Welcome to the Bagley Bait Company page. Due to the sheer amount of information about the Bagley Bait Company that has been submitted to our website, we have added a quick jump feature to this page. For Bagley Lure Collector information, simply scroll down from here. If your interest suits in Bagley family historical information, please use the button below to jump to that section. Thank you!
The Bagley Bait Company was started in 1951 when Jim Bagley of Winter Haven, Florida who was a master electrician by trade, bought a “Pork Rind” bait company that had failed to actually manufacture any products for at least two years prior to him purchasing it. He continued to work his day job, but in the shadows of the late night and early morning hours he relentlessly pursued making lures his full time profession. Little did Mr. Bagley know that he would soon be granted his first big break and his baits would burst onto the fishing scene.
The Big Break
In the time between Jim Bagley quitting his job to devote his time to the Bagley Bait Company and the big break, there were some very lean times. In fact, he even considered shutting the operation down. His reprieve came in the form of a 1955 Field and Stream magazine article titled “The New Black Magic” which was written showcasing Jim Bagley’s “Black Magic Eel Pork Rind”. From that point on, Bagley claimed to always have a back log of orders. In 1988, Bagley sold the fishing lure segment of his company to William (Bill) Stuart. Bagley remained in the fishing industry promoting and selling his “Silver Thread” brand fishing line until 1992.
William “Bill” Stuart
Mr. Stuart became president of the Bagley Bait Company in August of 1988 and officially took his place as owner about 3 months later, in November. Despite Mr. Stuart being a great person and businessman to this very day, the company had seen its better days by 1994. Soaring production costs have been cited as a major player in the company’s demise at that point in time, but the story did not end there…
NOTE: Bill Stuart has co-authored a series of books on Florida lure manufacturers. Many will discover the note at the bottom of many pages on this website that give credit to his books as being the source of much of our information. The books, titled “Florida Lure Makers and Their Lures”, have truly been an invaluable resource. Unfortunately these books are currently out of print, however any collector inquiries on these books would be best suited to our Forum linked in our menu above. One other GREAT resource for collectors is the “Collector’s Guide For The Bagley Fanatic” by Johnny Garland. Available by clicking the highlighted text above or by clicking here.
Miss Liberty Lure
The Bagley Miss Liberty Lure is a rare lure that is very tough to find. In Johnny Garland’s “Collector’s Guide for the Bagley Fanatic”, this lure is appropriately rated a 10 in difficulty to acquire.
Bagley Reb II Lure
The Bagley Reb II lure rates a 9 in difficulty to acquire in Johnny Garland’s Bagley Fanatic book.
Charles “Chuck” Stankiewicz
In 1994, Stankiewicz was asked by Jim Bagley to become the third president of Bagley. Bagley designed one last bait for the company in an attempt to revive it once again. The lure was called the “Meer Kat”, but never made it to the production line aside from a couple thousand given away as test baits. By 1995, Jim Bagley was no longer part of the company anymore, and the company had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. By late 1998, the federal government foreclosed on the company.
Bagley Bait Company Florida Lottery Lure
The Florida Lottery Lure is one of the tougher Bagley lures to acquire. It was made for the Florida Lottery to use as one of their promotions. We recently had an opportunity to talk with Bill Stuart, one of the former owners of the Bagley Bait Company, about this lure.
Bill was initially involved in the discussions to make the lure. However, the details of which lure would be used, what would be the colors of the lure and what size logo were lure to be used, etc., were not completed until after he had sold the company to Chuck Stankiewicz. After the sale of the company Bill maintained an office at Bagley in connection with the Museum of Fishing.
One day Bill happed to see the prototype which the people at the lottery had selected and approved for production. He asked the sales manager who was handling the project for Stankiewicz to call the lottery contact and tell them that the lottery logo which was printed on the lure was too small. In Bill’s opinion the proportion was terrible and the sales manager agreed.
Bagley Florida Lottery Lure (Side)
The Bagley Bait Company Florida Lottery Lure. Notice that on each side of the lure there is a flamingo with palm trees to the right and left.
Bagley Florida Lottery Lure (Top)
The top side view of the Bagley Bait Company Florida Lottery Lure. The quote “TAKE A LITTLE CHANCE” is printed on the spine of the lure.
The Lottery responded that the size was OK and to go ahead and produce the lures. On two more occasions Bill asked the sales manager to contact the Lottery people and tell them that the lure did not look right and that they were not going to like the final product which they had approved. Both times the lottery people told the company to go ahead and produce the lures.
