The Big Bait Master?

It’s hard to believe that throwing big baits is still a relatively new technique especially in comparison to the other techniques. It’s been less than 10 years that big bait fishing has been more or less a mainstream technique on the west coast. During that time there have been only a handful of truly can’t miss big baits. When you take some time to breakdown all the great big baits ever designed one designer’s name keeps coming up.

There have been many big bait designers that have come up with one or two really hot baits but, I can think of only 1 designer that has designed several of the best selling big baits of all time. Add to those a few baits that haven’t been readily available to the public but, used by some of the best big baiters around and I think a big bait master can be crowned.

Who is this Big Bait Master? Before we get to the master let’s acknowledge some of the runner-ups.

Alan Cole
Alan Cole may have designed the best selling big bait ever sold in the A.C.

Ken Huddleston
Ken did design the number four best selling big bait of all time in the Huddleston Deluxe Trout. The Deluxe Trout is one of the few big baits that can now be found in the big box stores like Bass Pro Shops. Huddleston has yet to release a new bait that has hit the market with any large success since.

Matt Servant
Matt Servrant has made Matt Lures is a household name among the big bait anglers of the west coast and beyond. His Matt Lures Bluegill and Ultimate Bluegill were many big bait angler’s first big bait.

Scott Whitmer
Scott sold tens of thousands of swimbaits in the early 1990’s to the Japanese market with the Whitmer/Rago swimbait. Today he makes the 22nd Century Triple Trout which is one of the most duplicated baits of all time.

Jason Scott
Jason is the main designer of the Castaic Bait Company line of baits. Although, no one bait of his has made the top 5 list Castaic as a company may have sold more baits than any other swimbait company to date.

Along with the names mentioned above there are some new designers on the block that are making large strides very fast. Leading the pack is Josh St. John of JSJ baits, Nate Lambrecht from Nate’s baits, Clayton from Cl8 Baits, and Mike Bucca from Bull Shad have all designed outstanding baits over the years and are continuing to raise the bar in the big bait game.

Finally – The Big Bait Master
So who’s left? Who’s the “Big Bait Master?” Well, let’s run through his accomplishments. While partnering with another fantastic big bait maker they sold tens of thousands of big baits to Japan in the 1990’s. He was a big part of the design of the original Osprey swimbaits which are second to only the AC Plug for best selling big baits of all time. He had one of his designs duplicated by another company nearly verbatim and that bait has sold tens of thousands of baits as well. He designed a rat that has been a “must have” bait for a decade or so. By now, you probably have figured out that the “Big Bait Master” is none other than Jerry Rago. Rago is often seen by anglers as a small niche bait designer. This is mostly because his manufacturing process is still “one bait at a time” by hand, not just any hands – his hands. Rago continually pumps out cutting edge baits from his small shop in Bishop California which happens to be next door to Osprey Lure company.

Let’s take a deeper look at those accomplishments. We started off by talking about his partnering with another incredible big bait designer, that designer is Scott Whitmer. The Rago-Whitmer or Whitmer-Rago swimbaits were big in the U.S. in the late 1990’s and huge in Japan . Rago and Whitmer shipped and sold as many or more big baits per year to Japan than most big bait companies do worldwide in any five year period today.

Rago also worked with the original Osprey designers to develop the early Osprey baits. This design is still the underlying blueprint to the Osprey baits of today. Osprey has been among the best selling big baits for the entire 2000-2010 decade. Even today they remain one of the best selling and best fish catching big baits in the world.

Just a few years later Rago designed the Tool. The Rago Tool may be the best swimming hard big bait of all time which caught the eye of a Spro “designer”. Today’s Spro BBZ is a virtual duplicate of the Rago Tool. Although Rago does not receive any credit for designing the BBZ its impossible not to see where the BBZ came from when you place the two side by side. The BBZ from Spro is another of the best selling big baits of all time. Spro was able to mass produce a bait that doesn’t fish as well, but looks almost as good to the anglers as the Rago Tool and sell tens of thousands and maybe more of their version of the Rago Tool. Although, it may be controversial, it’s hard not to give Rago the credit for the design of the BBZ.

Rago’s Rat, Sewer Rat and Mouse have been around for the better part of a decade and have become part of many anglers arsenal. Thousands of this bait have been sold and they still sell out in most tackle stores in weeks if not days or hours when they arrive. The Rago Rat was the first of its kind another truly unique design by Jerry Rago.

Looking back at the short history of big baits, Jerry Rago often gets overlooked. With all due respect to the rest of the fantastic big bait designers that help all of us catch bigger fish than ever before, it’s Jerry Rago that in my opinion is the best big bait designer of all time. I cite his early success in the U.S. and Japan with partner Scott Whitmer. His incredible designs with the Osprey Swimbait company that live on today. The design of his Tool which soon became a huge success for the Spro company and the huge success of his Rat as my evidence in the case for Jerry Rago as the true “Big Bait Master.”

Rago later developed a few big baits under his own name that were treasured by the angler’s who got their hands on them. They include the generic trout (my first swimbait fish ever was caught on a generic trout) and the “Live Trout” among others. The “Live Trout” has put over ten double digit bass in one very well known California big bass hunter’s boat and many other anglers have reported huge success on it. However, these were not sold in enough numbers to be considered along with the likes of Huddleston Deluxe Trouts, Ospreys or AC Plugs.

Jerry Rago with a Blimp
caught on his Super G Swimbait

From 2009