This year, one of our go-to lures of all times celebrates its 65th birthday. Since the day the rubber worm jumped on to the scene it has been a staple among recreational and competitive anglers. As time passed, the rubber worm showed no sign of retiring and instead has created a soft plastic revolution that expands every year. The simple lure has humble beginnings.
Angling historians are a bit vague on the actual beginning of the worm, but the overwhelming majority agree that it began in an Akron, Ohio basement. Nick and Cosma Crème cooked up a home brew of vinyl, oil and pigment that they poured into a mold that was created from a live nightcrawler. Their version looked real, was soft and felt alive. Better than that the oils they added to their mix kept the lure from drying out over time and exposure to wind, sun and water.
They named their product the Crème Wiggle Worm and sold the first ones in 1949. Back when a dollar was worth something a fisherman could get spend a George Washington and get a pack of five Wiggle Worms. 9600 packs (48,000 worms) were sold at the Cleveland Sportsman’s Show in a few days and the Crème family’s hobby turning into an overnight business. There were off and running.
Southern bass anglers kicked it up a notch for fishing in the many ponds, lakes and reservoirs. Nick Crème expanded his reach by creating a number of new rigging techniques that commemorated the states where his lures were fished. These days the terms Texas-rigged or Carolina-rigged worms are as common as sunburn. Crème was the first lure manufacturer to set up a network of field staff and professional anglers to promote his lures, another trend we still see today.
The 1960’s saw worms that smelled like fruit (purple smelled like grape and black like blackberries) while the 1980’s saw some versions flavored with sugar, chocolate, and even Coca-Cola. Curled tails were added, some had hard noses and soft bodies, and others were injected with air so they would float. The more things change the more they stay the same, and when you pull out a rubber worm this year be sure to say happy birthday to an old friend. We’re glad you’re here.
Tom Keer is an award-winning freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.