You’re welcome.??For what, you ask? Well, only for doing the leg work to get you all in on one of the most incredible advancements in fishing I’ve ever seen… way before the rest of angling world finds out, that’s what.
Actually, I just kinda stumbled into this one. Last November, I was in the tiny speck-on-the-map town of Moses Lake, Wash., on a solo fishing/road trip. After two unsuccessful days of trying for big bass and rainbows on nearby Potholes Reservoir, I stopped in at an old, run-down tackle shop/liquor store called Deke’s Bait and Booze.
Deke’s selection was pretty weak — of tackle, not alcohol — but I did find a couple old-school wooden FlatFish in the “clearance” bucket near the register and a white plastic bottle of spray-on fish scent called Johnson’s Bait Jump-Starter by a company called Wilton Milton. No doubt the bottle’s (and Wilton Milton Tackle Co.’s) expiration date had long since passed, but for 99 cents I was willing to take a chance n especially since the bite had been so tough on Potholes.
The next morning, I found a very bassy-looking cove and began to toss a purple plastic worm in towards some weed beds. I casted for a good solid hour without any action and then remembered my bottle of Bait Jump-Starter. As per the directions, I shook the bottle vigorously and then sprayed some of the stuff onto my worm.
The scent was awful — imagine a combination of battery acid, rotten chicken livers and a porta-potty on a hot day and you get the idea. Unfortunately, I got a little of the noxious brew on my left hand and the smell made me dry heave.??There was no way I was going to be able to fish with a hand that smelled like a dead chicken in a public restroom, so I dropped the rod and, after several minutes of energetic scrubbing, I was able to get the stink off.
When I bent back down to pick up my rod, a dark, slow-moving shape caught my attention. A snake! Deathly afraid of snakes, I about jumped out of my shoes to get out of the way. From a safe distance of 10 feet back, I realized that the “snake” was actually my plastic worm. It was sort of twitching, bubbling and writhing there in the sand — almost like I had set it onto a hill of fire ants and the insects were attacking it en masse. I moved in for a closer look and found no bugs — the damn thing was moving on its own. Bizarre!??While I stared at the worm in disbelief, the little fisherman inside my brain started shouting at me:??‘Hey dummy, quit wasting time and throw that thing in the water. That worm looks reaaaaaal fishy!’??Oh yea, good idea.
I picked up my rod and let the strange worm fly. The cast settled nicely near a partially submerged log and the lure began to sink. I saw a swirl under the surface right where it had landed and I soon felt my line go tight. A nice battle ensued and I netted a fat 5-pound largemouth. The next cast resulted in a fish of about 3 1/2 pounds and, on the following three in a row, I beached another 5-pounder and two 4’s.??I was on top of the world. I had no idea what was in the Bait Jump-Starter, but I liked it!
All I had to do was throw out and then let the worm move on its own. I had the best day of my life in terms of bass and lost count of how many fish over four pounds that I caught. I switched spots later in the evening and found that my worm/spray combination was also deadly on rainbows.??The big trout just loved that purple worm as it twitched and jerked and they would often suck it down before it hit bottom. By sunset, I had landed 11 rainbows from 2 1/2 to 6 pounds and, right at dark, a bucketmouth just shy of 10 pounds inhaled my bait.
Since then, I’ve tried the spray on every kind of plastic bait imaginable — worms, Git-Zits, rubber crawfish and minnow-style jerkbaits. You can’t believe the action you get out of these lures!??The first time I tried a small Fin-S-Fish lure sprayed with the Jump-Starter at Folsom Lake, I caught a 4-pound rainbow and an 11-pound catfish on consecutive casts in the cove at the end of the boat ramp at Rattlesnake Bar. The spray made that minnow-like lure look exactly like a wounded or sick baitfish and the fish went crazy for it.
I took the stuff to Lake Pardee and out-fished the Power Bait gang in the main cove so badly that I thought that I might not get out of there alive, and in the Greenhorn area of Rollins Lake, I absolutely slaughtered the smallmouth bass and caught a bonus 8-pound brown while throwing the same purple worms that I had used at Potholes Reservoir.??My new found weapon worked so well for Lake Camanche rainbows and bass when used on 4.5-inch dropshot worms that I felt like I was cheating and I won’t even tell you how well I did recently on big largemouth up at Clear Lake because you probably wouldn’t even believe me.
