Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Original Plastic Worm

Way back in the late 1940s the United States was recovering from the 2nd World War and the country's industry was really booming.  At the same time bass fishing was really beginning to be a noticed sport that would soon turn into one of the most participated sports in the world.  Even if you didn't fish in those early tournament, you were fishing for bass, it was the new big thing and it was only going to grow even bigger.   One of the reasons for this growth was due in part by Nick and Cosma Creme.  The Cremes were in their basement in Akron Ohio cooking up the perfect combination of vinyl, oils and pigments to produce a molded worm. By 1949 the Creme Wiggle Worm was official born and by 1951 it was being sold mail order in packages of 5 for a dollar.  By the late 50s, word of the soft plastic worm began to spread and bass anglers everywhere wanted to get their hands on some of these worms. It was making an impact on bass fishing that would never be seen again by a single lure.  At this same time the region of the country that was seeing the most bass fishing activity was northeast Texas so the Cremes decided to move their company into the center of this activity and built a plant in Tyler, Texas.

The Creme Lure Company is still in Tyler, Texas and they still make those famous worms along with a lot of other wonderful plastic baits.  The Creme Wiggle Worm of yesteryear is today known as the Scoundrel and after 67 years it is still just as effective catching bass as it was when it was first born.  There have been hundreds of companies to come and go in the plastic lure business over all these years so it speaks volumes that Creme is still in business.  There aren't many lure companies out there that are older than me and there is only one that helped me become addicted to bass fishing.  In fact way back in 1965 at the ripe age of 5 it was a Creme pre-rigged worm that I used to catch my first 5lb bass.  After that bass I was hooked on bass fishing and I was hooked on Creme worms.  Now I won't lie like most fishermen I've tried just about everything new that hit the market over the last 50 some years.  However when it came to worms, I have always gone back to Creme.  Not saying that other worms won't catch bass, but I am saying that all those worms as well as any other plastic baits on the market today are because of the dreams of Nick and Cosma Creme back in the 1940s. Had they not spent countless ours in that basement in Ohio, we might have never had these wonderful baits.  Heck there are many worms out there today that still copy many of the aspect of the Creme Scoundrel worms.  Sure they are called by different names like "Trick Worm" or "Robo Worm" but the fact is their birth came form that original Creme Wiggle Worm.  They say that copying is the the greatest form of flattery and the Wiggle Worm/Scoundrel has been copied many times in the past 67 years.  That should tell you just how effective this worm is at catching bass.
Now that we have gone through a short history lesson on the birth of the plastic worm and the Creme Lure Company, lets talk about how I still effectively fish the Creme Scoundrel worms. They come in three sizes, 4, 6, and 8 inches and they still catch bass, and I mean big bass!   The Scoundrel is offered is so many different colors that I'm sure there is one that will be effective under any water conditions and in any part of the world where bass are fished.  I also bet that you will find some of your most favorite colors are available.  One of the other aspect of the Scoundrel that makes it effective is it floats.  A floating worm gives you so much better action than the ones that sink.  Though there are a lot of worms out there that copy the Scoundrel somewhat, most of those worms sink.  With the Scoundrel it is that floating action that I feel really sets it apart from the rest and gives it such a different action no matter which technique it is fished.  I showed you a picture of me way back in 1965 with a bass caught on a Scoundrel well I'm still catching them on these awesome worms today.  In fact I trust them to keep me in every tournament I fish and the picture to the left was from my last tournament.  It is a great feeling to have a bait you know you can count on and I've been counting on them for 51 years now and I really don't see that ever changing.  So why don't we take a look at some of the techniques I use to successful catch bass using the Scoundrels. 

Texas Rig:
There is nothing really fancy about the Texas Rig, it is one of the old tried and trued rigs that has been around for a very long time.  In fact it is likely one of the first techniques any bass fisherman learns when fishing a plastic worm.  Basically it is the worm hook of your choice and a bullet weight.  The size of the weight you use depends a lot on how deep the water is, how big the line you are fishing or how fast you want to worm to fall.  If you want the worm to fall really slow you can use a small split shot or even no weight at all. If your hook is a light wire hook then you are now fishing a Floating worm. I fish all three sizes of Scoundrels using the Texas Rig and let the bass decide which size they prefer on any given day.  The Texas Rig can be fished just about anywhere a bass would hang out.  This means you can throw it in just about every type of cover.  However there is one thing that might hamper you as the weight slides up and down the line, the weight and the bait could become separated in some types of cover and cause you to get hung up.  To fix this you can us a bobber stop above the weight or do as us ole times did, stick a toothpick in the hole of the weight and break it off.  This will stop the weight from sliding on the line.

