Antique and Vintage Heddon Fishing Lures

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.

Other vintage Heddon fishing lures of note from the 1930s and 1940s include the River Runts, the #350 Musky Surface lures, the Flap-Tails, and the bird-like Crazy Crawlers.

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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Joes Old Lures

Joes Old Lures

Joe Yates' website is a great showcase for hundreds of old fishing lures, providing high resolution photos and in m… [read review or visit site]

Take a big bite - you won't want to just nibble at Robbie Pavey's gallery of over 300 antique fishing lures, many w… [read review or visit site]

This extensive site features over 500 pages of information on pre-1940 wood fishing lures and lure boxes. Start wit… [read review or visit site]

This site is sure to snag you with its great collection of fishing lures from the early 1900s. Includes lures from … [read review or visit site]

Larry Nicholson's site dedicated to vintage fishing lures. Features beautiful images of lures and boxes from Fred A… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Scarce 1946-1948 Heddon No.17 "black Beauty" 7-1/2', 3/2 Split Bamboo Fly Rod W/Antique Heddon Dowagiac Minnow 150 Lure & Downward Bass Box L-rig Blended RedAntique Vintage 1934-5 Heddon Rare Surface Minnie Fishing Lure--ge--t-seat--wow!Vintage Kennedy Tackle Box 1017, With Antique Fishing Lures, Heddon, Pflueger, Old Super Rare Kch Color Heddon 362 Magnum Torpedo Lure Ex Condition Bell HardwrHeddon Dowagiac Sos Injured Minnow Lure Beautiful Dace Color Code N Sereis 170 Set Of Heddon River Runt Glow Spook SinkersVintage Heddon Lucky 13 Lure Ngl Rare Natural Bluegill Display Tackle Box BaitWooden Heddon Runt In Crackleback!!!!Vintage Antique Tackle Heddon Frog Spot 5 Hook 150 Minnow Plug Bait Fishing LureVintage Heddon Deluxe Fishing Rod Pole #50-8 1/2' 2 F Used-in Great Shape!Vintage Antique Tackle Pflueger 3 Hook Old Wooden Glass Eye Fishing Lure Bait25 Vintage Heddon Punkinseed (collection) No Reserve Vintage Heddon Punkinseed 730 9xry Yellow Shore, Under Chin Line Tie 2pc Hrdw!!Rare Heddon Chugger Spook, Vintage Lure !!Heddon Dowagiac Basser Lure Glass Eye L Rig Perch In Down Bass Box Unmarked Vintage Tackle Heddon 740 Punkinseed Rockbass Color Near Excellent ConditionHeddon # 10 3/2 Bamboo Fly Rod Lqqk Old Wood Lure Plug Heddon Floater Punkinseed Fishing Treble HooksLot 60 Vintage Lures Heddon Creek Chub South Bend Cisco Kid Paw Paw Vintage Old Wood Heddon Crab Wiggler Fishing Lure In Correct Down Bass Box Nr!!Vintage Heddon 0 Minnow Wood Musky Plug/lure Pre 1920 L-cup With 5 Treble Hooks Lot Of 50 Fishing Lures, Mepps/heddon/daredevil/rapala/norman/bomberNice Wood Wilder Dilg Heddon With Marked Box Flyrod LureAntique Heddon Dowagiac Minnow Lure Rare Under Water Minnow Lure {r}cond. Heddon Dowagiac Crazy Crawler Lure In Box With Papers Mouse Series 2100gm1922 Abbey & Imbrie Fishing Tackle Catalogue 194 Meek Heddon Reels EtcVintage Heddon Wood Tad-polly Lure Bar Perch Scale Scale Box & Pocket CatalogHeddon Zara Spook Charlie Campbell Swayback Lure Nsb ColorPflueger Never Fail Minnow, Vintage Lure !!Unfished Heddon Ge Flaptail Minnow With Correctly Marked BoxLot Of 36 Different Fly Rod Fishing Lures Pflueger , Heddon So. Bend , Etc.Vintage Tackle Box Umco 2080upb Possum Bottom Fishing Lures L&s Heddon Lot Old Tackle Box Packed With 70 Vintage Fishing Lures LotVintage Heddon Little Luny FrogVintage Fishing Lure Wooden Heddon Punkinseed #730 Crappie 2 Piece Tail 1946-49Vintage Heddon Floater Punkinseed Crappie Fishing LureVintage Heddon Vampire Fishing Lure, Strawberry, L-rig, Glass EyesHeddon 9630 Punkinseed NibVintage Heddon 2150yrh Dowagiac Lure Unused Iob Pat No.1677176 @1928 Red YellowHeddon 5 Hook 150 Dowagiac Minnow In RainbowOld Heddon Lucky 13 Wooden Fishing Lure 4" Green ScalesLarge Lot Of 28 Vintage Lures Heddon Creek Chub Kautzky Jitterbug - Auction FindVintage Old Wood Single Hook Minnow Fishing Lure Glass Eyes Nr!!Heddon Zaragossa L-rig Pike Scale Super Tough Antique Vintage 3400 Heddon Little Luny Frog Fishing Lure----------take A Look~!Vintage Heddon 100 Fishing Lure, 3 HookVintage Heddon Fishing Lure Crazy Crawler Conetail Silver Shore 2 Piece HardwareVintage Heddon #210blh White/blue Head "gold Eye" In Original Two Piece BoxHeddon Wounded Spook #9140 White Shore Sliver Herringbone Vintage Surface LureHeddon Winona No. 105 Ff W/line Guide & Thumb Brake, Green, Box & PaperworkVintage Heddon Weedless Lure #210 W/ Box Unfished Great Condition !Pair Of Tough Heddon 1920's Fishing BaitsVintage Heddon 310l Tiny Spook Lure Mib Perch Scale Mint In BoxNice Heddon,daisy "precision Fly Reel 320" Snap Out Spool With Box And Info Nr Lot Of Vintage Lures - Arbogast - Mann's - Heddon - Water Scout - Flutter FinVintage Old Wood Fishing Lures 20 Creek Chub Heddon South Bend & MoreHeddon Dowagiac Chugger Spook Lure Lot Of 2 Colors Orange Crappie Rw Model 9540 This A Great No Snag River Runt In A Awesome Color.Vintage Heddon Lure Punkinseed In Crappie Color Scheme With Original Box

