Popular for decades, the unique plastic swimming jigs with four holes in the tail called Mr. Wiffle were credited with catching fish ranging from bass to blackfins from Key West to California. But then they began to dwindle from tackle-store shelves and pretty soon, anglers couldn’t find them at all.
“Anybody know where I can find some?” fishermen would ask plaintively on online angling forums.
Enter captain Skip Strong, a retired farm equipment accessories salesman from Kendall and a lifelong inshore and offshore fisherman who relocated to Chokoloskee on Florida’s southwest coast and was looking for something to do.
Strong did some Internet research and discovered that the Virginia Beach maker of Mr. Wiffle jigs, Ted Sheridan, was looking to sell his company, Tidewater Lures. There weren’t many assets, Strong found — just the molds used to produce the jigs. So in 2011, Strong bought what was left, renamed the company MrWiffelure.com, began producing the jigs locally, and marketed them from his home office to independent tackle shops and distributors. He had to change the name slightly because of trademark conflicts with the makers of the venerable Wiffleball — a plastic ball with holes that kids around the world play with.
Business hasn’t been gangbusters, but it’s slowly picking up.
“I bought it because it works,” Strong said. “It has something no other lure on the market has — it has holes in the tail. It has the best action tail of any plastic bait on the market.”
The jigs, which come in 50 color combinations and range in size from 2 to 6 inches, have been endorsed by outdoors industry luminaries such as TV host/author Mark Sosin and Broward tackle maker Tom Greene, as well as throngs of enthusiastic weekend anglers. The reborn company also makes 6- and 8-inch “Plubber” worms.
“All are made saltwater tough,” Strong said.
On a recent outing in the Ten Thousand Islands, Strong and a companion repeatedly cast and dragged the MrWiffelures over mud flats, mangrove roots and oyster bars without tearing them. Only the jaws of sea trout, puffers and other fish succeeded in damaging them, and all could be used more than once.
Strong has handed out free samples to local guides who use them enthusiastically. He hopes word will spread that the old standard is back and catching today’s fish.