Photos by Lori Kilchermann
Jim and Nancy Matthews own and operate the J&N Dip Worm Co. in Chadwick. Each and every bait is made and tied by hand.
Illinois catfish lure maker ties one on
GATEHOUSE NEWS SERVICE
CHADWICK—The fact that Jim Matthews has tied a few on is not that amazing. After all, Jim is a fisherman who loves to catch catfish. Just because his wife, Nancy, has been known to tie a few on right along side of her husband does not make them that special either. But consider this, by the end of the summer, Jim will have tied on his 1.4 millionth, and Nancy has been right beside him for every one.
Jim and Nancy Matthews own and operate the J&N Dip Worm Co. in Chadwick, and each and every bait is made and tied by hand.
“Nancy owns the company and I am the field tester,” Jim said.
He also makes every single bait, one at a time. Ask most cat fishermen what type of bait works best and dip baits are always of the top of the list. The trick is not in knowing what type of bait to use; the trick is keeping it on your hook. Jim started testing ways of making the bait stay on his hook many years ago. He discovered the recipe for his baits in the early ‘90s and has improved upon that original design until he has developed today’s J&N Dip Worm.
“I had an idea on what I wanted,” he said. “I went to June Diel at the (Chadwick) library. I told her what I wanted and she sent to the Rockford library and they printed off the phone numbers for every company in the United States that sold rubber.”
After talking to many companies and racking up a $300 phone bill, he had found his supplier.
“I started off by coloring each natural colored rubber worm different colors with a magic marker, red, black and purple,” he said. “They would work for three or four times before the color washed off leaving them the natural tan color.”
Jim now buys his rubber in 13 different colors from that original supplier and he still offers them in the natural color as well. The J&N Dip Worms begin life as a roll of rubber tubing, monofilament fishing line and a hook. Through a custom, multi-station process, they are cut to length, holes are punched in the tubing by a device invented by Jim, hooks are tied on to the monofilament and it is threaded through the tubing to create the finished product (on some worms a sponge is added to the hook, creating a different style).
“We are the only company offering a colored sponge on our baits,” bragged Jim.
After Jim’s assembly process, the baits go to Nancy for finishing touches, including packaging.
“I package them by wrapping them together (two baits to a pack), placing them in a plastic pouch with a name card, heat sealing the pack together, stapling the package to keep the worms at the bottom and then punching a hole to hang them,” she said.
Jim and Nancy are proud of their baits.
“I use the most expensive hooks on the market for these baits,” Jim said, “I use them because they are strong and they are what I want to use myself.”
No cutting corners here, just good honest fishing baits made by hand, by fishermen, for fishermen.
Where can I purchase them?
J&N Dip Baits are not typically sold to individuals, but they are sold at various bait and tackle stores all over the country. J&N Dip Worms are the official dip bait worm of the Catfish Academy. For a list of J&N Dip Worms vendors, visit http://www.catfishacademy.com/.
“They are very popular in California,” Jim said.
He produced a hand-written letter and autographed picture from football Hall of Fame finalist cornerback Lester Hayes of the Oak-LA Raiders. Hayes had asked for some of the baits, stating that all of his biggest catches came on J&N Dip Worms. Jim just happens to be a life-long Green Bay Packers fan (even his boat is painted green and yellow). When Nancy contacted Hayes she informed him of their love of the Packers, but said “I suppose we can sell you some baits direct.”
Nancy likes to tell that story and always laughs, Jim replied. In this area if your favorite sporting goods store does not have J&N Dip Worms, ask them to carry them or you can look for them online.
What color works best?
All of the colors catch fish; however, some colors work better in certain conditions.
“You just have to experiment with color and when you find a color that works stick with that shade. Dark to dark or light to light,” Jim said.
J&N also is the only company who sell their baits in two-color packs.
“The ‘rainbow’ package has two different colored baits like a yellow bait and a red bait packaged together,” Nancy said. “This is so you can try different colors but still save money not having to buy two different packages.”
In addition to being successful in business, the couple is also successful in their relationship. They will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year. Maybe Jim will take a day off to celebrate.
“I make these every day of the year,” Jim said. “If I’m not out fishing, I’m making my baits.”