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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Norman Lures Acquired By PRADCO Outdoor BrandsTimes Record, November 23rd
PRADCO Outdoor Brands, which has its fishing division based in Fort Smith, has acquired local fishing lure makers Norman Lures. The acquisition is a “coming home” story in some fashion. Norman Lures founder Bill Norman got his start at PRADCO in Fort ...Read more
MYHRE: Why not begin collecting vintage fishing tackle?Sioux City Journal, November 18th
Some focus on only one lure manufacturer such as South Bend or Heddon or Shakespeare. Some only collect wooden lures, although there are many plastic lures that are collectible as well. Some collect only early casting reels. Some only bamboo rods...Read more
Fish Tale: Treble causes troubleMontgomery Advertiser, November 13th
Missy was casting from the bank, using her favorite lure, a Heddon Mini Torpedo. The top-water bait has a small propeller in the back that creates a sound that drives bass nutso. It also had two razor-sharp treble hooks attached. I noticed Missy got it...Read more
06/11/15 ViewRanger helps keep The One Show Rickshaw Challenge riders on trackCambridge Wireless (press release), November 9th
If you have any queries regarding the service, please contact Fonix at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org 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
ViewRanger keeps The One Show Rickshaw Challenge riders on trackCambridge Network, November 6th
how far they've got to go. “It will provide the riders with a real confidence boost when the going gets tough and I'm delighted to be able to support these courageous young people as they tackle the eight day ride. .... If you have any queries...Read more
Heddon One Knocker Spook ReviewWired2fish, July 16th
Of all the topwaters on the market, the Heddon Spook remains one of the most popular. First introduced in 1939, this walking topwater lure has caught countless bass for both recreational and professional anglers alike. So I guess it goes without saying...Read more
Finding treasure in a tackle boxNewsOK.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
Vintage Tackle Contest: (Very Rare) Heddon PunkinseedField 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