In 1966, a Reaper became an integral part of the repertoires of some of the forefathers of Midwest finesse fishing. It was created by the late Harold Ensley of Overland Park, Kansas. The first Reaper was 4 1/2-inches long, and Ensley affixed it to a jig and wielded it on his five-foot, six-inch spinning rod to catch lake trout in Canada. Ted Green of Mar-Lynn Lure Company manufactured it. But Midwest finesse anglers, who pursued black bass, customized it by cutting an inch or two off of the head of its torso before they affixed it to a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jig, and sometimes they split the tail, making it a double-tailed Reaper. Ultimately, Mar-Lynn manufactured two- and 3 1/2-inch versions of it.
In the early 1970s, Chuck Woods of Kansas City, Missouri, who Ensley once hailed as the finest angler that he ever knew, used the tail section of a Reaper to create the template for the Puddle Jumper, which was one of the angling world's first creature baits. Mar-Lynn Lure Company manufactured the Puddle Jumper, and Ensley said it was one of his favorite and most fruitful lures.
The Reaper has nearly disappeared from the repertoire of Midwest finesse anglers, but a minor renaissance has been unfolding throughout this decade. The most recent manifestation revolves around Doomsday Tackle's Reaper, which is much more of a creature bait than the traditional Reaper. In fact, some observers say it is more of a Sweet Beaver than a Reaper. Will Stewart of Lynchburg, Virginia, who is president and chief operating officer of Doomsday Tackle, says it was named after the Grim Reaper rather than Ensley's Reaper, and it is a creature bait.
It is manufactured in two sizes, and the 3.2-inch model is the one most Midwest finesse anglers will affix to a 1/16- or 3/32-ounce mushroom-style jig with the hook exposed. They will wield it with a spinning outfit and utilize it with all six of the standard Midwest finesse retrieves or slight variations of those retrieves. (See endnote No. 3 for more information about the six Midwest finesse retrieves.)
The tail and torso of Ensley's Reaper was smooth-skinned. The torso of the Doomsday's Reaper is encompassed by a significant series of nine ribs, and its torso is relatively flat and exhibits an oval shape, while the torso of Ensley's Reaper was cylinder-shaped.
The tail of Doomsday's Reaper consists of two large spear-shaped appendages that exhibit an abstract version of a crayfish's claws. Each of these appendages is adorned with several significant segments, which were designed to generate subtle but alluring movements. In some observers' eyes, these appendages remind them of the Grim Reaper's scythe. This tail is radically different than the one that embellished Ensley's Reaper. The only way that an angler can make it into a signal-tail Reaper is to use a needle and thread to sew them together.
These two appendages radiate from the side of Doomsday's Reaper's head.
Two tiny appendages branch out from the side of the head and behind the two large appendages. The ends or tips of these tiny appendages are adorned with a small teardrop-shaped crown.
Its head possesses a V-shape mouth and two eye-like socks.
Ensley's Reaper was devoid of appendages and a head. It had a torso and a flat tail, and it could be affixed to a jig so that its tail was either horizontal or vertical. When Midwest finesse anglers used a straight swimming presentation with the Ensley Reaper, they often affixed it to a jig so that the tail was vertical. When they wanted it to glide, they affixed it to the jig so that the tail was horizontal. When the Doomsday's Reaper is affixed to a jig, its tails are horizontal.
The Doomsday's Reaper is available in the following colors: Bama Bug, Beat Down, Cinnamon Mint, Dirty Gill, Green Pumpkin, Muddy Bayou, Spiced Pumpkin, and Watermelon.
A package of eight costs $5.99.
(1) Doomsday Tackle is located in Chatham, Virginia. Here is a link to their website: https://shop.doomsdaytackleco.com/products/doomsday-reaper-3-2.
(2) Doomsday's Reaper was not designed for Midwest finesse tactics. This YouTube video explains how Will Stewart of Lynchburg, Virginia, who is president and chief operating officer of Doomsday Tackle, fishes with it: https://shop.doomsdaytackleco.com/products/doomsday-reaper-3-2. Since the demise of YUM's two- and three-inch Wooly Beavertail, Midwest finesse anglers have been constantly searching for small creature baits, and the Doomsday Reaper might help fill that void.
(3) Here is the link to the Midwest Finesse column about the six Midwest finesse retrieves: https://www.in-fisherman.com/midwest-finesse/six-midwest-finesse-retrieves/.
(4) Here is a photograph of two of Ensley's Reapers.
(4) Here is a photograph of Chuck Woods' Puddle Jumper, which a byproduct of the Reaper