Carolina Rig:
The Carolina Rig is where the floating action of the Scoundrel really starts to shine.  Like the Texas Rig, the Carolina is also one of the old tried and trued rigs that has been around a long time. With the Carolina Rig you are basically fishing a Texas Rig where the weight is separated from worm on purpose.  Carolina Rigs can be made up many different ways and use all kinds of beads and brass cacklers to make noise to attract the bass.  Personally I like to make up some pre-made rigs like the one shown in the pictures.  Again I will fish all three sizes of Scoundrel worms on this rig.  The Carolina Rig is meant mainly for fishing deeper water where there are rock piles, stumps, downed timber, humps or drop offs.   They do not do well in standing timber or any type of vegetation but only because of the hang up factor.  If you don't get hung up, it will catch fish.  In general the Carolina Rig is worked slower than the Texas Rig, however I've found at times a faster action will draw more strikes.  As with any bait or rig; play with your presentation until you find what the bass want on that given day and time.

Drop Shot:
The Drop Shot method of fishing Scoundrel Worms is relatively new on the scene.  The Drop-Shot is a true finesse rig and meant to be fished on lighter lines and spinning tackle.  However from time to time I do break that mold and use a little heavier lines and casting tackle if I'm fishing in places where the lighter line can be nicked easy.  I mainly fish the 4 and 6 inch Scoundrels on a Drop Shot, but there have been time where the fish were bigger and I have caught them with an 8 inch on this rig.  To fish the Drop Shot you are going to be moving the bait towards you very, very, very slow.  Just when you think you are working it slow enough, show down some more.  You move the bait towards you then stop and shake your rod tip to cause the worm to wiggle and dance.  While you are doing this you want the sinker to remain on the bottom and not move.  This keeps the bait in front of the bass a long time.  After a minute or two of shaking, you then move the bait toward you another foot or so.  I want to point out that from time to time I also break this mold as well.  This rig can be used to catch aggressive bass that might be suspended off the bottom.  If you find a spot that has suspended bass then rig your Drop shot so the worm will be at the same depth as the fish.  Again play with your presentation until you find something that works.

Shaky Head:
This technique is also a newer Finesse type rig that hasn't been around too long, or at least it seems like that because I've been fishing so many years. The Shaky-Head is basically a jig head with the worm rigged in a weedless fashion.  As with the Drop Shot I will generally just fish 4 and 6 inch Scoundrels, but of course there are times I'll go with an 8 inch.  There are a few different types and shapes of Shaky-Head jigs out on the market today.  My favorite is the football style Piglet from Santone Lures.  Which ever your favorite head, when worked right these are also fish catching rigs.  Basically the Shaky-Head is fished in the similar fashion as the Drop-Shot but in different types of cover.  Where the Drop-Shot is a more open water type of rig the Shaky-Head can be fished in and around cover.  They are also a very good choice for fishing under docks and boat houses.

Shaky Drop:
Now the Shaky Drop basically is just a combination of two of the above rigs that came to me one day fishing with my son.  I was catching bass one after another on a Drop-Shot while my son was matching me Bass for Bass on a Shaky-Head.  So I said why not just take the sinker off the Drop-Shot rig and tie on a Shaky Head and with that the Shaky-Drop was born. Though this rig does not work well in any type of vegetation, standing or lay down timber, it is an open water bass killer.  If you can find fish on a rock pile, stump field, hump or drop off then you can catch them on the Shaky Drop.  You can even fish the Shaky Drop with two different color Scoundrels at the same time to fine tune which color the bass are wanting or seeing the best on that day.  Just fish it as I described in the section about the Drop Shot and you will be putting bass in the boat in no time and it some cases two at a time.

