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 their dual propellers, brass tail and nose, and trio of treble hooks. The small #100 Underwater Minnow series from about 1905 came next—weights were inserted in the body of underwater lures, weightless lures simply floated on the surface. The #100s were followed by the #150s, which featured glass eyes and painted gills that resembled fanciful cartoony smiles.
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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I grew up fishing. And I always had a few old lures – several came from my grandfather – and I just decided one day that they were… [more]
I’ve been a collector of antique fishing tackle for over 20 years, and have been selling antique tackle in my shop since 1990. I c… [more]
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Best Summer Lures and Flies: 15 Secret Weapons from Fishing Guides and ...Field and Stream, May 20th
You'd better clear room in your tackle box. 1. Bomber Badonk-A-Donk SS. “My go-to for nighttime Heddon Sonar. “Blade baits are very underrated but I catch a lot of smallmouth on them in the summer, particularly the Heddon Sonar,” says Frank...Read more
So As Far As Fishound Is Concerned...BassResource.com (press release), May 14th
In my cart, i have a Heddon super spook, a strike king crankbait, a pack of damiki hydra, and a pack of bruiser swimbaits. For $4, you'll have to .... Our items include everything from rods, reel, baits, lures,terminal tackle, apparel, electronics, etc...Read more
Candidates react to election resultsMorpeth Herald, May 9th
Not far behind her was Ponteland West councillor Veronica Jones on 80 per cent and group leader Peter Jackson with 81 per cent of the vote in his Ponteland South with Heddon seat. Ponteland North councillor Richard Dodd was unopposed. Coun Jackson said...Read more
Dogwood Fine Arts Festival: Arlo Guthrie, Nicole Krauss and events big and ...Mlive Kalamazoo, May 4th
Heddon Museum tour, in the former Heddon factory. See the 1,500 lures, 160 reels and 215 rods made through the 82 years of the James Heddon's Sons tackle company. According to the museum site (heddonmuseum.org) other Heddon family moments "are...Read more
Outdoors: Jones' Girty fly gets it doneSouth Bend Tribune, April 28th
Jones acknowledges there are days when other bait and lure presentations will be better. But during the past three weeks, the Under calm conditions he'll fish traditional fly tackle, but while the river is at flood stage, he rigs his secret weapon...Read more
Bob McNally's Outdoors OutlookFlorida Times-Union, April 24th
Lure casters also are catching Woodruff-area bigmouths, chiefly with top-water plugs, spinner-baits and soft plastic lures. Jeff Fitts of Bald Eagle Bait & Tackle in Keystone Heights says largemouth bass action has been excellent on Rodman Reservoir...Read more
Top Water Tips for Hard Baits - World Fishing NetworkWFN: World Fishing Network (blog), April 24th
Fishing the Heddon Zara Spook can be an extremely rewarding lure choice once the water begins to warm up. Under overcast skies and morning and evening when light is low this bait is at its best. The secret to a perfect "walk the dog" cadence is a loop...Read more