Notes from the Tackle Room: The Wooden Atom

In 1953 I found a wooden Atom in the mouth of a dead shark on South Beach. It was the first plug that I owned, and a couple of weeks later I caught a striper on it. That began my decades-long love affair with striped bass plugs, which continues to this day. The plug still hangs in my tackle room, and I painted this portrait of it to commemorate its importance in my fishing life.

In the fall of 1944, Bob Pond was fishing in the Cape Cod Canal when he found a beaten-up wooden plug floating next to the rip rap. It was a Creek Chub Pikie, made for freshwater angling, and someone had lost or discarded it. Plugs were simply not used for striped bass. Everyone knew you could only catch stripers on bait, or occasionally on block tin, but Pond tied it on and cast anyway. He caught fourteen bass. Returning the next morning, he caught a bunch more. He knew a winner when he saw it.

Pond took the Pikie back to his workshop in Attleboro, Massachusetts, built a larger replica, and eventually, through trial and error, produced a finished wooden plug, which he named the Striper Atom 40. He patented it and formed the Atom Manufacturing Company in 1945, the same year that World War II ended and millions of servicemen were discharged into civilian life. Saltwater sport fishing exploded in popularity and so did the Atom 40. It had an enticing surface wiggle that stripers couldn’t resist. Pond made these wooden plugs for only three years before turning
to plastic in 1948.

Occasionally I still cast a wooden Atom and get great delight in watching today’s stripers respond to it just as their ancestors did seventy years before.