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    

Vintage Old Heddon 151 Dowagiac 5 Hook Minnow Rainbow Fishing Lure In Wood Box !! Rare !! Early Heddon 300 Minnow ....... ')\\ Heddon Extreamly Rare Glass Eyed Game Fisher Fishing LureHeddon Fish Decoy ....... ')\\ Heddon Dowagiac River Runt Lure Dace 2 Piece Rig Glass Eye Mint In Correct BoxRare Creek Chub Plunker, Vintage Lure !!Unmarked Heddon Bamboo Trade Fly Rod, 8 1/2' 2f Wooden Reel Seat, Sliding BandAntique Heddon Dowagiac Wood Glass Eyed 5 Hook Minnow Lure1906-07 Heddon Dowagiac 150 Underwater Minnow Lure In Vg ComditionRare 1400 Creek Chub Bug Wiggler Fishing LureVintage Heddon Dowagiac 150 Minnow In Rainbow Color Fishing LureJim Donaly Wow, Pre-heddon Crazy Crawler, Marked Wings, Early Wood LureHeddon 140 Sos Fishing LureLyon Coulson/heddon Captain 402 Bamboo Fly Rod 8 1/2' Trout Taper Full LengthHeddon Red And White Lunny Fishing LureFred Arbogast Sun Fish-lizVintage Heddon 1947-1952 9 Ft, Bamboo Fly Rod #125 "expert"Heddon Dowagiac Punkinseed 740 2pc Hardware With Correct Brush Box & Insert NiceSuperb Early Heddon High Forehead Minnow With Sweeping Gill Marks & Brass Hdwe.Early Heddon 100 Underwater Minnow, Wood Box Model, Gold Flitter, HpgmHeddon Musky Crazy Crawler 2150 Fishing LureHeddon Dowagiac River Runt Glow Worm 9409gw 2 Piece Rig + Box & PaperVery Old 5 Hook 2 Prop Heddon, Pflueger Or South Bend Glass Eyes LureHeddon Crazy Crawler Fishing LureHeddon Crazy Crawler Fishing LureRare Heddon Dowagiac #309xryg Yellow Shore Surface Minnow Glass Eye Heddon's Dowagiac #40m Minnow Lure Box Only In Nice Condition Sorry No LureHeddon 150 Wood Box Model Vintage Fishing LureRare Creek Chub Deluxe Wagtail Minnow, Vintage Lure !!Heddon Model 7509d Wooden Glasseyed Vamp In An Original Up-bass BoxRare Heddon Tiny Torpedo Uncataloged Color, Vintage Lure !!Old Donally Fishing LureHeddon 150 Five Hook Vintage Fishing Lure Cup HardwareLot Of 10 Vintage Heddon Baby Torpedo LuresHeddon 5000 Tadpolly With Intro BoxHeddon No.125 Imperial Fly Fishing ReelLot Of 10 Vintage Heddon Baby Torpedo LuresVintage Heddon Baby Dowagiac Minnow Lure Spotted Orange Metal Spinner Tack EyeWonderful Vintage 2 Piece 5" Heddon Split Bamboo Casting Rod !Vintage Heddon Dowagiac 150 Minnows And Near Surface Wiggler Fishing Lures BeateHeddon Crazy Crawler Fishing LureRare Pflueger Surface 2 Hook Metalized Minnow Circa 1924 Early Creek Chub 700 Pikie , Vintage Lure !!*(8) Antique Fishing Lures; Heddon, South Bend, Rush Tango Etc *$.99 No ReserveThree Vintage Heddon River Runt Spook Fishing LuresHeddon Crazy Crawler 2100 Gw ~ Glow Worm, W/box & Cat+ Tag, Wood Lure, VintageRare Heddon Tiny Torpedo Uncataloged Color , Vintage Lure !!70 Vintage Fishing LuresCreek Chub Pop-n-dunk , Vintage Lure !!Heddon 150 Underwater Minnow ~ Green Scale, W/box, Wood Lure W/glass EyesMagnificent Vintage # 7550pas Giant Musky Vamp & Box & Brochure / James Heddon *ultra Rare*uncataloged Heddon* The King Fisher Plug Bait & Extra! Rotary HeadEarly Heddon No.1600 Deep Diving Wiggler ~ Green Crackleback, -l-rig, Wood LureHeddon Dowagiac River Runt Lure Series 110 Shiner Scale Surface Rig Glass Eye Heddon 2120 Crazy Crawler In Rare Glow Worm....... ')\\ Heddon Walton Feather Tail Antique Fishing Lure ....... ')\\ Three Vintage Heddon River Runt Spook Fishing LuresVintage Genuine Heddon Dowagiac Minnow 150 Fishing Lure BoxTough Heddon Dowagiac No-snag N9119r "natural Scale" River Runt + Correct BoxVintage Fishing Lure Heddon River Runt Pearl Black Shore No Snag Special Order

Recent News: Heddon Fishing Tackle

Source: Google News

Ted Peck: Anglers rely on depth perception
Gazettextra, November 9th

The original blade bait is the Heddon Sonar. We've been catching walleyes on the Sonar since the 1950s. About 20 years ago, tackle innovator Mert Wolf came up with a blade commonly known as the Zip lure. Wolf still makes this bait, now called the Big ...Read more

ViewRanger keeps Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge riders on track
Cambridge Network, November 6th

If you have any queries regarding the service, please contact Fonix at the following email address: or write to Fonix Mobile Limited, 23 Heddon Street, London, W1B 4BQ or call on the following Helpline Number: 0208 114 7001 (Monday to ...Read more

Heddon Crazy Crawler? (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? (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, 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 (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