Bill says that as best he can determine a few less than 1,000 of the Lottery Lure were produced in 1994. Six or so months later the sales people at Bagley contacted the lottery to see if they were interested in having more lures made. The lottery said no, and when asked why they had decided not to pursue other promotions with the lures, the answer was that we had made the lures with the lottery logo way too small.
For those of you who are interested, you may find the entire history of the Bagley Bait Company, through Bill’s ownership in Volume VI of Florida Lure Makers and Their Lures. Bill is one of the authors of that series of books which is the primary source of information on Florida made lures.
Bagley Family History
Here you will find some wonderful insight directly from the Bagley household courtesy of Dean “Dino” Bagley (son of the late Jim Bagley). We feel that this display of Bagley information is an invaluable resource for any Bagley lure collector or fishing lure history buff. We would like to take the time to thank “Dino” for the time he has invested to get this information gathered up and for the willingness he has exhibited to educate us on the Bagley family history. Dean “Dino” Bagley has even offered to personally answer any questions he can regarding the Bagley lure operation via our new Forum by CLICKING HERE. Mr. Bagley will also be introducing a new book soon that will chronicle many of the boyhood experiences he had in the Bagley production plant, while fishing all over the world with his father Jim Bagley, and much more!
Here is a collection of rarely seen photos from the Jim Bagley family photo album. All of the photos in this collection are displayed here courtesy of Dean “Dino” Bagley. Many of these photos are from the early years of the Bagley Bait Company’s existence and some are even from before the time that the company was formed. Here at OldFloridaLures.com we certainly appreciate and enjoy this extremely rare glimpse into the Bagley household. We would also like to extend our deepest gratitude to “Dino” Bagley for the opportunity to be able to share these precious photos with you.
The Purple Worm Story
by Dean “Dino” Bagley
“Dino” Bagley as a boy holding a fish his father Jim Bagley caught. Jim said that Dino was hollerin’ “Hurry Daddy!”
My favorite story was how the purple worm was invented, which was a mistake. Some employee mixed too much red with the blue and out came a purple worm. I don’t know why Dad put a few in his pocket, but he did. He was heading out the door to fly up to Tennessee to see a buyer. When he got there, the buyer was not too sold on the Pork Rind and the collection of black, blue, and red plastic worms. Dad got up to leave, but Dad is a salesman deep down. He stopped at the door and turned around and snapped his fingers. He told the man that he was going to let him in on a little, unknown secret….his new creation….the purple worm. He pulled out some of those purple worms and showed them to the man. The man said, “HMMMMM” and he liked this idea and that he would be the first to sell them. So, he bought an order of purple plastic worms, and the rest is history. Dad would not take “No” for an answer. LOL
Fishin’ with Dad: My First Snook
by Dean “Dino” Bagley
My most vivid memories of fishing with Dad were those done on saltwater. We have fished from the Everglades to Marco Island (bass, snook), up to Bokeelia (redfish, snook), offshore of Clearwater (barracuda) , offshore around Crystal River (trout), and back to the Keys (bonefish).
I remember fishing at Marco Island. There was a bay where you just set anchor, threw out a pinfish, and waited. Unfortunately, there were also lots of other boats anchored around us. Dad latched on to a good sized snook and was fighting him when, all of a sudden, the snook went and wrapped the line around some other boat’s anchor rope.
The owner of that boat saw this happen and pulled in his anchor rope and the snook. We assumed that he was going to kindly give us our fish. We were right there with dad’s line going down to the guy’s anchor rope. And, do you know…..that SOB cut dad’s line, put the snook in his boat and took off!
But, anyway, I remember Bokeelia well because that is where I caught my first snook. Dad and I were out in a small boat, just off from some mangroves. We had been catching nothing but redfish all morning. We were using shrimp. We’d bait up and throw the shrimp out and put our poles down and wait for a bite.
We were sitting there calm and peaceful when all of a sudden… BOTH fishing rods take off with a lunge and we had to jump to grab them before they went overboard. We had no idea what we caught until we got them up to the boat. Dad had a redfish. And I had a beautiful 12 lb. snook. My first one! Talk about excited.
Dean “Dino” Bagley at age 9 with his first Snook that he caught fishing with his Father, Jim Bagley
Dad went the extra mile and had the snook mounted for the wall in my bedroom. This is me and my guitar. My guitar teacher was a 16-year-old future star, Jimmy Stafford, now known as Jim Stafford (“Spiders & Snakes”).
This happened before dad got into balsa wood baits. It was around 1961, because I was only in fifth grade.
