The oft-told Heddon fishing lure creation myth goes something like this: Once upon a time in the late 1800s, no one is exactly sure when, James Heddon was whittling by the side of a lake. Having had his way with the small piece of wood, he casually tossed it in the water where, to his surprise, it was attacked by a big, beautiful bass. Thus the idea of carving a piece of artificial bait, known as a plug, from wood was born.
It’s a nice story, but in an article from the 1921 issue of American Angler magazine, Charles Heddon, one of the sons of Dowagiac, Michigan’s famous James Heddon and Sons, confessed the following: "When asked who made the first wooden bait or plug, my father used to always exhibit two types of wooden minnows used by his grandfather… as far back as from 1850 to 1855."
Whether or not James Heddon was present at the moment of conception for antique fishing lures, he was a fishing-lure force to be reckoned with. The reason is the sheer inventiveness of Heddon plugs and lures, their craftsmanship, and, above all, the fact that they worked.
One of the earliest Heddon plugs was a hook-laden painted frog, carved from a broomstick, with a bottle cap for a head. That was in 1890. By 1902, Heddon was making lures for sale in his family kitchen. The first of these were named after his hometown, Dowagiac. The Dowagiac lures had sloped noses that were painted blue to contrast with the rest of the lure’s white bodies and red aluminum collars.
Perhaps the most interesting accident to come out of the Heddon kitchen was the crackled-paint effect, sometimes called "fancy back." To meet the demand of his customers, wet, freshly painted lures were often hurriedly dried in Mrs. Heddon’s oven. The resulting crackled surface of the lures was deemed a feature rather than a mistake.
Almost at the beginning, Will Heddon joined his father (the company’s 1903 catalog reads "James Heddon and Son" to reflect this change) and a few years later, Charles came on board (the 1909 catalog refers to the firm as "James Heddon and Sons").
By now the Heddons had moved their operation out of Mrs. Heddon’s kitchen and their lines of lures had grown to include the oval-shaped Dowagiac Underwater lures of 1904, with th...
For collectors of antique Heddon lures, the only thing more prized than one of these early lures, in good shape, is a lure in its original box, made of cardboard or wood. Rarer still is a lure in its box with the original information sheet describing the care and use of the lure.
Other rare lures from the first decade of the 20th century include the Underwater Expert with its exterior belly weight, the #450 Killer, the #50 Artistic Minnow (its tail was made of deer hair, and it was sold with a casting weight), and the #400 Bucktail Surface Minnow (it was only made from 1908 to 1909). At the end of the decade, Heddon introduced the #20, a series of smaller, squatter minnow lures.
The 1910s brought a bulbous-headed lured called Radiant Moonlight Bait; very few of these appear to have been made since they don’t appear in any of the old Heddon catalogs. This was also the decade of the Woodpecker, the #1300 Black Sucker Minnow, the #210 Dowagiac Minnows, and #1600 and #1700 Deep Diving Wigglers.
In the 1920s, Heddon expanded its repertoire to include bugs made out of wood, Weedless Pork-Rind lures made out of Bakelite and, later, of a plastic called Pyralin, Musky Minnows, Tad Pollys, Deep-O-Divers, Lucky 13s, Bassers, and Luny Frogs. Of particular to collectors are the #8500 Bassers from 1922 stamped with the words "Head-On Basser." Those are more rare than the later ones that were simply stamped "Basser."
Also popular in the 1920s were the various Vamp lures and the #8300 Zig-Wag lures. By the end of the decade, fly fisherman were hooked on Heddon’s Tiny Tease lures, which featured a single hook that dangled below the lure floating on the surface.
After World War II, Heddon continued to innovate with bass lures, fly lures, and better rod technology. By the time the company was sold in 1951, it was producing as many as 15,000 lures a day.
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Anglers' license to lie isn't a popular concept anymoreMcDuffie Mirror, August 30th
blend of fact, folklore and fiction – and is rooted firmly in the colorful history of American fishing tackle. One of my favorite relics of the past was offered in the 1920s by the famous and long-lived Heddon corporation. It was the “Liar's License...Read more
Lures for the casual holiday weekend anglerLakenewsonline.com, August 29th
Lure selection can be one of the most confusing tasks in tackle selection. Too often purchases are based on how 'fishy' ... Others include Heddon's Crazy Crawler, Arbogast's Jitterbug, and Scum Frog's Little Bigfoot. They are easy to fish because...Read more
Fishing Line for Aug. 27Buffalo News, August 26th
Stephen Drabczyk at Creek Road Bait & Tackle in Lewiston. Drabczyk, drifting off Fort Niagara Tuesday afternoon, hooked into nice ... Grand Prize winner Richard Acer of Appleton used a Heddon Bait off Olcott Harbor on Aug. 17 to hook into a 31.02-pound...Read more
Suwannee area in midst of speck hot-streakGainesville Sun, August 14th
But his lure choices probably had less to do with his success than did the abundance of fish. As House put it, “There were so many fish — it probably didn't make much difference which lures I threw,”. In two hours of casting, he boated “at least 40...Read more
Rapala Skitter PropBassResource.com (press release), August 13th
I understand that it is only 1/4 oz balsa so it weighs about the same as the Tiny Torpedo, and I'm wondering if this lure would fish any different. Anyone have ... I like that they're a slightly longer profile than Heddon, and that they come stock with...Read more
Meadows Trade -N-Post offers variety of goodsYadkin Ripple, August 11th
On Friday, an old Heddon lure lay in its case at the store beckoning to the next collector. Other popular and usable items included helmets, a good supply of leather saddles and yard equipment. In addition, 13-year-old daughter of the Meadows, Brianna, ...Read more
Sasser: Out-of-box strategies can lead to big hauls for anglers, even in poor ...Dallas Morning News, August 6th
He finally flashed on a Heddon Baby Torpedo in a color that matched the grasshopper hatch. The lure company calls the color Brown Crawdad, but it's a mottled yellow that's about the same color as a fully grown grasshopper. “The Torpedo did the trick...Read more
"go To" Topwater LureBassResource.com (press release), August 6th
I purchased this lure two years ago and have never had a strike...I guess it's time to pop ... In the river, I carry and will try (if the fish are looking up) Heddon Spittin Image, Baby Torpedo, Sebile Bonga Minnow, BPS Slim Dog, Storm Chug Bug. I...Read more