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The History of the Hoochie

It’s “Hoochie”, Not “Hootchie”

We all know that fishermen like to come up with silly or suggestive names for their lures. When the fish aren’t biting, conditions are perfect for bored anglers to come up with funny ideas. Lure names like Nasty Girl, Killey Magee, and of course, Party Girl tend to be the result. It seems this has been a long running trend—probably going back far into antiquity with the first ancient fisherman.

The venerable hoochie is no exception to this naming process. In fact, more than one style of lure has been described as a hoochie over the years.

The term hoochie definitely comes from the slang term hoochie coochie. This was the name for a series of suggestive dances, similar to belly dances, popular in the mid to late 1800s. With its dancing action and colourful skirt, it is easy to see why a bored (and possibly lonely) fishermen would be reminded immediately of showgirls performing a hoochie coochie dance. Other lures have been described as hoochies due to their gyrating action.

Classic Happy Hooker Hoochie

In Pensacola, Florida, a wooden plug-type lure sometimes also was described as having a hoochie action. The Zara Spook plug was said to “do the hoochie coochie like the girls on Zaragosa Steet.” Zaragosa Street was the red-light district of Pensacola up until World War II. Although today we would call this particular lure a plug and not a hoochie, it shows that the term hoochie has been on fishermen’s minds for quite a while.

Today (at least in the Pacific Northwest), when a fisherman refers to a hoochie, we know what they mean.

Classic Golden Bait & Modern Hoochie

Origin of the Hoochie

The origin of the term hoochie is easier to find than the origin of the lure itself. As the lure is made of soft vinyl plastic, we know it must have been after 1926 when Waldo Lonsbury Semon invented plasticized polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

It took some time for this technology to spread around the world, but its use was accelerated by the industrial demands of the second world war. This is where the story gets a bit murky. And it is possible that the concept of a soft plastic squid- like lure was invented simultaneously in more than one place, around the same time. After all, bored fishermen like to invent lures as well as give them silly names.


Modern “Turd” Hoochies

What is known is that the first commercially available hoochies were made by Kusutaro Yamashita around 1951 in Japan. His inspiration was said to have come from the time he and his older brother were caught in a storm while fishing. Blown out to sea, they survived by improvising a fishing lure out of red cloth and catching tuna. Later in life, he stopped commercial fishing, and in 1941, he opened up the fishing tackle business that eventually would grow into the Yamashita Fishing Tackle Company. Inspired by the red cloth lure that saved his life, he began experimenting with PVC-based lures. After 10 years of research and testing, he had perfected his first hoochie lure. He gave it the name Golden Bait, and it was a success with Japanese fishermen.

Japanese Commercial Fishermen in British Columbia

At this time, there was a thriving Japanese community in Steveston, British Columbia. And then as now, many Japanese families were commercial fishermen. Hideo Kokubo is said to be the first of these fishermen to try Yamashita Golden Bait Hoochies in North America for salmon. It immediately proved effective, and soon many fishermen wanted to get their hands on this new lure. To meet this demand, Nikka Overseas Agency of Steveston, BC began importing and selling Golden Bait hoochies to West Coast fishermen. Nikka would continue to do so until they finally closed their business on October 31, 2014 after 60 years in the fishing tackle business.

In 1975, the Nakashima brothers, also of Steveston BC, began importing Yozuri brand hoochies and competing with Nikka’s Golden Bait. Radiant Lure of Victoria, BC was also an early importer of hoochies. Established in 1968, Radiant soon added hoochies to their product line. Before long, the hoochie had become a standard lure in most BC salmon fishermen’s tackle boxes.

Origin Story of Recreational Use of Hoochies

While that is the story of commercially made hoochies, it is not known if fishermen may have been making their own homemade hoochies prior to the commercial availability of them. I remember stories I heard about fishermen around Victoria using very hoochie-like lures going back to the 1950s. This is going back over 30 years in my memory and there is no way to confirm it. But as I recall it, the story was one day a fishermen ran out of bait. He had been mooching herring strip off Victoria, but had not brought enough. He did, however, have a pair of old rubber gloves for use when gutting fish or handling bait. Some of the salmon he had caught had squid in their bellies so he knew that’s what they were feeding on. His rubber gloves were pretty well worn, but instead of tossing them out, he had an idea. He cut one of the fingers off the glove, and proceeded to slice the strips into the lower three quarters of it.

After poking a small hole in the finger tip end, he threaded his fishing line through, and slid his mooching hooks up into the body. This left him with what any West Coast angler would recognize as a hoochie. He is said to have had immediate success with his invention. After showing his fishing buddies, many wives found their dishwashing gloves mysteriously missing fingers. Whether this came before the commercial use of hoochies, or possibly after, as a cost saving measure, is unknown. And as with many fishing stories that have
been passed by word of mouth over the decades, details may be missing. But knowing the inventiveness of fishermen, especially bored fishermen, I believe there is some truth to the story.

Modern Hoochies

How To Rig a Hoochie Diagram

How To Rig a Hoochie Diagram Island Fisherman

Want more on hoochies? Check out these popular articles:

Fishing Essentials: The Flasher and Hoochie Setup

Why Use Squid & Cuttlefish Hoochies for Salmon Fishing?

This article appeared in Island Fisherman magazine. Never miss another issue—subscribe today!


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