When we got home, dad took a picture of me and my snook.The local newspaper, the New Chief, took my picture and put it in the paper.
Here is what the clipping said, “BIG SNOOK – George Bagley (my first name is George), 9, was very happy with his catch of this snook while fishing at Bokeelia.
George used pin fish as bait (wrong, I used shrimp). He also caught 11 redfish (well, dad and I caught 11 redfish). He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James L. Bagley, manufacturer of Ole Jim’s worms, eels and pork rind.”
Well, they were close. LOL
Notable Bagley Family Truths
by Dean “Dino” Bagley
JIM BAGLEY MEETS THE PRESIDENT – Dad came in contact with some very prestigious people, a lot of movie stars, music stars, notables. But, my pride hits its height when the original George Bush Sr. learned that dad was in Washington, D.C. for his bomb squadron reunion. Dad was a Master Sgt. in the Air Force, and was the ball-gunner on one of the bomb squad planes. George learned that dad was in the area and sent out an invitation for him to come to the White House. Dad was brought to the Oval Office where he sat around and chatted with Mr. President. On the wall at dad’s home was a picture of him shaking the hand of George Bush, and George considered it more of an honor to be meeting the famous bait man, Jim Bagley.
CHARLIE & HOLLY HUNTER– The very first sales group to represent Bagley Bait Co. was Charlie Hunter for the southeast. Charlie is better known for his famous daughter, Holly Hunter. Dad knew Holly when she was just a baby, on up to adulthood. She loved dad very much. I remember being with dad in a hotel room, and he picked up the phone, had the hotel operator dial number, and the next thing I know, he is talking to Holly like he would his own daughter.
FOSTER BROOKS – I still don’t know where dad got to be friends with the star and comedian Foster Brooks, but he and dad were like inseparable brothers when Foster came to town. Dad took me to one of Foster’s performances here in Winter Haven, FL, and got to go backstage and sit around with Foster. I got to hear Foster’s new idea for a Christmas gag. It was “The Twelve Days of Christmas…a la Foster Brooks.” Foster would sing about each day of Christmas, “On the first day of Christmas…” and drink a toast. On the second day, he would drink a toast. And on and on. By the twelfth day of Christmas, Foster was so schnockered and slurring his speech, it was a howl to watch and listen. Foster gave dad a small statuette of himself to put on dad’s piano at home. It was right there, whenever I would come over.
OTHER CELEBRITIES – Dad was not only friends with Foster Brooks, but many many stars and musicians. I would be at work and my dad would buzz me in my office and ask me to come to his office. When I got there, there would be people like Roy Clark or Bobby Goldsboro. Dad would ask me to give them a tour around the Bagley Bait plant. Which I would do.
ANDY BEAN – The famous golf pro, Andy Bean, lives in the next town of Lakeland, FL, and he and dad were like brothers. They golfed all the time, and Andy was at our plant quite a bit, and we would all go to lunch.
KELLY (BAGLEY) WILLARD – One other celebrity I should bring up is my sister, Kelly (Bagley) Willard. Kelly has been in the Christian music business since she went out on her own at age 16. She is a self-taught musician on the piano. Which brings up another story. Another good friend of dad’s was Floyd Cramer. Kelly Bagley was about 7 yrs old and definitely had an ear for music and the piano. Floyd was in town and came over to our house to visit. He told dad, “Let me play you this new tune I have come up with.” The new tune was “Last Date”, probably his most famous song. It was new and unrecorded. He played the entire song on our piano and then had to leave. The windows of our house were open. As dad walked Floyd out to his car, we heard the resounding notes of his new tune, being played, note for note, and in the Floyd Cramer style, on the piano. Floyd stopped and said, “Who is that?” Dad said, “Don’t worry, that’s just my daughter. She heard what you were playing, and picked it up.” Hearing the song on the one time he played it, Kelly had done the Mozart thing and had the song completely memorized and was playing it on the piano, note for note. Kelly then went on to be the renown Christian music recording artist, Kelly Willard. In 1979, the famous songwriter Bob Dylan converted over to Christianity and produced his first album of Christian songs. The Gospel Music Association voted him “Leading Male Vocalist” that year. The “Leading Female Vocalist” along with Bob, was my sister, Kelly Willard. And won this over her best friend, Amy Grant.
