Martin’s Lizard

Few lures in history have been copied more by companies than Jack Martin’s Lizard, according to an opening line in a volume of the company’s history by Robert Slade in his coverage of this lure in his 18-volume book set, The Encyclopedia of Old Fishing Lures.

Slade spent many days over the years combing our files of catalogs, adds and lures, as he compiled this wonderful history of lures. He spent amazing efforts, traveling far and wide to capture the history of smaller companies that are overlooked by collectors of products from major companies.

In the 1940s, Jack H. Martin, of Drumright, Okla., developed a deep-diving bait that was very effective. In 1946, he filed for patents in Canada and the U.S., and was issued a patent in 1949, but our country never approved his application.

The hand-painted baits were first made of cedar wood with glass eyes and were packed in silver boxes with green print that stated, “Martin’s Lizard That Gets the Big Ones.” They were designed to float at rest and go deep on a retrieve, with also a wobbling, rocking and erratic action. Patents were pending in U.S. and Canada and they were “sold only by Jack Martin at Drumright, Okla.”

The instructions found by Bob in our files were originally from the Richard Walton collection, which first included lures in 1909, plus catalogs and papers. I purchased this collection consisting of 4,000 lures, as well as files of history years ago, and continue to add to it.

An early wood, glass-eyed Martin’s Lizard in its original box on top of a file from an early collector who preserves this company’s history.
An early wood, glass-eyed Martin’s Lizard in its original box on top of a file from an early collector who preserves this company’s history.

The directions have a caution not to tie the line tight to eye in a bill, as it will “kill the action, tie loose loop or use a small snap.” It adds that after the plug has reached the desired depth, when casting, you need to reel for a few feet then stop and continue this stop-and-go system all the way in. Then they add, reel slow, but not too fast for best results, and, to reel it in slow in shallow water.

Next, they say the plug should hang while fishing in brush, stumps or logs. And, simply slack off on the line and the plug will stand up on its head and float up above obstruction, then you can continue on to the retrieve.

The company adds this plug is “made by a fisherman for the fishermen” and says it is something different. There were 32 colors the lure was made in and the price was $1.25 each. Later, the lures were made in 48 colors until 1955, when operations were moved to Stillwater, Okla. The baits were subsequently made of plastic, including a plastic box, but still used the glass eyes for a short time. The color selection was also then shortened to 11 different finishes.

Jack Martin Sr. died in 1970, and his son Jack Jr. took over in Wichita, Kans. He had only made the lures for three years when my friend, the late Jerry Kidwell, bought the business.

Jerry and I were charter members of the Indianapolis Bassmasters, and we shared many good times in our meetings and tournaments throughout the Midwest. He would go on to make the lures in plastic with molded in eyes, and in 28 different finishes.

Jerry died in February 2014, at the age of 59—way too early. May he rest in peace.

 

  Dan Basore is a fishing historian and steward of the history of the sport. In his efforts to preserve fishing history, Basore is always on the lookout for information about early lure makers, old lures, pre- level wind reels, manufacturer catalogs, tournament casting items and the like. If you possess information or materials that can help, please contact Dan Basore, Historical Fishing Display, at 630-393-3474 or 1-800-347-4525.

MWO

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Dan Basore

Dan Basore is a fishing historian and steward of the history of the sport. In his efforts to preserve fishing history, he is always on the lookout for information about early lure makers, old lures, pre-level wind reels, manufacturer catalogs, tournament casting items and the like. If you possess information or materials of this kind, please contact him at 630-393-3474 or by email at [email protected]

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