As excited as Bobby Murray was in 1973 about a crankbait everyone was drooling over, he absolutely can’t contain himself three decades later as Cotton Cordell prepares to introduce Fred Young’s Original Big O.
The Hot Springs, Ark., angler, who has won two BASS Masters Classics, including the first one, was working for Cotton Cordell back in the spring of ’73 when he was instrumental in getting plastic Big Os manufactured and into Cordell’s catalog in 1973-74.
Within 13 months, the artificial lure manufacturer sold 1.3 million Big Os.
That first Big O started a revolution in the fledgling sport of bass fishing with anglers turning to big plugs that featured a wide wobble. They could thank Murray, who telephoned Cordell from Beaver Lake in Arkansas that spring tournament day so many years ago to set the wheels in motion for a visit by the man who carved the original Big O, Fred Young of Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Bassers at that tournament were catching the fire out of bass, as they said back then, on a balsa crankbait carved by an old-timer somewhere in Tennessee. Cordell asked Murray to bring one back to headquarters and, after he did just that, a search was on to find the creator, who, as it turns out, was an old friend of a longtime buddy of Cordell’s who lived around Oak Ridge.
Young whittled his Big Os while recovering from major surgery. He gave some of them to his brother Otis Young, a big fella whose nickname was Big Otis (hence the name Big O).
Young carved, signed and numbered each one that sold for $10. He made more than 3,700, many of which Murray has and fishes with today.
Cordell and Young met at the Cordell plant in Hot Springs. Cordell ended up buying the patent, and Young oversaw the design of the plastic Big O, Murray said late last month during the heart of the deer hunting season in South Texas, where he has a lease.
When Young died in 1987, he left behind a legacy of a lure credited with the beginning of the “alphabet baits.”
Now collectors and anglers can thank Murray and Cotton Cordell Lures for bringing back the wooden version of Young’s Big O.
Barring any unforeseen hangups, the famous crankbaits should be available this month strictly from Cabela’s.
“It’s a unique plug that’s got a place in bass fishing history, no doubt about it,” Murray said. “Everybody in the industry has made their own version of it. But this is Fred’s version, which started it all. These will be collector’s items, no doubt. I think they’ll sell in an old egg carton, like Fred did.
“At the same time, these are fish-catching plugs. I think they’ll be priced where people can fish with them.
“I’m real excited about it and happy to be a part of it. Fred has passed on. It’s just part of his legacy living on. He loved to carve those plugs, you know.”
Murray knows that better than anyone, which prompted him within the last year to urge Cordell to make the wooden Big O.
“He (Cordell) came down to my house in Hot Springs. We picked out the standard body shape. That’s the shape we wanted. It caught so many fish,” he said.
With the aid of a special computer, every dimension of the original Big O has been copied for production of the new Fred Young’s Original Big O, Murray said.
And Cotton Cordell Lures added something modern to it.
“Really, what we’ve done here, we took the classic design of Fred’s lure, which was unique, and added a little bit of modern technique to it,” Murray said, noting the crankbait has a one-piece lip, hand-tie and hook hangars that ensure the crankbaits “will run perfect every time. It’s where we married new technology with an old art form.”
And, he said, Cotton Cordell matched the four original colors to the T, plus added two of the hottest selling colors to the line.
Chris Gulstad, Cotton Cordell Lures public relations manager, said the prototypes have gotten rave reviews.
“I was in Alabama a couple of weeks ago with one of our pro fishermen — Jimmy Mason of Rogersville, Ala., who fishes the Bassmaster Tour — and he was ecstatic after getting a chance to test it,” Gulstad said the last week of December.
Gulstad said Mason continually bugs him about getting him some of the first ones that roll off the manufacturing line.
“I can’t wait to get one myself. I’ve just had those few samples that we’ve had. They look great,” he said. “The timing is real good for Bobby to get the project going because balsa baits are real popular now. And it’s exciting to know we’re bring back the one that started it all.
“My guess is when people realize this bait’s out there, there’s going to be a rush to get them. I know that just about every angler out there is going to be wanting them. A whole new generation of anglers is going to be exposed to the bait that started it all.”
Suggested retail price is $7.99, he said. That’s less than Young asked in the early 1970s when bass fishermen snapped them up.
“It was just a phenomenon. It caught fish everywhere. It still does. It’s not new. It works,” Murray said. “What we’re trying to do here is not make another fat plug. There’s enough of them on the market. This will be the Ferrari-style Big O.”
For more information on Fred Young’s Original Big O from Cabela’s, call (800) 531-1201.
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