DAD HELPS ME OUT OF A JAM – I owe dad a definite debt of gratitude for my learning to play the guitar. He was very musical, and we had a baritone ukelele at home that I looked at but never played. But, one day at school, 5th grade, our music teacher told the class “those of you who play a musical instrument, raise your hands”. Everyone’s hand but mine went up. I was so embarrassed. Though I did not play an instrument, I raised my hand. The teacher then asked me what I played, I was stuck. I remembered the ukelele at home. I blurted out, “Uhhh…. the ukelele.” And then she came back with….”Good. You can play us a tune tomorrow.” So, that night, I had to tell dad what I had done and said. He said, “No sweat.” And picked up the ukelele and a Mel Bay chord book, which had some songs in it. Right there, dad taught me on the spot to play “Five Foot Two, Eyes Are Blue”. And the next day, in front of the class, I played and sang “Five foot two, eyes are blue, oh what that five foot can do, has anybody seen my gal.” So, thanks, dad, for getting me out of a jam. I went on to play the guitar and had a rock band in high school.
The Last Bagley Bait Catalog – 1989
by Dean “Dino” Bagley
I came to work for my dad in 1981. Though I was a graphic and commercial artist, that job was already held by Wayne Davis who is responsible for the old Bagley logo, drawing all the artwork of the lures, designing the original heat-sealed packages, and doing the catalog. Wayne did a hallmark job, and created the classic looks of all the Bagley bait printed material.
So, I began my work for dad in all the production departments, from wood shop, spray painting, dipping, hooking, etc… and even ran the chrome-plating machine we used to chrome our lures in the final days.
Finally, Wayne needed more time to contribute to his role as dad’s vice-president of the company, and the well-known artist/writer Cliff Shelby took over. Cliff was with us for a couple of years, but went back to his profession as journalist and cartoonist. So, I now had the job of producing all visual materials, such as the catalogs that the sales reps used to sell our bait.
I did a catalog per year of all our new lures and their colors. The following is my last catalog I produced. It was 16 pages in length, counting the cover and back-cover.
I tried to be different and create attractive, magazine-quality covers to get people’s attention.
Here I was in some science-fiction frame of mind, and pictured several of our lures being suspended by the light beams coming up from those glass tubes.
This scene took a lot of set-up being done by shooting light up under those glass tubes, and using dry-ice to see the light beams.
Well, you die-hard balsa wood fans may not like what I am about to tell you. In any business, you have to experiment and branch out. What you are looking at was our first … plastic lure. Yes, two halves of the bait glued together with epoxy. The balsa wood bait took 12 days to produce through all our steps. Requiring a lot work from all our employees, and that meant a lot of overhead. The Top Gun took three days. Glue it together, paint it, dip it in polyurethane, hook it, package it. I am going to tell you that this was one of my favorite lures! The bait was gorgeous to look at, sleek in shape, and had a killer action. It rivaled the Bang-O-Lure. I am sorry that we didn’t have the business longer so that this type of bait could have been developed more. Dad named it Top Gun. Good name. Good bait.
DREDGE SERIES – This page looked at the new lures coming out for the next season. The “Dredge” series were the Killer B’s with extended lips to get them to go deeper. So deep, thought dad, that they could dredge up the sand of the bottom.
THE POP’N B – The “Pop’n B” series was just the Chug-O-Lure in different sizes, but with a skirt.
THE SPINNER SHAD – The Spinner Shad was the Small Fry Shad with just a spinner added.
THE CHATTER B’S – Well, there’s nothing like a rattling bait to get a fish’s attention. The Chatter Series was our classic Kill’r B’s and the new Chatter Shad, all drilled with a 3/8-inch hole and a plastic rattler glued inside. Shake it and it rattles.
THE CHATTER SHAD (hardwood) – Hardwood? From the balsa wood man? Yes, the Chatter Shad had to be made from hardwood. The Chatter B’s were balsa wood, and their fat little bodies could hold the inserted rattler. But, the Chatter Shad was hardly 1/2-inch thick from nose to tail. In order to retain this thin shape that would hold a rattler, we found a good, imported hardwood that could be bitten by a fish without breaking the bait.
This was a catalog insert page to highlight the Chatter Shad. Notice the photo-realism of the eye, gills and scales. The bait had a hole drilled behind the gills and the plastic rattler inserted. It definitely made a noise! And that Hot Tiger color combination was my favorite. More on photo-realism with the Small Fry Series, later.
THE SMOO – The Sunday Funnies in the newspaper had the classic “Lil Abner” comic strip. There were some oddball little round creatures called a “Smoo” in this series. Dad liked the name so much, that he name this bait The Smoo. I loved it. It had those oversized, goofy round eyes. But, did it catch fish!
