Two-time B.A.S.S. winner Lonnie Stanley passed away on Friday at the age of 76. In addition to those two wins, Stanley qualified for five Bassmaster Classics. Despite those on-the-water accomplishments he may have been better known for his pioneering efforts at his eponymous Stanley Jigs company. He had been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2020, and his cancer was complicated by other health issues.
Stanley was born in Baytown, Texas, in 1945 and graduated from Zavalla High School, which gave him a front row seat for the impoundment of legendary Sam Rayburn Reservoir. He and his wife-to-be Patsy enjoyed some of their earliest dates parked by the lake and watching it fill up. They married when she was 17 and he was 18, and the couple went on to have three daughters.
His location in East Texas and rise to prominence in the 1970s put him at the heart of the rapidly expanding bass tournament world. He considered Hall of Famers including Tommy Martin, Rick Clunn and Larry Nixon to be his confidantes, heroes and colleagues.
In 1980, while fishing with the Bryan Bassmasters and working as a heavy equipment operator, Stanley started building lures to overcome perceived deficiencies in those that were already on the market. His jigs used premium components, and he later expanded to spinnerbaits. He improved those, too, by using Vibrashaft Wire, Wedge blades and silicon skirts. While the company historically offered soft plastics like the Hale’s Craw Worm — named after business partner and fellow B.A.S.S. competitor John Hale — in recent years their best-selling soft plastic has been the topwater Ribbit buzz toad.
Over the years, Stanley’s generosity got the careers of numerous top pros off the ground and helped them keep going. In addition to being responsible for multiple Bassmaster Classic victories and countless other top-level professional wins, Stanley’s lures produced Lake Fork guide Mark Stevenson’s 17.67 pounder, the largest Texas bass caught on an artificial lure, and numerous other Toyota ShareLunkers. He was proud of the fact that his lures were made in the U.S.A., and he continued tinkering and innovating throughout his final days.