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.

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Recent News: Heddon Fishing Tackle

Source: Google News

Outdoors gift ideas wrapped up with a bow (or arrow)
Florida Times-Union, December 13th

Stick with name brands, such as Bass Assassin, Berkley, Yum, Heddon, Rebel, Xcalibur and Bomber. ... Get good ones with beefy wire, and locally-made brands such as SureSet and TBS are good choices carried at most area saltwater tackle outlets...Read more

North Fork Outdoors: Nothing quite like thrill of a surface strike
Suffolk Times, December 7th

The Heddon company, when it was out in Michigan, made a giant “flap-tail” lure with a spoon on a swivel that was widely used by post-World War II surfcasters, and it accounted for some of the largest East Coast stripers taken at that time, including, I...Read more

Heddon Crazy Crawler?
BassResource.com (press release), November 3rd

I have never tried it myself for more than a few casts and then I get impatient as it is a lure you work slow, and I hate fishing slow with topwaters as I only pause or slow down near an area I am expecting a blow up so that time is never slow when...Read more

Adding Replacement Bigger Or Same Size Hooks To A Heddon Super Spook?
BassResource.com (press release), September 13th

I read that a Super Spook is a good topwater muskie lure. Last trip I had 10 muskie hits and never got one in. So when I was was thinking if I get them to bite on a KVD Sexy Dawg next time when I'm fishing I'll quick change to the Super Spook and see...Read more

Finding treasure in a tackle box
NewsOK.com, March 15th

The Heddon lure in the tackle box was a black-and-gold Midget River Runt. I called Karl White of Luther, the world's utmost authority on antique lure collecting, to learn what information I could about the River Runt. White writes a column for...Read more

Heddon Origional Zara Spook 2.0
BassResource.com (press release), February 6th

Since these use hook hangers and they go through the hook eyelet I had 2 options, cut the hookor or unscrew the screws that hold the hanger to the lure. Unscrewing them sounded easier so I grabbed a phillips head and got to it. The screws came out ...Read more

Vintage Tackle Contest: (Very Rare) Heddon Punkinseed
Field and Stream (blog), October 10th

The only one I actually recognized was the Heddon Punkinseed, because I believe we've featured one before. I told Dr. Todd Larson of The Whitefish Press and "Fishing For History" blog to pick whichever lure he thought had the best story, but I was...Read more

Vintage Tackle Contest: Heddon Crazy Crawler
Field and Stream (blog), May 10th

Based on a 1920s design by New Jersey luremaker Jim Donaly (early Crazy Crawlers came with what is called the "Donaly" clip holding the wings on the side of the lure), it was introduced in 1940 as Heddon's alternative to the Arbogast Jitterbug. A best ...Read more