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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Why You Should Add More Color to Your LuresWired2fish, April 15th
Put it this way, the center storage on Klein's Triton boat looks like a tackle shop merged with a beauty salon, or vice versa. Most noticeable is his ... “Bottom line is you have to have a lure tied on to make the cast and catch the fish. “Typically...Read more
Tackle, lures and presentationLouisiana Sportsman, April 15th
Frederick will dog-walk topwaters for slot redfish, and he is fond of Heddon Saltwater Spooks and One Knockers. “When there's activity on the surface, reds will smash topwaters,” he said. “I use them with confidence here on Sabine Lake.” When baitfish...Read more
JEFF KNAPP: Blades, spoons trigger walleye hitsIndiana Gazette, April 14th
Jigging spoons include a host of options, from the venerable Hopkins Jigging Spoon and Bay De Noc Swedish Pimple to more “walleye-specific” versions like Northland Tackle's Fire Minnow and Forage Minnow, and Lindy's Viking Spoon. Vibrating ... Blade...Read more
Everglades bass fishing will soon be spectacularSun Sentinel, April 7th
Early in the morning, they caught the fish by slowly twitching Pop-Rs or Heddon Torpedoes on the surface, and the bass would slowly take the lures. The fish became more aggressive later in the morning, and Zaremba ... When the bass bite is red-hot...Read more
WILTZ: Applying for a special buck tag --EMDASH-- it's a tough decision for meDaily Republic, April 7th
As a result of the allusion, I received a call from an older gentleman whose tackle box contained some of the antique Heddon lures I referred to. We got together. I spent a glorious morning hearing stories of World War II, fishing Canada and Lake Andes...Read more
Bringing back a piece of angling's past can catch bass in the presentArkansas Online, April 4th
With a bit of improvisation, you can adapt modern tackle for use with this fun technique, and you should find the results pleasantly surprising. One of my uncles was a doodlesocker ... In fact, this bassing technique once was called “dowjacking,” a...Read more
Walleye jigging takes finesse — season underwaySandusky Register, April 4th
Even though jigs dominate the choice of lures used for this type of fishing, blade baits such as Reef Runner Cicadas, Rod Bender's Tackle's Vib-“E”s and Heddon Sonars have their fans, too. The blade baits cannot be used in the river mouth areas that...Read more
Crews tackle fire at Heddon farmHexhamcourant, March 25th
Crews tackle fire at Heddon farm. Published at 11:35, Wednesday, 25 March 2015. SEVEN fire crews from Northumberland and Tyne and Wear have been battling a fire at a farm in Heddon throughout Tuesday night. The blaze broke out at just after 9pm in a ...Read more