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Jerry Rhoton, of Norman, the man who created the Li'l Tubby lure, dies at age 81

Jerry Rhoton holds a white bass that he caught in the World Invitational Bass Tournament on Lake Texoma in 1967. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Jerry Rhoton holds a white bass that he caught in the World Invitational Bass Tournament on Lake Texoma in 1967. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

Jerry Rhoton, of Norman, the man who created the Li'l Tubby fishing lure, died Wednesday. He was 81.

The Li'l Tubby was a smash when it first hit the market in the mid-'70s. The Oklahoman's outdoor writer in 1975, Glenn Titus, described the L'il Tubby as a "two-inch long, half-ounce, wobbling crank-bait with a fish-calling rattle and a quivering, squirming, twister tail."

The headline on the '75 story read "Li'l Tubbys Come in 36 Flavors and Fish Love 'Em."

What was unique about Li'l Tubbys was the assortment of tails that could be attached to the bait. The lure originally came in six different colors. With the different assortment of tails, anglers could have 36 different combinations.

Storm Manufacturing Company near Norman, where Rhoton worked for four years, made and sold the lure.

"Everybody called him Tubby after he built that bait," said Jimmy Houston, who was friends with Rhoton for more than 50 years after meeting him at a bass tournament. "It was an incredibly great bait. We just smoked 'em on it. It was like a Wiggle Wart with a tail pretty much."

Storm later produced variations of the lure such as Deep Diving Tubby, Tiny Tubby and a spinnerbait manufactured under the Tubby name. A memorial service for Rhoton is planned for the fall, said Rhoton's wife, Peggy.

Storm eventually was bought by the company which produces the Rapala brand of lures. Li'l Tubbys were discontinued, but the lures are still bought and sold on eBay.

"I would like to see us bring that lure back," Houston said. "Jerry was a really, really good friend, a good Oklahoma bass fisherman and a pioneer definitely in this game for sure."

News research editor Linda Lynn contributed to this report

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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