By CAPT. MEL BERMAN, Florida Fishing Weekly
Of all the characters that populate the Tampa Bay fishing scene, none is more intriguing than the guy they call “Doc.” A tall, burly man in his 70s with a perpetual grin, Doc exudes a pleasant charm and joyful outlook. Though living and working in Florida for the last 48 years, his speech pattern remains tinged with the slight brogue of his native Brooklyn. Some 17 years ago, he retired after 33-years with Pinellas County Water and Sewer. At last, Doc would be able to spend his retirement years pursuing a lifelong passion – fishing the bountiful waters of the Florida Suncoast.
To supplement his pension, Doc began crafting nylon pompano round jigs, selling them to a few local tackle stores. He also made an assortment of bucktail jigs, which became popular with local fishers.
This bit of success was followed the creation of a lure, that was to completely change his life style. And ironically, it was created as the result of a shipping error. Ordering a mold to make a new and different kind of jig, his supplier erroneously sent one that was designed for ice fishing in the northern tier of states. But rather than ship it back, Doc decided to try using the mold to create a bait that could possibly be used in our sub-tropical Florida waters. Thus was born the Doc’s Goofy Jig. And the rest, as they say, is history.
To look at them, you’d be hard pressed to conclude that they would catch anything. Basically hooks embedded in a chunk of lead and painted in a variety of colors, the Goofy Jig defies conventional wisdom that the softer the bait, the better the fish will bite. But somehow, this frankly “clunky looking” lure catches the heck out of fish.
Initially, Doc sold the Goofy Jig as a pompano bait. But those who bought the lure discovered that these ungainly looking jigs also caught a great variety of species. The Goofy Jig become a veritable overnight success, and Doc’s plans of never ending fishing days were derailed. “I got so many orders for the Goofy Jig, I couldn’t get out of the house,” he said. “And now, I spend all my time turning them out.”
Doc is still a sort of “one man band” – doing everything himself in his humble St. Petersburg abode. “I make everything — hand-bending each hook to fit the mold. Mustad won’t sell them to me unless I buy 3000 of one size hook. So you might say that the Goofy is a custom made jig.”
But he’s quite productive, cranking out an average of 1100 packs a month. And he’s come up with other designs and now offers 11 different kinds of jigs. All of them are available through some 33 dealers on both Florida Coasts. “I got 11 on the east coast and 22 on the west coast that carry my Goofy Jigs and other lures.
How does one work a Goofy Jig? Well as Doc said, “I’m a jig fisherman. I fish off bridges and always put a violent jerk motion to it. I really have a heck of a time slowing it down on the flats. But you got to keep it above the grass – and just twitch it in. In deeper water you can jig it up and down. That’s way I use the Goofy Jig.”
He claims that what attracts fish is the way that it wobbles in the water, “it never goes the same way twice. And it just aggravates them.”
To this day, Doc loves walking the many bridges of Tampa Bay. He mainly targets pompano working his Goofy Jig with a vertical jigging motion. Doc advises that “when you find the pompano, just put a little bit of cut up shrimp chum in the water, and just sit there and jerk them when they bite. And that’s all I do,” he said.
“We’ve caught everything out in the Gulf with it. Some guy hooked a tarpon off the Skyway with one of my Goofy Jigs,” he said. They’ve caught mahogany snapper in Costa Rica – they’ve taken them to Hawaii, Canada, Cuba, and Australia where my jigs produced some excellent results.”
Goofy Jigs come in 1/8, 1/4, 3/8 and ½ ounce sizes. He’s now working on producing a heavier one for possible deep water use. They’re available in nine colors, with solid yellow being the most popular. “But now, with winter coming on, folks will use a lot of gold colored jigs,” he said. Doc’s best seller is the ½ size.
To give you some insight into Doc’s droll sense of humor, all you needs do is read his tongue-in-cheek Goofy Jig package instructions: “Drop down – hook fish – reel up.” He said it works all the time.
This year, the Tampa Bay area has seen an influx of thousands of juvenile bluefish that just love chomping off soft plastic tails. That’s when most switch to Doc’s Goofy Jigs. It would be near impossible for those small blues, Spanish or any toothy critter to bite off that chunk of lead.
There are now some interesting variations of the Goofy Jig. “I’ve added a teaser hook to it with a split ring and a bucktail,” he said. “It’s called a G2. And if I add nylon to it, it’s called a G3.” The nylon or teaser goes on a split ring, creating a double hook setup that can be very enticing to many gamefish.
“I also make some bucktail jigs, like the Red tail Hawks — a white bucktail –and I will make round pompano jigs on request. He’s also come up with a flathead bonefish jig , also available on request.
How often does Doc get to go fishing these days? “Only once or twice a month. That’s it,” he said. “I’m too busy making my lures. And to think that I used to fish about 5 days a week.”
So what is life in general like for Doc these days? He said “I guess you might say that I’m a bum. But I sure enjoy making my fishing lures and giving things away. But most of all, my greatest pleasure is when somebody comes up to me and says “Doc, I caught this beautiful fish on your jig.