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    

Vintage Antique Tackle Vaughns Lure & Box Michigan Fishing Old Wood LureVintage Antique Reel Pflueger Monarch 5 Hook Glass Eye Wood Minnow Lure & BoxRare Lure Heddon Slopenose, Dowagiac Casting Bait, Very RareVintage Antique Tackle Immel Bait Co. Chippewa Fishing Lure 1913 Blair WisconsinVintage Antique Tackle Heddon 100 Minnow & Wood Box Fishing Lure Glass Eye BaitVintage Antique Tackle Moonlight / Paw Paw Fish Spear Wood Fishing Lure BaitVintage Antique Tackle Heddon Strawberry Spot Spin Diver Glass Eye Fishing LureHeddon Dowagiac Musky Minnow Box For Heddon 700Heddon Dowagiac Fly Rod Flap Tail Mouse Lure In Up Leaping Bass Box Nice Combo Heddon White Meadow Mouse Shiny Ex(+) In Original BoxHeddon Bamboo Fly Rod, 8.5 ', 3 Piece, #35 Quality, To Finish Out...Heddon Wooden BoxExcellent Hedddon Dawagiac 100 Series Minnow In Old Yellow (105)Heddon Zig Wag 8309 Mrh Mint In Original Box MibVintage Antique Tackle Heddon Musky Surfusser Old Fishing Lure BaitVintage Antique Tackle Moonlight Jointed Pikearoon Glass Eye Minnow Lure BaitVintage Antique Tackle Moonlight Bug 1916 Old Wooden Fishing Lure BaitVintage Antique Tackle Heddon 107 Fancy Yellow Sienna Minnow Wood Dovetail BoxHuge Fishing Tackle Lot! Over 100 Lures Rapala Mirrolure Heddon New & Vintage.T18) Vintage Heddon Strawberry Color 00 5-hook Dowagiac Minnow Fishing Lure CupVintage Wood Tackle Box ~ Early Lures ~ Heddon, Pflueger, South Bend, Folk Art!! Hedddon Dawagiac 100 High Forehead Minnow Brass HardwareVintage Antique Tackle Moonlight Lady Bug Wiggler 1917 Fishing Lure BaitRare Vintage Heddon 71193 Flaptail Vamp Fishing Lure W/box Mint! Look!Old Antique Vintage Heddon 5 Hook Underwater Minnow Lure Bait Hpgm Early PropsHeddon Top Kick Topkick In Perch Very Early Hi Tail Vintage Fishing Lures Umco 131u Tackle Box Full Heddon Punkinseed Runts SonicsHeddon Vamp 7509-p Ex In BoxVintage Fishing Lures Old Pal Tackle Box Full Heddon Creek Chub L & S Smithwick Heddon 740bgl Punkinseed Box W/ Catalog InsertHeddon King Basser #8550 Vintage Wood Fishing Lure Glass Eyes + Box And PapersOld Antique Vintage Heddon 5 Hook Underwater Minnow Lure Bait Hpgm Large Body Extremely Rare Hedddon Dawagiac 400 Bucktail Minnow In RainbowSuperb In Orignal Box C1945 Heddon Dowagiac #730bgl Punkinseed Wood Fishing LureVintage Heddon Punkinseed Lure Model 730 Circa 1946-49 Wood / Treble HooksHeddon Dowagiac Lucky 13 Spook Minnow Lure Tough Indy Flag Checkered ColorOld Antique Vintage Heddon 5 Hook Underwater Minnow Lure Bait Green Crackleback*scarce* 1916-1918 Heddon No.6 "jim Heddon's Favorite" 5', 2/2 Split Bamboo BaitAntique Heddon 9 Foot Bamboo Fly Rod Number 20 Vintage Tackle Pflueger Tantrum Minnow In Scramble Finish ,tough Lure To FindOld Heddon Dowagiac Game Fish Minnow 1509-b Box Only Good ConditionVintage Heddon Dowagiac P-51 Fishing Reel, Excellent!!Heddon Vintage Tiny Crazy CrawlerHeddon 1700 Series Wiggler In Green CracklebackHeddon 150 Minnow Fishing Lure Slate Back White Color, L Rig Glass Eyes Heddon Vintage Lure Wooden 740 Series Punkinseed In Crappie Color SchemeT7) Vintage Heddon Green Crackleback Vampire Fishing Lure Ge L Type Hw Nr Vintage Heddon Crab Wiggler Inch Worm Line Tie, L-rigging Early U Shape Collar 2 Old Antique Vintage Heddon 5 Hook Underwater Minnow Lure Baits Wall HangersVintage Heddon 340 Daisy Fly ReelFishing Lures Huge Lot Of 112 Rapala,heddon,rebel,cotton,flicker,rat-l-trap,kingRare Heddon Millionaire Lure Kit Runt,sonic,tadpolly, Lucky 13, Torpedo, Hep Vintage Heddon Crazy Crawler, Original Box, Lure Is In Great Shape!Vintage Group Lot 10 Lures Ccbc-heddon-jamison-paw Paw Used Surface Models Vintage Heddon Zara Spook Lure Gold & Red 4 1/2" BodyVintage Heddon Lure In Box , Crazy Crawler Lure, #2120, CatalogVintage Tackle Creek Chub Wiggle Wizard In Perch ColorHeddon Basser Fishing Lure In Up Leaping Bass Box Heavy Duty L-rig HardwareVintage Heddon Baby Vamp Fishing Lure With Original Box #7409plbVintage Tough Heddon Sos 179 Old Fishing Lure W/ Original Box Mint! Look!

Recent News: Heddon Fishing Tackle

Source: Google News

Wading's evolution has been worth the wait
Chicago Daily Herald, July 16th

I even took my trusty Heddon fly rod, fly box and vest to a trout-laden stream in central Michigan, and plied a section of the narrow body of water catching a few rainbow trout. But before long, the inevitable happened. When I stepped in to the water...Read more

Show lures in fishemen in Indiana
The Augusta Chronicle, July 12th

A trio of pre-1920 wooden lures found at the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club conference include a Pflueger Globe bait from Ohio; an Dewey's Du-Getum hollow bronze frog from Indiana; and a Wilson's Cupped Surface Wobbler from Michigan. ... lures...Read more

Bob McNally's Outdoors Outlook
Florida Times-Union, July 2nd

Jim Johnson of Amelia Island Bait & Tackle says local marine fishing had been outstanding (inshore and offshore) until recent nor'easter weather conditions turned the tables on area angling. However, he expects fishing to get into good shape when the...Read more