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    

Heddon Wood Crazy Crawler 2122lum Old Fishing Lure In Correct Box*antique C. 1905 Heddon 150 Sweeping Gills, 2 Bw, Unmarked Props Very Early**antique Tackle Box Full Of Vintage Fishing Lures & Plugs; Heddon Ccbc, Sb Etc *Heddon 151 Rainbow Lure/ Marked Wood BoxOld Vintage Heddon 100 Fat Body, Glass Eye Fishing Lure W/correct BoxVintage ~ Heddon 300 Surface Minnow In Rainbow*vintage Tackle Box Full Of Vintage Fishing Lures & Plugs; Heddon, Ccbc, MiscCrisp Colorful Heddon Dowagiac Game Fish Minnow Box Circa 1915-19 (empty) Nice!Old Vintagespecial Order Heddon 6 Hook 300 Surface Fishing LureHeddon Minnow 159a In Bar Perch ( Fat Body ) With Correct BoxVintage Heddon #17 Black Beauty 8 1/2' 3/2 Bamboo Fly RodVintage Antique Tackle Heddon Flipper Wooden Glass Eye Fishing Minnow Lure BaitColorful Medley's Wiggly Crawfish W/rare Box, F.b. Hamilton, California, 1919Vintage ~ Heddon Crab Wiggler #1800 In Frog With BoxHeddon Tadpolly 1920s Wooden Lure Glass Eyes, L-rig Hooks Green Scale, ShinyVintage 1913 Heddon #1300, Rare Black Sucker Lure ~ 5.75inOld- Heddon Crazy -crawler Vintage ~ Heddon Imperial #125 Flyreel With Original Box Never Had Line On It. Heddon? Round Bodied 5 Hook Minnow ---rare---Heddon Surface Minnow # 300Old Vintage Heddon #1700 Surface Wiggler Fishing Lure With Correct BoxVintage Heddon Deep Diving Wiggler.Vintage Antique Early Wood Box Model Heddon Dowagiac 100 Minnow------very Nice~!T8) Vintage Heddon "dilg's Own" #11 Wilder Dilg Fly Rod Fishing Lure W Pix BoxVintage Old Wood Fishing Lure Heddon Meadow Mouse White W/ Grey Stripe GeVintage Old Wood Fishing Lure Heddon Basser Frog Scale GeEx+++ Vintage Heddon Lure, Lucky 13 Gra. Rare Lure.Heddon Expert #125 - 9' - 2/12 F - Hch Or D Bamboo Fly RodHeddon Minnow 151 Old Rainbow ...... C1908Heddon Crazy Crawler - Black Shore - Small 2120 Model - ExcellentVintage ~ Heddon 150 Dowagiac Minnow In CracklebackVintage Antique Heddon Dowagiac 150 Minnow-ge-l-rigged--high Forehead-----nice~!Heddon Baby Game Fisher Wooden Lure Green Scale Super Nice Cond. GamefisherVintage Old Wood Heddon Dowagiac Walton Feather Tail Minnow Fishing Lure Vintage Fishing Lure Heddon Punkinseed Nice Color Found In Old Tackle Box Vintage Heddon #100 Minnow--all Red--a Beauty!!Vintage Fishing Lure Heddon Deep Diving Wiggler Rare Awesome Color CollectibleHeddon Flipper # 140Beautiful Old Vintage Heddon Deluxe Basser Bass Salmon Fishing Lure Plug Nib 5 Vintage Fishing Lures Glass Eyed Heddon Dowagiac Wood Punkinseed Tackle BoxHeddon Crazy Crawler - Glow Worm - Donaly Clips - Excellent LuminousVintage Rare Old Wood Heddon 2120 Crazy Crawler Fishing Lure Tuff Black Shore Vintage Fishing Lure Beautiful Heddon Deep Diving Wiggler Rare Bar Perch Color Vintage Fishing Tackle Box Loaded Full With Lures Wood Smithwick HeddonVintage Antique Fishing Casting Reel James Heddon Dowagiac 3-15 German SilverHeddon Crazy Crawler - Yellow Shore - Small 2120 Model - ExcellentVintage Huge Aluminum Fishing Tackle Box Loaded W/ Lures Heddon Pflueger AntiqueVintage Heddon Wood Lucky 13 Fishing LureRare Heddon Fishing Catalog ~ Lures ~ Reels ~ Bamboo Rods ~ Flys ~ Antique 1935Old Vintage Heddon Zargossa Glass Eye Fishing Lure W//box 6509rh2hVintage Antique Heddon Luny Frog Closed Leg Model Lure------tuff Model To Find~!Vintage Heddon Dowagiac 8501 Rainbow Basser Glass Eye, Marked Box, Decent ComboVintage Metal Tackle Box Full Of Antique Fishing Lures Many Heddon Bomber WoodenVintage Old Heddon Punkinseed Fishing Lure For Your Tackle Box Crappie In BoxHeddon 7500 Vamp In Natural Scale Fishing LureOld Wooden Heddon 5 Hook LureVintage-heddon-fishing-lure-black Wooden-3" Crazy-crawlerVintage Old Heddon Punkinseed Fishing Lure For Your Tackle Box White ShoreVintage Old Wood Heddon Dowagiac 20 3 Hook Minnow Fishing Lure Glass EyesVintage Old Wood Heddon Dowagiac Meadow Mouse Fishing Lure For Your Tackle Box

Recent News: Heddon Fishing Tackle

Source: Google News

Ted Peck: Legal trolling will change spring strategies
Gazettextra, February 7th

In regard to plastic choice, the B-Fish-N Tackle Moxie is a very effective bait profile. Blade baits are just gaining favor with walleye anglers even though they've been around since Heddon introduced the Sonar in the 1950s. Forty years later...Read more

Top 10 Mistakes of Beginning Swimbait Anglers
YakAngler, February 4th

Life is too short to use inferior tackle. Proven baits are proven for a reason ... will quickly jump to larger baits. A 6” swimbait sounds huge, but isn't much larger than a Heddon “Super Spook”. ... The hooks matter A huge temptation for beginning...Read more

FISHING LURE BOXES
The Voice Observer (blog), February 4th

Master tackle co., which specializes. Lot of all your spinners, it would appear tackle of heddon. Seat boxes, source fishing lures getting top prices related products, services. Custom fishing may albeit. Key to state of dr other fishing may. of quiet...Read more

Single or treble hooks? The answer depends on the situation
Florida Times-Union, January 30th

Lure style is what usually dictates the type hook that's used, and lure choice is almost always determined by the kind of bass water I'm fishing,” says Joey Thigpen, an FLW Elite Series angler from Fruit Cove. “When weedless lures are needed...Read more

Make It Click: Score a Reliable Fly Reel for $20
Field and Stream, January 26th

Pflueger Medalists are probably the easiest to find, although according to Todd Larson, one of the country's leading vintage-tackle experts, that's not the only brand that was made to last. “Aside from the Medalist, Meisselbach, Heddon, Shakespeare...Read more

BETA award-winners revealed
Pet Business World News, January 26th

Judges noted that Vale Brothers was a company not afraid to tackle difficult markets. The winner ... Medium Retailer: Winner – Jet Set Saddlery & Countrywear, Dundonald, Ayrshire; Runner-up – Houghton Country, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland...Read more

Catch more Atlantic Beach red drum and sea trout with these tips
North Carolina Sportsman, January 20th

“These fish will readily bite topwater plugs like Heddon Zara Spooks, but the key is fishing them slow. It's common for anglers to fish these plugs slow throughout the year, but during these cold months, you need to fish them really slow. Painfully...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