When the bait was only in prototype form, we took several up on our summer fishing trip to Canada. We went up to a giant lake called Lake Beauchene. It could only be accessed by pontoon plane. We stayed in a two-story cabin run by a French family. Dad and I would take a small boat out onto this monstrous lake, and troll with the Smoos we brought along. Those Smoos would dive down a good 20 feet and attract these large lake trout. They loved those Smoos. We took the trout back to the cabin and the French lady would cook them for dinner.
THE BASS’N SHAD – This has to be my favorite Bagley bait. Just from the realistic appearance to its killer action. You will notice the photo-realism of the eye, gill and scales printed on its body like the Small Fry series. A great bait.
This series out-sold the Bang-O-Lure, but only because it was only one lure. The “B” Series was made up so many sizes, shapes and lip-depths, that it had to outsell the Bang-O-Lure just from quantity alone. The Bang-O-Lure was our classic, but the B’s Series, especially the Kill’r B, was every fisherman’s favorite.
All the B’s had that fat body with the tail extending out. We could paint it any color, give it any depth lip, squat the body up into the “Bitty B” or lengthen it out into the “B 3” size. There was hardly anything we couldn’t do with this lure. Again, our best seller.
There was also the “DB3 Magnum”, a beefed up diver for some big game fish. There were the “Diving B’s” with extended lips for deeper diving.
Well, I don’t have to introduce you to the Bang-O-Lure. This is the bait that made dad famous. It shot him up the ladder from making a plastic worm that sold for maybe 50-cent a pack, to a balsa wood crank-bait that would retail for around $5.00.
The Bang-O-Lure only came in three lengths – 3″, 4″ and 5″, but we finally added a 7″ model to this series for bigger gamefish. We expanded on the Bang-O-Lure by adding various plastic lips to make them either shallow, diver or deep diver.
The most extensive change was cutting the bait in half and using screw-eyes to connect the halves. This was called the “Swivel-hip” Bang-O-Lure, which was made out of hardwood. The Bang-O-Lure came in a variety of colors, as you can see.
The Small Fry Series was our attempt at photo-realism to make the bait as life-like as possible. If you look closely at the baby bream this bass is about to eat, you will see that it really looks like a little bream. But, how did we do this?
Answer: by drawing these cosmetic details of the eye, gill and scales on a big sheet of white poster-board with a Rapid-o-graph pen. The large size helped us get intricate detail. Then, this artwork was reduced down by a printer’s camera to this small size, retaining the detail.
The printer then burned the artwork onto a metal printer’s plate and gave this us. We had a special printer that would use a soft rubber piece to pick up the impression off the inked plate and then press down and print the life-like details onto a pre-colored balsa wood bait. The soft rubber molded around all the contours of the bait. The four bait of the Small Fry Series were: Bream, Bass, Shad and Crayfish.
THE CHUG-O-LURE – The Chug-O-Lure was a really nice topwater bait that chugged along as the fisherman popped and dipped his rod while retrieving. Dad added a skirt to this and called it the “Pop-N-B”.
THE MIGHTY MINNOW – I loved the Mighty Minnow. What a classic little bait. I caught so many fish on that little guy painted with minnow photo-realism. He was about 2-inches long, and sometimes came with a spinner. You could pop him like a topwater lure, too.
THE B-FLAT 2 – The B-Flat 2 was a thin, 1/2-inch wide bait shaped like a Kill’r B. Picture if you were to accidentally step on a Kill’r B and flatten him out… you would have the B-Flat 2 (a little over 2-inch long).
THE EAKER EATER – Dad was good friends with the well-known spinner bait fisherman, Guy Eaker.With Guy’s supervision, dad created this unique spinner bait. The extended rubber skirt protected the hook even when the bait was pulled through dense grass.
THE SWITCH BLADE – A dynamite spinner bait with a specially curved light wire that allows it to glide snarl-free through grass and lily pads. The unique bend also enabled it to ride up and over underwater obstacles, such as hidden stumps.
THE FINGER MULLET – Redfish, snook and trout (and others) loved the Finger Mullet. It came with either photo-realistic eyes and scales, or pure white or yellow with a red head. The white with red head was a fish’s (and fisherman’s) favorite.
SALTY DOG SHRIMP – This jig goes back to the pre-balsa days of when dad only had plastic worms. This shrimp tail was poured plastic and came in a variety of colors. It came with a lead head that the tails could be attached to.
DIVING BANG-O-B – The Diving Bang-O-B was a lure of incredible versatility. Made of tough, imported hard-wood with two heavy-duty hooks, this lure brought back the big ones. It was available in 6-inch and 8-inch models.