March 06, 2012
By Ned Kehde
Our Feb. 26 blog about Chuck Woods spawned some interest about his Puddle Jumper.
Virtually every serious freshwater angler in America has heard of the Beetle and Beetle Spin, which is now part of Pure Fishing's massive conglomerate. A goodly number of these anglers don't know that Woods was its creator. For decades it has been commonly assumed that Virgil Ward was the creator of the Beetle and Beetle Spin. Ward was the proprietor of the Bass Buster Lure Company of Amsterdam, Missouri, and his company was the first manufacturer of the Beetle and Beetle Spin.
A significant number of anglers that read the Feb. 26 blog had never heard of the Puddle Jumper and wanted to know more about it.
Some anglers, who used to relish it, didn't know that it was still being manufactured and readily available. They assumed that after the demise of Ted Green's Mar Lynn Lure Company that it had become another one of the great lures of the past.
We asked Burton Bosley of Sutton, West Virginia, to tell us what he remembered about Woods and the creation of the Puddle Jumper.
In an e-mail, Bosley wrote that he moved from Kansas City to West Virginia in 1970, and after that move, he and Woods exchanged letters regularly. In those letters, Woods often mentioned that he was working on some new baits, which included the Puddle Jumper and Mini-Twister. As they swapped letters, Bosley repeatedly told Woods that he was eager to see his handiwork.
According to Bosley, Woods used the tail of Mar Lynn Lure Company's Ensley Reaper as a platform from which to craft the first Puddle Jumper. In those days, the Ensley Reaper was a popular bait with scores of talented bass anglers in western and central Missouri. Guido Hibdon of the Lake of the Ozarks was one of those anglers. Outside of the confines of Kansas City and the Ozarks, the late Tony Portincaso of Chicago, as well as the staff of Fishing Facts magazine, did a lot to popularize the Reaper across the northern states. The Reaper eventually became popular with some of the finesse anglers in the Western states. Nowadays, there are several manifestations of the Ensley Reaper; Don Iovino Products of Burbank ,California, makes one, as does Creation Baits of Clovis, California and various other manufacturers.
The traditional Mar Lynn Ensley Reaper is still available at Guides Choice Fishing Pro Shop in Eagle River, Wisconsin, and they can be seen at this website: http://www.guideschoiceproshop.com/acatalog/Online_Catalog_Reapers_by_MarLynn_Lure_Co__97.html.
Arkie Jigs in Springdale, Arkansas, also sells the Ensley Reaper, and it can be seen at this link: http://www.arkiejigs.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=AJ&Category_Code=OR
Even though Woods used the Reaper's tail to make the first Puddle Jumpers, Woods was never a Reaper devotee. "He didn't like the way it fished," Bosley said.
In 1971, Ted Green, who was the proprietor of Mar Lynn Lure Company of Blue Springs, Missouri, began manufacturing the Puddle Jumper. Eventually Mar Lynn's logo became the "Puddle Jumper People" rather than the Reaper people. But it wasn't until May 3, 1983, which was more than a decade after Woods created it and many years after his death, that Mar Lynn acquired a registered trademark for the Puddle Jumper.
Mar Lynn made in it four lengths (1 ½ inch, two inch, three inch and five inch) and 33 different colors.
Woods was always infatuated with jig spinners. Thus, Mar Lynn manufactured a jig spinner rendition, which was called the Puddle Jumper Spinner. It was made in eight sizes: 1/64-ounce jig with a 1 ½-inch Puddle Jumper body, 1/32-ounce model with a 1 ½-inch body, 1/32-ounce jig with a two-inch body, 1/16-ounce jig with a two-inch body, 1/8-ounce jig with two-inch body, 3/16-ounce jig with a three-inch body, !/4-ounce jig with a three-inch body and a 1/2-ounce jig with a five-inch body.
Bosley said that he returned to Kansas City in 1971 for several days. During that visit, Woods gave him some of the lures that he had been working on, and among them were some two- and three-inch Puddle Jumpers.
When Bosley returned to Sutton, West Virginia, he used the three-inch one on the Elk River. He rigged it with an exposed hook on a lightweight jig and wielded it on lightweight spinning tackle and six-pound-test line. He presented it to the smallmouth bass by casting it slightly upstream and allowing it to drift in the current devoid of any man-made action such as shakes. To his delight, it exhibited what Bosley called a "drifty movement" that inveigled an astonishing number of smallmouth bass.
Bosley also discovered that the two-inch Puddle Jumper and a jig was an extremely effective crappie combination.
It never reached the nationwide acclaim of the Beetle or the Reaper, but there were and are small cadres of white crappie and black bass anglers across the Heartland who relished and still relish it. It has proven to be especially effective for alluring black crappie that abide in many of the natural lakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin
In addition to Bosley, Russ "Bassdozer" Comeau of Page, Arizona, was another angler from what Kansas Citians call back East who discovered the Puddle Jumper. Comeau recently noted in an e-mail that the Puddle Jumper was one of his favorites when he was growing up and fishing around New York and New Jersey. Comeau said that he primarily employed it as a trailer on an 1/8-ounce spinnerbait. On Comeau's spinnerbait, the legs on the Puddle Jumper fluttered incessantly, and in the eyes of the New Jersey and New York bass, it was an alluring combination.
Bosley said that he has been in a "Puddle Jumper deficit"" for a number of years. He said that he had used his last ones while rigging them on Charlie Brewer's Slider Company's Spider Slider Head jigs and pursuing smallmouth bass at a West Virginia reservoir. Because Mar Lynn Lure Company and Ted Green were dead, Bosley couldn't find a way to purchase them. Nevertheless, Bosley kept thinking that the Puddle Jumper, like the Beetle, "is a bait that should still be in production," and to his delight, as well as to his dismay, he recently learned that William Collins of Harrison, Arkansas, acquired the Puddle Jumper molds, and his Ozarkfishing company has been manufacturing them since 2006.
Collins wrote in an e-mail on Feb. 2: "The Puddle Jumpers have been doing pretty well the last few years. Anglers still remember them from the Mar Lynn and Harold Ensley days. I have had a lot of fun making them though it has been a challenge. Anglers are finding the larger size good for smallmouth, walleye and bass. I keep picking up customers. One big thing is that Big Rock Sports, CSI Sports and Henry's, now carries them. I don't know how well they will do with them, but they have put them in their crappie catalog. Most of my business is just word of mouth." He also noted in a telephone conversation that he sells more Puddle Jumpers in Minnesota than he does elsewhere.
On Mar. 6, Bosley wrote in an e-mail that he was ordering some online from Collins' at http://store.ozarkfishing.com/.
Once they arrive, he said he would send periodic reports about his Puddle Jumper endeavors.