Once upon a time in the south, from somewhere in the hills, came a short, fat, baby that would totally change the way southern bass fishermen thought about crankbaits, only to be forgotten about over time by all but a loyal few.
No, I’m not talking about the infant Bill Dance. I’m referring to the Mann’s bait company and the Baby 1 minus. This radical innovation in shallow water cranking was such a simple trick, but one that was desperately needed by fishermen in shallow southern waters that sometimes were only 3 feet deep, or were so congested with vegetation growing just under the surface, or tangled masses of lay down wood and cypress stumps that using a crankbait was considered foolish.
Tom Mann heard and understood the cries of fellow fishermen. He had built his company on the Mann’s Jelly Worm. A plastic worm with scent built right in. Now he went to work on a crankbait someone could fish where they would have never even thought of throwing one and where fish would not expect to see one.
The plastic diving bill on crankbaits were pretty much the same then. A cup in the surface of the bill made the hunk of plastic dive when pulled through the water. So how did they get the bait to go only a foot under the water no matter how hard it is pulled? The trick was to turn the bill around. By flipping the bill around and attaching it at the proper angle, the bait would dive to a maximum of 12 inches. Thus, the 1 minus was born. The fat body lifts the bait, and the outward curved bill produces a wild side to side wobble. Put in a few rattles, and you have something that will send out vibrations a country mile!
Over time, smaller sizes would make their debut. First was the baby 1 minus, then came the tiny 1 minus. I remember the first time I ever heard of this new design. I was reading Bassmaster magazine, and read an article about this new bait being fished by pro fisherman Paul Elias. I went to the tackle store to find one. This little fat baby, chrome with a black back, looked like a little fish. Alright, I was young and impressionable (as opposed to being old and foolish now), so I bought it.
If you have never fished one, and shame on you if you haven’t, it is basically a shallow running rat-l-trap, pretty much an idiot bait. Throw it out, reel it in. This thing has so much built in action there really isn’t a lot you can or should do. If you stop it, it will pop to the surface like a cork. If you slow it down too much it will not dive, and you kill the action.
I have leaned some tricks to using this bait over years. If you hold your rod tip up, it will boil just beneath the surface. Rod tip down next to the water’s surface will get this bait down to a foot deep. Run it in to stumps or concrete bridge pilings and it gets totally nuts, swimming sideways in the water, which can draw vicious strikes.
I never fish it on anything heavier than 12 pound mono, as it kills the side to side action. I never actually “set” the hooks on fish, as more times than not, you will rip it away from the fish. A gentle tug is all that is needed to plant the hooks as most hits on these baits are aggressive. I can’t tell you if it is a true feeding response, or if you have just driven the fish completely mad, but they eat it.