Evolution of Plastic Baits

June 17, 2012 by  

By Nick Simonson

The great evolutionist Charles Darwin would be amazed at how quickly the plastic worm has changed over just a few generations. Generally, a species changes very slowly over hundreds of thousands or millions of years.  But since Nick Creme poured his first concoction of plastisol into his hand-made molds just sixty years ago, the world of artificial baits has exploded and models have evolved like an army of mindless antagonists from a nuclear radiation-spawned 1960s horror movie.  And as with Darwin’s natural studies, anglers find that each new artificial worm, rubbery creature, or plastic tube has a tail, tentacle or set of paddles for a purpose – to catch more fish.
It started innocently enough.  Creme wanted a worm that he could re-use, whip out into cover and bring it back – without having to pay for bait or dig up his back yard.  Soon he was selling his baits and anglers were filling their own worm molds in their garages.  From that first model, Creme experimented with colors and hues he thought would do well on the water.  Flash-forward to today and some bait companies offer over 150 colors across dozens of models of worms, creatures and tubes.

Creature BaitA bit slower than the expanding color selection has been the variety of baits available, and only recently – say the last twenty years – have anglers observed an exploding selection of plastic baits of all kinds.  Tubes, craws and lizards were a good and obvious place to start – they looked like natural forage and were easy to pour and use.  But something happened along the way.  Plastic crafters added extra tails, more tentacles, and changed body styles, creating new breeds of baits.  These mutations took hold with anglers across the country.

Now, it’s not uncommon to find bait bags and boats loaded with beaver-craws which look like a cross between a crayfish and a deep-space alien parasite.  Brush hogs are less like a razorback and more like a worm that sprouted sets of legs and other appendages. And the Dirt Dawg, a cross between a pair of shaky worms, a crayfish and some sort of frog is about one of the oddest baits available today.

Walk through the plastic aisle at Cabela’s, or browse Bass Pro Shops online and you’ll see sixty years of evolution in a matter of moments.  Some plastics might give off the aroma of a pizza parlor – loaded with garlic and salt.  Others have three or four colors of glitter fleck in a translucent jelly-like composite.  They can be rigged all sorts of ways on a wide variety of hooks and jigs – Texas, wacky and drop-shot, just to name a few.  You may want to check the other side of the aisle for the number of special hooks that the plastic industry has also helped spawn.

Necessity is the mother of invention and the spur of evolution.  Whatever nature’s children need – eyes to see, ears to hear, or camouflage to conceal – over time, those needs are answered by the development of evolved traits.  So it has been with plastic baits on a shortened time table, and each evolution is tested, marketed, packaged and sold to give anglers all sorts of options to fill their own needs.  Whether it’s a long and skinny worm for working slowly after a cold front, a big thick-bodied grub with claws and a skirt for flipping, or a multi-hued salamander with two big plastic wings for, well, something; fishermen are finding new baits evolving on a monthly basis and learning new ways to hook into a lunker…in our outdoors.


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