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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Recent News: Heddon Fishing Tackle
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Lure Vs. Rod HelpBassResource.com (press release), July 3rd
Here's my top waters. From left to right in the back, I have a Heddon Zara Spook, Bass pro Series Popper, Hedon Popp'n Image Jr, A Sebile Flatbelly Walker, Heddon Super Spook Jr & a Rapala Skitter Pop. Fathead.jpg. How would I rig this and with what...Read more
Outdoors: Where to go over the long weekendTallahassee.com, July 2nd
"Combine that with the waning full moon tides, and the best opportunities will be right before dawn and after 4 p.m. Diligent anglers have been scoring trout and reds mainly on topwater plugs like Rapala Skitterwalks and Heddon Super Spooks. Chrome...Read more
Fishing Lines: Thinking ahead…KeepMEcurrent.com, July 2nd
Another strategy is to fish next to the weeds with a small top water lure like a Heddon Tiny Topedo, Rapala, whatever – just be fairly subtle and tease the fish out of the weeds, and then keep some pressure on them to keep them out. Fly rodders can...Read more
Eagle River fishing report for June 29Appleton Post Crescent, July 1st
Use a plastic rigged weedless, spinner bait, topwater like a Scum Frog or Bass Rat, or a Heddon Torpedo. All day action and the bite is good. ... Remember to always do a "figure 8" as your lure nears the boat. All day action, with peaks in the evening...Read more
Dave Orrick: Trolling pioneer still has lessons to teachTwinCities.com-Pioneer Press, June 26th
His tackle box is filled with Whopper Stopper Hellcats, an out-of-production lure once sold by Heddon. "My boat's like a museum," he said. Up the line from the lure was a 1-ounce sinker to keep the lure just off the bottom, although one advantage of...Read more
Time to give summer bass a tryBastrop Daily Enterprise, June 24th
owner of Greg Terzia's Bait and Tackle in Ruston. According to Terzia, June is a good time to ... “You'll also need to keep a Heddon Zara Spook Jr. tied on for when they come up schooling over the deep water structure. “Night fishing will also be good...Read more
Bob McNally's Outdoors OutlookFlorida Times-Union, June 24th
Rick Hamilton of R&J Tackle in Green Cove Springs says plenty of redfish are in the river between Jacksonville and Palatka, with most fish still under the 18-inch legal size. However, enough slot fish are available to keep anglers interested...Read more
Dave Orrick's top 10 fishing lures. Ever.TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press, June 17th
Clockwise, from top left: Rapala Husky Jerk, Eppinger Dardevle Imp, Mimic Minnow (like a Beetle Spin), Mepps Lusox, Heddon Zara Puppy, Cubby Mini-Mite, Mepps Aglia Bucktail, Rapala Original Floating Minnow. Not pictured: plastic worm, .... This is my...Read more