-to-eyeball with Bob Thompson, the Jackson County conservation officer.

I realized that the disturbance in the water had been his fishing line cutting the surface of the water as he retrieved an artificial lure.

“Killing any squirrels?” he asked from the other side of the deep hole.

“Nope!” I said, quickly noting that the squirrel season had expired at the end of October. “I’m hunting crows and fishing.” (There was a bounty on crows in those days . . . killing crows was the thing to do.)

“Catching any bass?” I asked, noting that he was casting a No. 3 Hawaiian Wiggler, its barber-pole stripes telling me that it was brand-spanking new.

“No!” he said emphatically, “I don’t think this lure is much good.”

“Want to catch some bass?” I asked, and continued to tell him how to go about fishing that lure.

“Scrape off the paint and turn the skirt backward,” I told him. “You’ll catch fish.”

I knew of what I spoke. I had found the No. 3 equally as ineffective until its paint job became ratty and chipped from bouncing off concrete bridge abutments, rocks, and sundry other river obstructions. I also knew that reversing the skirt would cause it to flare out and wiggle like a hula dancer, a thing that is not considered all bad by man or fish.

The lawman fished his knife from his pocket and scraped the gaudy paint from the body of the lure to reveal a lead body that did not look totally unlike a minnow.

His first cast netted a nice largemouth and while I watched he caught three others.

Knowing, to that point, that I was a law-abiding citizen and was home free. I backed out of the brush saying: “See ya’ later!” 


All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author's family.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Scifres Family, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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