August 26, 2021
In almost 40 years of writing largemouth bass fishing, I’ve been fortunate to interview and fish with countless heros of the sport. The memories I have of working with Lonnie Stanley on articles and sharing a boat with him rank near the top of the list. The world knew Lonnie Stanley for his creation of Stanley Jigs, as he was one of the earliest jig makers and builder of many of the finest spinnerbaits. But Lonnie was much more, one of the humblest and kindest men you’d want to meet. He treated his family like gold, from Patsy, his wife of 57 years, to his three daughters and 10 grandchildren.
In recent years, he’s been happiest to take the family out crappie fishing. And he and Patsy have been raising 10-year-old Will. Since his passing, I’ve heard countless stories of Lonnie’s remarkable personality and humble but outgoing nature.
Several years ago, Lonnie told me about the origins of the company he founded.
“In 1979, I started pouring leadhead jigs of a modified Arkie design with a fiberguard, using 33 strands of nylon and a living rubber skirt hand-tied on Eagle Claw hooks,” he recalled. “I won the 1980 Lone Star Tournament on Toledo Bend with my jig and went into production with the winnings.”
He had an 8 X 16 foot shed in College Station, Texas, near where he’d operated a heavy-machinery business, then expanded in 1983 and moved to Huntington.
“I poured jigs, Patsy painted them and added weedguards, and our daughters bagged and labeled them. I brought them to local tournaments and sold them for a buck apiece. About two years later, Rick Clunn brought me a needle-point hook from England that he’d found in a Herter’s catalog. We convinced Mustad to produce needle points, which became our top seller.”
He and Clunn were members of the Bryan Bass Club, where Zell Rowland also got his start. Stanley’s first taste of national success had come in 1975 at the Bassmaster Federation National Championship.
“It didn’t hurt our business when Mark Stevenson caught the Texas record bass of 17.67 pounds on one of our jigs in the fall of 1986,” he added.
That fish kicked off the Lonestar Lunker program for Texas Parks & Wildlife, and “Ethel” went on to live out her life at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri, viewed by millions. Stevenson caught her on one of Lonnie’s special 3-colored jigs, with a skirt of black, brown, pink, backed by a Hale’s Craw Worm, one of the most popular early crawbaits.
Stanley was the first to create multi-color skirts as well as weedguards. The modest Stanley didn’t mention his victory at the 1987 B.A.S.S. Megabucks tournament at Florida’s Harris Chain. But this top-level event also boosted his brand as it was widely covered by national media. He also won the Texas Invitational on Sam Rayburn in 1997 and competed in five Bassmaster Classics.
Fellow pros scored huge wins with his lures as well–Rick Clunn’s 1986 win at the U.S. Open on Lake Mead on a Vibra Shaft Spinnerbait with a new metal-flake skirt; Guido Hibdon’s victory with his jig at the 1988 Bassmaster Classic on the James River; and Robert Hamilton’s championship at the 1992 Logan Martin Classic, using Stanley spinnerbaits and jigs. Stanley also starred in the Sportsman’s Challenge TV show, sponsored by Skeeter Boats on ESPN, along with co-worker and Texas bass legend in his own right Mike Dyess, and host Ron Franklin of football fame. He and Dyess bought Hale Lures in 1983 from Robert Hale, with his signature Hale’s Craw Worm, and they formed Dylist Corporation, a custom skirt maker, as a side business with Don Link. Dyess fished the Bassmaster Classic, as did John and Robert Hale, so the company has always been stacked with bass fishing talent.
Stanley worked for 37 years alongside John Hale, who left the military with a degree in microbiology, but joined the tackle business for a change of pace.
“We had our differences over the years,” Hale conceded, “But, we worked well together as our relationship was based on mutual respect and love and our determination to build the best lures. We have different fishing styles but that’s only natural.”
Hale and his two brothers bought out Stanley Jigs and became majority owners of Hale Lure/Stanley Jigs in 2013, as Stanley remained to help with lure design and planning.
Lonnie Stanley was born at the tail end of World War II, and he was one of the many forces that grew the sport of bass fishing during its decades of rapid expansion from the 1970s to the 1990s. Anyone who has pitched a jig or chucked a spinnerbait owes him a debt of gratitude. Lonnie’s legend lives on