I took another trip to the Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee Florida to try to digest all the history, and I am still overwhelmed! The most important discovery on the second trip was the Ted Smallwood Plug that was designed by Ted Smallwood Jr. Ted Jr. was an avid fisherman and guide in the Everglades, and ran the Small Boat Dock Marina and RV Resort in Everglades City. After guiding for snook, redfish, and tarpon, Ted Jr. knew he needed a special lure to tempt these gamefish. He went to the Porter Bait Co out of Daytona with his design for a “meatier” darter with a different mouth than the standard Creek Chub bait. Ted was quoted in Fisherman’s Digest on the finer techniques of Darter fishing: “ If you gurgle a darter, fish try to eat it. If you pop it, they just smack it for fun”. The design of Ted’s darter has a wider mouth than other models, and this helps give it the “gurgling” action.
Ted had the lures painted in three fish catching colors, yellow spotted, silver flash, and a black back lure. These lures can be identified quite easy since the back is stenciled with his name on the back. There are not many of these left as they were sold only in the 1950’s at the store, and not mass produced. Also, they were saltwater lures, and didn’t last long with all the toothy creatures in the glades. No lure boxes are known, so it is unlikely they marketed with a lure box.
The framed picture shows the 3 different darter lures that Ted Jr had made by the Porter Bait Co. The Yellow Spotted is the easiest to find, the Silver Flash second easiest, and the Black back lure is almost impossible to find!
In order to understand the story of the Smallwood Plug, it is necessary to take a step back in time to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when Charles Ted Smallwood Sr. came to Chokoloskee Fl, and opened a post office and trading post. Ted and his wife Mamie traded with the Seminole Indians, and early settlers to the area. Charlie Tigertail was a famous Seminole chief and posed for a picture with Ted Smallwood here.
Ted Sr. died in 1951 and Ted Jr went started his quest at guiding and ownership of the Small Boat Dock Marina in Everglades City.
There were several interesting characters that came from the Chokoloskee area, and one of them was Totch Brown. Totch lived on the land and was so popular in the area a song was written about him. Another character from the early 1900’s was Edgar Watson who was a known outlaw and farm owner. Edgar hired other outlaws to run the farm and hung out at the Smallwood store. Edgar was thought to have been killing his workers, and legend has it that the townspeople of Chokoloskee shot and killed him in the Smallwood store!
The store is now owned by the granddaughter of Ted Smallwood, and is kept just as it was in the 1950’s with all the original merchandise of the 50’s.