I started feeling my age while perusing the soft plastic offerings at a local tackle shop recently.
When I moved to Charleston and began fishing for trout in 1979, there were two primary lure options and not many more color choices. Mann's Sting Ray grub and up-and-coming Mister Twister with its curly tail to help entice reluctant fish were the extent of the manufacturers. And the most popular color choices were gray, green, green firetail and white. If you really wanted to spice things up, you bought a lure embedded with a sparkly metalflake embedded in the plastic.
Today's fisherman will choose from colors like Electric Chicken, Houdini, Acid Rain or Space Guppy, just to name a few. Care to guess what those colors most closely resemble on a color chart?
"People remember (names) better than they do yellow with a red tail. It sells baits. They're buying something more than a plain old Jane color, I think," said Robin Shiver, whose family owns Bass Assassin lures in Mayo, Fla.
The evolution from color description to descriptive name probably dates back to Bass Assassin's Electric Chicken, which sounds more like a disco dance than one of the most successful and imitated soft plastic baits around. For those unfamiliar with the Electric Chicken, it is a chartreuse and pink combination.
"I tried to trademark that name, but the trademark man said we couldn't. If I could have just kept Electric Chicken to myself." Shiver said, his voice trailing into what might have been.
Prior to purchasing Bass Assassin in 1988, Shiver's family owned a gas station with a tackle shop and also raised chickens commercially. But Electric Chicken had nothing to do with the family background.
Shiver said the name was a take-off from a popular hard plastic lure called the Texas Chicken, which had similar colors. The colors individually both were productive, but no one had figured how to marry the two without the colors bleeding, Shiver said.
"We kept finagling until we got something that would work, a pink that wouldn't bleed. There's so many colors you can't put together," he said. "That was kind of the start of it. I can see about any color. Point it out and I can make it.
"It's experience, I guess. I didn't go to school for it. After 25 years you're supposed to be learning something. The color combinations are endless. You maybe make a half dozen colors and directly you'll hit a home run."
Shiver's wife Teresa said the employees often brainstorm about names before coming up right color mixture.
A "color" that has surpassed Electric Chicken for the company is Chicken on a Chain, which has a greenish top fading to white bottom with a yellow tail.
"I was a bull rider and there was a bull named Chicken on a Chain. Teresa said we needed to call that new color Chicken on a Chain and that's how that happened," Shiver said.
He added that he also gets suggestions like the one he got from well-known fishing guide and television show host Rick Murphy, who saw a new color combination at a trade show and said it needed a better name.
"Pretty as that is, you need to call it Mama's 14 Karat (which is gold in color). That will be the fish-catchingest thing we've ever thrown in South Florida," Murphy said.
"We get some help. But every year I have dealers come to a show and ask what have you made this year? What kind of crazy name have you put on it? That helps build enthusiasm."
So what's your favorite color for fishing?
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