smokey joe

SMOKEY JOE, a color I remember from Cordell Lures.

I hope there are many who mourn for the passing of Cotton Cordell, today, at the age of 86. The angler/luremaker is indeed, the one those names that still endures. Yet, I have come to understand that with age more of us tend to look back–while a younger generation can’t imagine the interest or the attachment.

Cotton wasn’t a friend in the traditional sense, but whenever we crossed paths over the years following my very first press junket to Hot Springs, Arkansas back in 1977, it took him only moments to put a name with a face–and his face seemed always to wear a smile.

Clearly, many others will have stories about Cotton and about the baits associated with his brand. The Big O gets a lot of notoriety, but to me, the plastic version (compared to wood) always seemed a bit more hype than substance. (Maybe because I wasn’t much of a cranker then.)

But I can tell you the thing that sticks most in my memory was a color listing from the catalog: “Smokey Joe.” If you were looking for a shad-colored bait–especially a lipless vibrator, that was the one you wanted. Gray body, black back. Maybe it wasn’t his original, but it was for me.

You’ve all heard the story of the noise-making characteristics of that Cordell Spot. But mostly because the company reintroduced the One-knocker series a few years back.

later model Big O

BIG O–A later model in plastic.

But the tale they were telling way back on my first factory trip, was that the ball bearing inside the back of the molded body was not properly glued in a batch of the baits–and those lures became the hot producers. So hot, in fact, guys would come into tackle shops and tap every bait on the counter to see if they could find one that would rattle.

Over the years, Cordell and other Pradco baits (plus contemporary Bill Lewis’ Ratt-L-Traps and many modern imports) have made even louder baits, while trending has also gone the other way, turning more to “silent” models.

But in an earlier era for me, a time of magical new discoveries about bass fishing “in the South,” I only see them in shades of gray: Smokey Joe.


3 Responses to “Looking back: ‘Smokey Joe’ & Cotton Cordell”

The Big O was the first crankbait I ever caught a bass on when I was much younger…back in the ’70s I think. The Balsa Big B,I think it was called, was my favorite though. A more experience friend of mine took me to Lake Cachuma back then and showed me how to fish the backside of the island with a chartreuse colored Balsa B and caught bass after bass. The good old days…..

I have an old Cordell Spot that I think I’ll sand and repaint grey with a black back. I have a few Big O’s as well.