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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PRADCO Outdoor Brands Acquires BanditWired2Fish, September 29th
PRADCO has proven over time that it cares deeply about historic fishing lure brands such as Heddon, Arbogast, Bomber and many others.” The Bandit brand will now be sold and represented by the PRADCO Outdoor Brands Sales Group. As part of POB, ...Read more
Story all fisherman should read – part twoNews-Sun, September 21st
“Ray talked to the folks in charge of publicity at Heddon, then, and offered Heddon the sponsorship of the tournament if they would put up $5,000,” Robinson remembers. “But they turned him down, with the old business deal: 'Mr. Scott, we have exhausted...Read more
Adding Replacement Bigger Or Same Size Hooks To A Heddon Super Spook?BassResource.com (press release), September 13th
I read that a Super Spook is a good topwater muskie lure. Last trip I had 10 muskie hits and never got one in. So when I was was thinking if I get them to bite on a KVD Sexy Dawg next time when I'm fishing I'll quick change to the Super Spook and see...Read more
Old lures that workNews-Sun, September 12th
Digging through my old tackle boxes, I came across three old lures that I haven't used in years: the Arbogast Mudbug, the Heddon Hellbender and the Bomber Bait Company's Bomber lure. All three lures were originally constructed from wood, and all three ...Read more
Kelly Bostian: Arkansas River 101 fishing lesson is a ton of funTulsa World, September 6th
A plain, bone-colored Heddon Zara Spook turned out to be the only lure I needed for the day. A 2-pounder creamed that Spook, and we were barely done talking about that aggressive smack when a splash engulfed it again and we saw a fat bass tail standing ...Read more
Ever Get Any Defective Red Eye Shad?BassResource.com (press release), September 6th
As for the member who got a ton of stuff back thats awesome and probably like it happened for my buddy with Heddon. They ended up sending him a ton of everything they even made. I have some from that right now and i know for sure he has like all of...Read more
Anglers' license to lie isn't a popular concept anymoreThe Augusta Chronicle, August 30th
The stereotype is a blend of fact, folklore and fiction – and is rooted firmly in the colorful history of American fishing tackle. One of my favorite relics of the past was offered in the 1920s by the famous and long-lived Heddon corporation. It was...Read more
Lures for the casual holiday weekend anglerLakenewsonline.com, August 29th
Lure selection can be one of the most confusing tasks in tackle selection. Too often purchases are based on how 'fishy' ... Others include Heddon's Crazy Crawler, Arbogast's Jitterbug, and Scum Frog's Little Bigfoot. They are easy to fish because...Read more