Though there are plenty of good steelhead plugs on the market today, three of the all-time best ones have long since been discontinued. It always seems to work out that way, doesn’t it? Well, that doesn’t mean, however, that they’re not still out there…somewhere. While most Willy’s Worms, old-style Bagley’s Crawfish and STORM Pee Wee Warts have mostly been hunted to extinction on eBay, a few still pop up now and then. But truly your best bet to score a few of these old Hall of Famers is to scour the aisles of out-of-the way tackle shops and liquor stores, where you may just find a few dusty and faded packages hanging on pegs or in the bargain bin.
Here’s a closer look at these three steelie slayers:
STORM Pee Wee Wart
It was a tough day for me when Rapala, who had just bought out STORM, excitedly announced that they were going to totally revamp the Wart line. Of course, I wasn’t the only salmon and steelhead angler who was screaming for them to not mess with anything! But mess they did — including a total elimination of the Pee Wee’s from the lineup!
Since then, it’s been a struggle to find any of these little guys and my stock just keeps on dwindling (I’m down to 3 now). Though petite in size, Pee Wees were dandy steelhead plugs…and spring Chinook loved ’em too! The secret to getting them to run right was to switch out the stock trebles and replace them with a tiny, No. 4 Siawash….which always proved interesting when you hooked a hawg!
While Bagley’s is still making their Crawfish these days, they have changed the bill…added lead to it, which I’m sure the bass guys like but the change has rendered the plug damn near useless as a backtrolling lure. And the bill was really what made these lures great — extremely wide and long, the Crawfish could stay down in super hot water.
For decades, these were a closely guarded secret of guides all up and down the West Coast…steelies in clear water absolutely mollyhocked ’em. In fact, that was actually the downside of the plug: the are made of balsa wood and it didn’t take too many steelhead attacks to turn them into sawdust. Until the eyes pulled out, the bill wiggled loose and the body got all deformed, these things were D-E-A-D-L-Y!
I’ll also greatly miss the erratic, side-to-side wiggle of the WIlly’s Worm…a plug manufactured by a not-super-well-known company called “The Producers.” These things just had a shimmy to ’em that steelies liked and a nice wide bill made them very stable. You also had two line attachment points with which to work and the plug also featured some small and light rattles that didn’t spook fish in clear water. Plus, the things were damn near free…they were something like $2 a pop!