Slider Head:
The Slider Head might be one of the original finesse techniques for fishing worms.  These uniquely designed heads will cause a worm to glide through the water making them look very realistic.  I have been effectively using them since the 1970s and they are still available today.  I've caught bass in rivers, lakes and bayous on worms using the Slider Heads.  These heads aren't hard to fish at all and I've found that just lift your rod tip up quickly to get the worm off the bottom and then letting the head glide the worm back to the bottom is my favorite method.  There are a couple different styles of these heads that give you a little different action.  I use these heads effectively with both 4 and 6 inch Scoundrels.  I let the bass decide which they want on any given day.  A lot of time the size worm is dependent on the size of the bait fish or crawfish the bass are feeding on.  Again I have to say that with these heads play with your presentation and find what triggers the bass to strike.

Finesse Jigs:
I have to say the Scoundrels are the absolute best Finesse Jig trailer I've ever used.  It goes back to the fact that the Scoundrels float.  When your jig is on the bottom the tail of the Scoundrel is floating upward.  Twitch your rod tip a little and the tail of that worm will wiggle as it floats.  That action is too much for most bass to stand and they will inhale your jig.  Again I use both 4 and 6 inch Scoundrels on these jigs and again let the bass decide which size they prefer on any given day.

I hope you enjoyed the brief history of the Creme Lure Company and how the bassin' world was given the Original Plastic worm.   I also hope that you will give the Scoundrels a try, they are a legend in the bassin' world and have been catching fish for over 67 years now.   Hey that is longer than a lot of us have been alive.  Sure there are other worms on the market, but none of them can say they are the Original.  I also hope that you try out some of the techniques I use to fish the Scoundrel.  I know if you do you will find that even though there are other worms on the market, they still can't do it like the Scoundrel have been for over half a century!!

Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a Kid Fishing.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Tattoo Story or The Man Behind the Passion

Tim Zdrazil

Fair warning.... This is not purely about fishing, but it is very much a fishing story and will shed some light on how I came to love this sport the way that I do... This is a very emotional thing for me to share, but it is time for me to close some final chapters in my own emotional vault... To my family past and present, I am telling my truth in the way I have too. I would never disparage the man I came to love as a second father. To truly honor the dead I believe it is crucial to tell the true tale of who they were from each person's view. I tell the truth to honor him and heal me. Also please understand that everything you are about to read here is absolute truth and meant to tell the real story of a truly great man who unfortunately had many demons... His demons became my demons by default because I virtually worshiped this wildly difficult man... I love him and miss him every day...

Robert Matthew Chambers was my bonus dad.  He left this world 5 years ago, and I haven't been quite the same since. Matt came into my life around the age of 10 and was a huge force in my life until the day he died. I owe virtually everything outdoors related to Matt. Matt taught me to shoot, hunt, golf, and most importantly fish. While I owe my first fishing memories to my grandfather they were always salt water moments. Although having just written that, I remember being on a lake in Louisiana near Angola prison with grandmother and grandfather. (Hey mom any clue?) But Matt taught me everything about Bass. Matt was a master at the craft. He had a slow and methodical approach to bass fishing that I still try to emulate (poorly) today. He flat caught fish. In the one year I remember him fishing club level events, he won the majority of the events that year. Like all clubs (sorry I have no patience for club drama), he was accused of cheating. Silly idiots. He was that good... period... end of story... He was that good at almost everything he did. He could have been a professional golfer, baseball player or bass fisherman had his life and choices been different.

Matt was an alcoholic and he battled the addiction until the day he died. I was too young to clearly know early on how much alcohol was a problem. I do however remember learning how to pour his bourbon for him. I remember finding random empty bottles in odd places. I also remember being afraid. Luckily it was a lot of the time. Hold on... Hear me out. It is part of why his demons became my demons. Matt was a wonderful drunk. When he was drunk he was the best bonus dad on the planet. He expressed emotion. He told me he loved me. He talked to me. He wanted to spend time with me. He taught me things. I loved him drunk. How much of that I was aware of at the time? Honestly I can't tell you. I know what I know today is that I was always subconsciously rooting for drunk. How horrible is that? I'm a teenage boy rooting for his bonus dad to drink. I have to tell you it affects me to this day. I have a nearly hate hate relationship with alcohol. I do drink, but I operate at a near ludicrous level of control. I don't really care if other people drink, but I feel like I am on constant watch. I have a hard time dealing with people who lose control or cannot control themselves. The drinking affected too many facets of my life growing up not to be an influence. As I got older I knew it was a problem. There was always a story. How the car got beat up. How he got the black eye. How he was jumped and the cash stolen. Why he can't find the car while picking me up at the airport. Why I had to drive us home from the airport. Any of you who've dealt with addiction in your family know exactly the kind of stories I am talking about. And still.... I preferred him drunk... The alternative was bad... for a growing boy who worshiped the man he was... very bad...

