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]

Mrlurebox.com

Mrlurebox.com

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]

AntiqueLures.com

AntiqueLures.com

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]

Oldfishinglure.com

Oldfishinglure.com

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]

TackleCollecting.com

TackleCollecting.com

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    

Vtg 1909**rare** Heddon 100 Sienna Rainbow Wood Minnow Fishing Lure.nice Color!Vtg **rare** Heddon 150 Frog Scale Wooden Minnow Fishing Lure.nice Color!Vintage Fish Decoy Heddon"sHeddon Musky Size Jointed Vamp - Allen Stripey1920s Heddon Dowagiac Spin Diver Spotted Wood LureVintage 1909-10**rare** Heddon 100 Wooden Minnow Fishing Lure. Red! Nice Color!Vtg 1909**rare** Heddon 100 Wooden Minnow Fishing Lure. Slate & Red Nice Color!Rare C.1930's Heddon De Luxe #50 "special Order" 9' Split-bamboo Trolling RodVintage Heddon No. 115 Bamboo Four (4) Piece Fly Rod W/ Bag Heddon KillerHeddon Punkinseed .... Tough Color!!Vintage Heddon Bamboo #17 "black Beauty"Vintage Collectible Heddon Model 20 First Era Bamboo Flyrod 9' 3/2 2 1/2fHeddon Cobalt Blue Tiny Torpedo Surface 1/4 Oz. 0360 Xblw W/box,papersEarly Heddon Down Leaping Bass Lure Box For Wood Vamp With Offset Finger SlotsRare 1939-1942 Heddon No.117 "albion" 9', 3/2 Split Bamboo *trade* Fly Rod W/bagBeautiful Black Heddon Crazy Crawler 2100 Hard To Get LureHeddon Magnum Torpedo Old Fishing LureVintage Heddon L-rig 5 Hook Fishing Lure With Correct BoxVintage Heddon 2120 Crazy Crawler/very Rare Black Shore Color!Vintage Wooden Fishing Lure, Heddon's Dowagiac Minnow, Single HookVintage Walton Pro. Tackle Box Loaded With Lures Heddon &more! Heddon Wounded Spook Perch Old Fishing LureVintage Heddon Dowagiac 150 5 Hook Minnow Fishing Lure W/glass EyesHeddon Chugger Spook 9540 Ycds ?? White Belly Old Fishing Lure In Unmarked BoxHeddon Wounded Spook Xry Old Fishing LureHeddon Wood Torpedo Old Fishing LureHeddon Flyrod Punkinseed Vintage FishingAntique Lure Lot Heddon South Bend Creek Chub Old Display Tackle Box Baits Vintage Heddon/ Arbogast/ Paul Bunyan Fishing Lures ( Punkinseed, Jitterbug, EtcVintage Heddon-tadpolly-l-rig-rare Heddon Color-low Start Bid-look!!Heddon Crazy Crawler 2100 YrhVintage Heddon Crazy Crawler 2100.Heddon #300 Dowagiac Surface Minnow In RainbowHeddon Luny Frog - Nice One!Heddon Dowagiac Punkinseed Vintage Fishing Lure In Original BoxVintage Fred Arbogast Jitter Stick Jitterbug Lure With BoxHeddon Chugger Spook Old Fishing Lure In Correct Box 9540 RsHeddon Chugger Spook Old Fishing Lure New In Correct Box 9540 GsdHeddon Chugger Spook In Correct Box 9540 Glds Old Fishing LureBamboo Heddon# 2f #14 Fly Rod 8.5 Ft. & Aluminum Tube Holder Wth 18/64"ferrulesAmerican Casting Assoc. Tackle Collection Liquidation / Heddon #3500 Luny FrogLot 8 Vintage Fishing Lures Tackle Spoons South Bend Millsite Clarks Water ScoutVintage Heddon Super Sonic Fays Special Uncataloged See Pics! Lure Bait FishingHeddon 210 Spook Old Fishing LureVintage Heddon Floater Punkinseed Crappie Fishing Lure Lower Line Tie Tackle BoxSuper Rare Heddon Slick Trick Casting Spoon With Box 1130np - Low ReserveOld Vintage Fishing Lure, Plastic?, Heddon Crazy Crawler, 1 Of 20 ListedVintage Heddon 730 Punkinseed Fishing Lure Pretty SunfishVintage Old Heddon Tiny Punkinseed Fishing Lure For Your Tackle Box BluegillOld Antique Vintage Heddon Crazy Crawler Early Wood Lure Never Fished BeautifulOld Metal Tackle Box Full Of Lures Spinners & More! Heddon Antique & Very Scarce Heddon Tad-polly, No Lip, Yellow Perch 4 In. Fishing Lure Vintage Heddon 2100 Crazy Crawler/bullfrog!Handmade Tackle Box 1925 And Vintage Content Heddon Southbend Etc.. $$$$$$$Heddon Fishing Lures, Lot Of 7, Hi Jacker, River Runt, Big Head, Tiny Lucky 13, Heddon Rainbow Tadpolly Ge L Rig Ex ConditionVintage Heddon Floating Vamp Spook Fishing LureVintage Collectible Heddon 3-35 Level Wind ReelVintage Heddon 57 Free Stripping Automatic Fly Reel Works Great