Bass through a looking glass

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Minnow Tubes came in all shapes and sizes, including those for musky, bass and stream-size trout.

One of the strangest contraptions ever to fool a bass has to be the glass minnow tube. Yet, as odd as they are, they somehow etched their way into the history of American lure development. 

The concept is simple: By inserting a live minnow inside a small glass cylinder filled with water, an angler could use that same bait repeatedly. In fact, some manufacturers claimed their tubes would “keep a minnow live all day.” 

Back then, you didn’t purchase live bait. You caught it yourself. Therefore, the idea of getting the most from each individual baitfish had strong appeal.

Another unique selling point was the curvature of the glass, which could actually magnify the baitfish — presumably making them more appealing to predator fish. At least, that was the claim of several prominent glass tube manufacturers.

Made in the U.S.A.

Welch & Graves of Natural Bridge, N.Y., is believed to be the first American manufacturer of a glass minnow tube. Henry J. Welch is credited with the design, while Calvin V. Graves was charged with their production. A patent was granted on Jan. 3, 1893.

Welch & Graves minnow tubes were offered in several sizes, but the 3 1/2-inch “bass size” was the most common.