Great Old Warmwater Patterns
Old Fly Rod Lures

The Originator of the BASS BUG E. H. Peckinpaugh

By Stuart Longendyke

A CLUSTER of feathers on a cork body dropped lightly on the water and sent a scurry of ripples shore- ward. Then, just as the commotion on the surface dwindled, the water directly beneath the makeshift bug exploded, and a charging bronzeback raced for deep water with its prize.

Mr. E. H. Peckinpaugh, although intent on playing the rampaging bass, smiled to himself, for once again he had matched the cunning of the fighting smallmouth.

All this took place on a warm summer day nearly a half century ago. Peckinpaugh, a Chattanooga contractor already famous for his fish-taking bucktails, had been fishing a favorite stream with only fair success. As he rested from the sun at a shady streamside spot, he noticed bass rising to feed on insects which dropped to the water from the willow canopy. Again and again the bass surged to the surface to gobble the helpless, floating insects.

Peck was suddenly seized with an idea. Quickly he dug into his pocket and came forth with a cluster of bucktails impaled on a cork. "This bottle stopper," he mused, "could serve as a substitute for an insect."

He split the cork part way through with his knife and wedged a hook into the slit. Then he embellished the cork with the from two of his flies and wrapped it tightly in place with fine leader material. Thus, the first "bug" was born. And on the third cast Peck's idea was proved a sound one.

Today Peck's fame as creator of the first cork-bodied bug has been carried the world over, and his contribution to the sport of using a fly rod for game fish has earned him the title of "Father of the Bass Bug." Such names as Peck's Popping Bug, Feathered Minnow, Parker Minnow, and Peck's Hopper are a few of his famous lures. These and many others prove themselves year after year by taking both bass and waters everywhere across the E. H. Peckinpaugh now keeps five people working to supply with bugs which are elaborations that first model.

Peck has been a very enthusiast fisherman for nearly as I can remember. Minnows caught on a bent pin, baited with stale bread gave him the "thrill of his life at the age of six. His interest in artificials was first wetted when he watched a fly fisherman take bass from a local stream. Immediately he wanted to try these new lures. He magic his first flies with feathers plucked from a squawking guinea lien on a peddler's cart and decorated them with red wool from his father's long underwear.

That was Peck's imitation of the fly carried by the fisherman he had seen. But as always with a Peckinpaugh creation, this first one caught fish - as soon as Peck learned how to use it.

Peck had not noticed that the fly was kept in constant motion when fished underwater. He tried to use the fly for still-fishing, thinking that the bass would be eager to eat up his bait. But as soon as he learned to twitch the line simulating live action, he became an envied fish- catcher among his Tennessee angling friends.

Tackle was not easily obtained in those clays, for it was scarce and expensive. Peck's fishing equipment was of the crudest sort. His fishing rod was a pole cut from a nearby cane brake, and he kept it straight by tying a brick to the butt end and hanging it in the cherry tree, He carried a small snuff box which served a dual purpose as a lure box and as a i-eel. His fly lines were made of twisted linen and wax, an art which the local cobbler had passed on to him. Peck's manufactured i-eel was an automatic fly reel purchased from the F. H, Woodworth Hardware Store in Chattanooga, and he paid for it by working at a number of jobs. Peck paid a few cents each week until the owner of the store became so interested in the boy's ambition to own the reel that he made him a present of it long before the payments were completed,

Peck's early schooling in the art of fishing came from his personal contacts with older anglers whom he met on his many fishing ventures. The old-timers were always willing to take time from their fishing to answer his questions. All this was added to his own keen observations and gave him the background for his future fishing developments.

Before long, fly tying became a profitable hobby for Peck. Local tackle store owners soon. learned that Peck's flies took fish and were quick to trade tackle for the boy's homemade lures. Soon after his experience with the rising bass, Peck put the first commercial cork-bodied bugs on the market, Later- these first bugs were listed in the J. J. Hildebrandt Company's catalogue as the "Night Bug."

From that time on Peck's many friends treasured the lures he made for them, and he always gave away more lures than he actually sold. His lures gained the- reputation quickly throughout the South, By 1917, the Feathered Minnow was in use all over the country. Outdoor editors and magazine publicity helped boost the popularity of his lures tremendously, In 1928, the Popping Bug as we know it today was running the Feathered Minnow a close second in popularity.

Peck now looks hack on an interesting and colorful career in the development of fishing lures. He credits the rising fish for helping him put his idea into action and also the experienced anglers who so willingly gave him advice when he was a youth. Each year many more anglers are learning the sportiness of taking both small- and largemouth bass with a fly rod on these same bugs. These anglers can thank E. H. Peckinpaugh, the fisherman from Chattanooga, who took time out from fishing to study the feeding bass one warm summer day in 1907


The article first appeared in May 1952, The Fisherman.