E2bd_1 As a teenager, the fishing rivalry between my cousin and I was beyond intense. Hell, it wasn’t just about catching the most or biggest largemouths, it was about manhood itself.

We all found ourselves in different camps. I was a dyed-in-wool Burke’s guy with black and natural colored worms (of course they were earth-scent impregnated) and then switched over to Burke’s Flex Plugs when they were introduced in the early 70s. My favorites were the Top Dog and the Pop Top. Talk about totally buying into the hype! Burke’s pr said that because these plugs were made of soft plastic (rubber), bass would bite them harder and hold on. Well, they seemed to. I did pretty well with these topwaters.

My dad? I think he went through 10 years using the very same black Arbogast Hula Popper. Oh, he’d occasionally replace its rubberized tail, but not often enough. And yet, he’d take bass after bass. I can still vividly see the joy on his face when a bass would boil on his presentation.

My cousin? Well, he was the dastardly Heddon guy. Of course, it made no sense that dastardly and Heddon would go together, but that’s how we viewed it–rivalries work that way. One summer day, he opened his aluminum Umco tackle box to reveal a topwater lure none of us had ever seen before. He called it a “Tiny Crazy Crawler Mouse” and I couldn’t have been more jealous. Holy crap–what a lure. Well, at least it looked good.

Then he cast it. Once the ripples faded on his very first offering, a huge largemouth inhaled it. He fought the fish hard on his red Sears baitcasting reel then, infuriatingly, unhooked the bass from the lure and onto his chain stringer–with the non-chalantness of Curt Gowdy. Yeah, I decided to take a good, long look at all of Heddon’s offerings after that.

—Gerry Bethge