Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine VOL 40 No 3 - SUMMER 2016 - Page 8

by Colby Sorrells Tackle Time The Norton Little Jigger Part of a Family Tradition F ew people get the pleasure of enjoying coastal waters with both older and younger members of their family. Holding three generations’ interest at once is no easy task. But for the Bill Norton family, it’s just part of a family tradition. W.R. “Bill” Norton not only had his family involved in coastal fishing, but became a recognized participant in almost every aspect of the field. From great fishing trips, to making his own lures, to writing about his adventures in both newspapers and a book, Bill Norton was immersed in coastal angling. Norton spent much of his early life within walking distance of Galveston beach. Even his time in World War II was spent near the waters of the Pacific Ocean. He worked as an air traffic controller in Brownsville, Texas in 1946 and spent time at Port Mansfield whenever he could, finally retiring there and later becoming a fishing guide and recognized fishing rod builder. One of Norton’s coastal endeavors was a small lure called the Little Jigger. Bill Norton knew he had a different idea for a fishing lure and he wanted a lure made to his specifications, so he set out to make one. The Little Jigger was his answer for what coastal trout and redfish desired. The first models of the Little Jigger were hand carved out of wood by Norton right before World War II. He made a few examples for his father-in-law, Otto Haardt, another coastal angler in the family. Norton, like a lot of service men, no doubt thought about how his lure would work while he was on military duty. Once the War was over he went to work and soon had what he wanted in a coastal fishing lure. Norton decided to make his lures out of plastic. He had a solid plastic mold made for the lure body and then had a plastic injection company make the bodies for the lure. Although the lure is similar to other lures originating along the Texas coast, the Little Jigger has a very distinctive body shape. The detailed, recessed eyes and very noticeable gill marks distinguish 8 GULF COAST FISHERMAN the Norton Little Jigger from all other lures. Little Jiggers are two inches in length. They include two treble hooks and a lead weight located at the back of the surface hardware belly hook hanger. The lure weighs about a half- ounce. The lead weight on the bottom of the lure is one of the first things noticed about the Little Jigger. Fishing tackle of the day required a heavy lure to cast properly and the Little Jigger cast well with those old rods and reels. The weight also helped the small lure quickly get down in deep water locations like the famed Offat’s Bayou of Galveston Island. Each lure was hand painted by Norton himself in either a scale or solid paint pattern, with a red chin splash. Some Little Jiggers are found with a bucktail attached, a popular option at the time. Colors produced include a white scale with red eyes, a traditional coastal blue eye pearl, and dark back with red lateral line and white scale patterned body. The Little Jigger was commercially sold from 1946 to 1954 in the HoustonGalveston area at tackle stores like Oshman’s. The solid plastic mold made for the Little Jigger would not hold up to the production stress of making thousands of lures so Norton decided not to venture further with the idea at least partially due to the expense of having a stronger metal mold made. Norton later had an idea for a soft plastic shrimp tail after using Boone’s soft plastic Tout Tail and went to a plastic molder requesting a mold for his new lure idea. The finished mold created a lure body and legs too thick to suit Norton so he passed on putting the soft plastic shrimp tail into production. His son, Robert, still has the mold for this early long shrimp tail. Robert, the third generation of the family involved with coastal fishing, and also an experienced fishing guide, today sells soft plastic lure bodies under the Norton Lure name ( Bob Norton’s company offers a wide variety of coastal lures covering most saltwater fishing situations. Norton soft plastics have been around since 1987 and most coastal anglers have at least one package of Norton lures in their tackle box. They’re a little tougher than most soft plastic tails and, therefore, last a little longer. Bob Norton continues the family tradition of coastal angling and lure production. He is very fortunate to have the first hand-carved Little Jiggers and examples of the first plastic Little Jiggers his father made. He also has photos showing his father painting lures. After moving to Port Mansfield, Bill Norton regularly built custom fishing rods for both guided customers and others wanting his quality rods, making up to 50 rods per year. In his later y ̰ 9ѽɽє)ձ Ё͡5ɥ̰)Ё䁽́͡ɥ́Ց)ɥ́ݥѠ́ѡչͽIи!)ͼɽєٕȀѥ́Չ͡)ѡ!ѽAЁȰ݅)ٽɥєх̸)1ѱ)́ɔɐѼѽ)5Ёɔչ͕ɥ́Q́х)ѥ́Ʌɕ䁍ȁͅ) 9ѽɥѡх)݅ѕ́͡ѡѼѡ)ɕݡѡ́ѡ)ͅݡѡȁ䁝եѡ)ѡɽ̰ȁ͡ɕ́)ѡ1ѱ)ȁѡЁѡэ)͠Ёѡ9ѽ) )хɅѥ)\\\T0$L $8 <4((0