Matt was not good sober. He could be brutal. Not physically. But he was cold and sharp and lightening quick when he was sober.  You didn't make noise. You didn't get in the way. You didn't ask questions. You didn't eat his snacks. You were afraid. I was afraid. Notice how I switched to You and not I until I caught myself? Tells a lot doesn't it. That was unconscious on my part and didn't notice it until I forced myself to type the next line. Still affects me today. The reason I said above that fortunately it was a lot of the time is because he was constantly battling to escape the addiction. He was a true fighter on that front. And I know he fought hard because there were many times when he was very difficult to be around. I know he fought because he loved us. My mother, my brother, and me. I love him for the fight even as subconsciously I was always rooting for drunk. This is the heart of the conundrum of my love and relationship with this man. I grew up at war with all of it. Terrified when he was sober praying he'd say anything nice to me. And loving him dearly and spending quality time with him when he was drinking. Even if it was not obvious whether he was or not. I knew. I always knew.

Of all the things Matt taught me, bass fishing was the key. Bass fishing was the magic. I fell in love with this fishing specifically. To this day, I really don't enjoy any other fishing with the same passion that I do bass. I know part of it for sure was Matt himself. On the water Matt was a different man. He so clearly loved the water and the fishing. I think it may have been the one place where he could be himself without drinking. I have no idea if this is true, but I know we left before the sun, and I never saw him drink while we were out. He had more patience. He let me try new lures. He fussed because I didn't want to throw a worm. I wanted shiny. I wanted moving. I wanted top water.  Like most kids my patience was not great. At least with casting and winding I was always doing something. And I did catch fish.  Virtually every perfect father son moment we shared was on the water or discussing tactics or planning the next trip. In the last years of his life after I started competing on the FLW, BFL and Costa levels he was my coach before every event. I would talk to him the night before every event. I gave him everything. Water clarity, temps, grass composition, current...everything... And we would discuss for as much as an hour how I would approach my day. I dreamed that eventually when his health returned he would travel with me and be there for all of my big tournaments. We talked about it often. Somehow his passion became my passion. I love the water. I love bass fishing. I love to compete. I wanted to make him proud. I live today to make him proud. He was alive for my first check. He was alive for my first top ten. I didn't win before he died. I will win. And that win will be for him. I will cry in front of everyone there as I try to express why that win means so much to me and how much I hope he is watching and cheering with me.  I call on him on the tough days. When the heat is beating me down and the bite is slow. When I feel like it's going to end bad. Then I remember how tough a teacher he was and I snap back to it, and carry on. No matter the pain. No matter how tough. Putting myself back against those little green fish in an effort to prove myself to them and more importantly him. I so desperately wanted him to be proud of me growing up.  I still worry today that I am not doing enough. In the last few years of his life he told me many times just how proud he was of me. How much he loved me. He got to a point where he truly expressed to me how much I meant to him. He went to great lengths to tell my wife Cori just how proud he was of his son. His son. My brother and I are his only sons. A tragedy and a triumph of sorts. I am glad he thought of me as his son. It means the absolute world to me. And in itself was another lesson of huge importance to my own life. I have two beautiful bonus daughters. They are my daughters. I have treated them since day one like my own, and they always will be. He gave me that gift too.

So how do you come to terms with that much mismatched love and hate and fear and sadness?  First I had to tell the story. Second I had to have an ink piece that would be near my heart but not on it. I had to have an artist that got the story and could bring the strife to life. In this case the artist is also an addicted bass fisherman himself. He also shared an eerily similar father son relationship. When the universe delivers... it delivers... Eric, my friend... Thank you... from the bottom of my heart... Thank you... This was the last piece to the puzzle of trying to come to terms with my sadness... and my love of a truly amazing man... who was so ridiculously difficult... who often left me so completely conflicted that I was always lost about it...

Matt.... thank you for every single lesson... the good ones and the bad... and thank you for the passion for those little green fish... I know how much you loved me... I know how proud you were... I won't stop making you so... your son.... timothy