While I was riding high with my recent discovery, there were a couple of problems. First off, it didn’t always work. There would be times when I would spray the stuff on a lure and it wouldn’t make it move. At first, I thought it had to do with things like ambient air temperature and humidity, but I really was never able to develop a pattern. Simply put, the spray seemed to work only when it wanted to.??The second issue with which I was dealing with was the fact that the bottle was running out. I needed more of the stuff, but had nowhere to turn. I called fishing stores from here to Canada and spoke with tackle reps and buyers. Nobody had ever heard of Wilton Milton and the bottle didn’t have an address or phone number on it. I spent three full nights searching the Internet to no avail and was very close to giving up.
Then, one afternoon my wife said, just in passing, something that helped me break the case.??”Why don’t you just call information and see if there’s a Milton Johnson in Wilton?”??Oh my, god, that was it! In plain black letters, the bottle read: Wilton Milton Johnson’s Bait Jump-Starter. But from day one, I had just assumed that it was Johnson’ Bait Jump-Starter and Wilton Milton was the long-defunct company that had made the stuff.??Long story short: After some searching, I located 87-year-old Milton Johnson literally right under my nose just east of Elk Grove. He still lives in the same little 900 square-foot house in Wilton in which he was born.??There, he’d raised six children and out-lived four wives and “half again that number of mistresses.” Now, he shares the place with Ol’ Blue, an arthritic hound dog that naps 18 hours a day, and a talking Quaker parrot named “Polecat” (don’t ask) that has a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush.
Tight-lipped, Johnson won’t say how, but back in the late 70’s, he discovered a chemical mixture that reacts with certain ingredients in plastic. As I understand it, it’s not the plastic itself, but some of the resin “fillers” that it’s made of. When Johnson’s chemical concoction is applied to these fillers they set off, as he calls it, “a polka party of action in your bait” that lasts two to eight minutes, depending on how much spray used.??”Better living through chemistry, Sport,” as he likes to say.
He told me that only a handful of lure manufacturers use the fillers that will react with his spray, which explains why I couldn’t get it to work all the time. Johnson designed his product to work specifically with the two main soft plastic baits companies of the time: Creme and Mann’s.??Any of the worms and plastic insects by Creme will dance like mad (you trout fishermen should see the plastic cricket when sprayed with Bait Jump-Starter) and Mann’s Jelly Worms also work well. I inadvertently found that the spray also works with modern baits like ones made by Fin-S, Yamamoto, Zoom and Magic Worms.
Johnson, in a wheelchair now, was involved in a horrific bass fishing accident right as he started marketing his product in 1981 and then fell into a deep depression, took up drinking and gave it all up. Out behind his house, however, is a small meth lab-looking shop that still houses all the equipment he used to manufacture the Bait Jump-Starter so many years ago.??It took some doing, but after several long visits with the old timer, I finally convinced him to get things going again. In the past month or so, Johnson has cooked up the first few batches of the spray and he’s looking happier than ever. I’ve taken the stuff to the Delta (five stripers over 15 pounds in two hours), San Pablo Reservoir (a limit of 17- to 21-inch rainbows from the shore in 35 minutes) and even Donner Lake, where I caught a 39-inch, 16-pound mackinaw in China Cove.
We’ve sent some samples to the likes of Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops and they’ve since gotten into a bidding war over the product. Wal Mart’s also calling and there is probably an infomercial forthcoming. This stuff is going to make the old man a millionaire several times over and it’s also going to change the face of fishing as we know it. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen!
It will likely be several months before Wilton Milton’s Bait Jump-Starter gets released to the public at large, but I’ve arranged for a special deal for friends and readers of this post to be able to purchase some (maximum three bottles) in advance. We’ve set up a toll-free hot line: (884) HOT-BAIT. To get the special deal, hit extension 0401 and ask for Mrs. April Fools.
Did I get ya??