Recent News: Heddon Fishing Tackle

Source: Google News

Tournament Masters: Otis Coblentz
Kayak & Canoe News, April 15th

Go-To Lure: Heddon Zara Spook Jr, in bone this lure has always worked well for all typs of fishing freshwater or saltwater. the zig zag or walk the dog action and rattle of the Zara Spook can't be beat for making the fish strike. I fish every...Read more

NW National Fishing Lure Collectors Club gathering Saturday in Kelso
Longview Daily News, April 4th

More than 100 collectors of fishing lures, reels and other tackle will descend on the Red Lion ballroom Saturday for the 15th annual spring meeting and show for the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club's Northwest region. The participants are hoping...Read more

Fishing Report
Tallahassee Democrat (blog), March 27th

Both trout and reds will also attack a topwater lure. Those with good side-to-side action like Hall 'em In B29s or Peanuts, Rapala Skitterwalks or Heddon Super Spooks get the nod. Lear said that although none have been reported just yet, pompano should...Read more

Heddon's victory leaves Hexham in danger zone
Hexhamcourant, March 26th

The Heddon goal is under siege during a Hexham attack in the Tyne Valley derby on Saturday. Seven days on from losing 2-1 to bottom club Willington Quay Saints, a slender 1-0 loss to second bottom Heddon plundered them right back into the relegation...Read more

Favorite Hardbaits? (press release), March 24th

Spot and Bill Lewis Rattle Trap. Jerkbait - Rapala X-Rap : Honorable mention - Smithwick Rattlin' rogue and Lucky Craft Pointer 100. Topwater - Storm Rattlin' Chug Bug : Honorable metion : Heddon Super Spook Jr. and Rebel Premium Pop-R. Back to top ...Read more

National Trust invites walkers to take part in an Exmoor Navigation Day
North Devon Journal, March 17th

To help tackle these issues, the National Trust is running a new event on Saturday. Exmoor Navigation Day is a fun and practical training day aimed specifically at people new to map reading, or at those who have ... With eight walks based around...Read more