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 ** Heddon ** 3 5/16" Magnum Torpedo ** Natural Perch Color ** Ex.condVintage Heddon Sonic Fishing LureHeddon Big Bud Fishing LureHeddon Hellbender Fishing LureVintage Heddon Lucky 13 "glass Eyed" Fishing LuresVintage Antique 2.75" Heddon Wood Go Deeper Crab Fishing Lure Tackle Gold EyesHeddon Chugger Spook Vintage / Antique Fishing Lure Vintage Heddon Sonic Fishing LureVintage Heddon Tiny Torpedo Fishing Lure(3 ) Vintage (originals) Heddon Super Sonic Fishing Lures - Nice ColorsVintage Antique 2" Heddon Zara Pooch Fly Rod Fishing Lure Tackle Bait Plug Vintage Heddon Top Sonic Fishing LureVintage Antique Tackle Heddon Zara Spook Reinforced Hook Hangers Topwater Lure1¢ Auction Mint Heddon Baby Torpedo Prop Top Water Fishing Lure 2-3/4" $3 S/hVintage Heddon Baby Torpedo Fishing LureVintage Heddon Tiny Lucky 13 Fishing LureVintage Heddon Hi-jacker Fishing LureVintage Heddon Wounded Spook Perch ScaleVintage Heddon River Runt Fishing LuresHeddon Wounded Spook Topwater Clear Silver Scales,blk StripesVintage Heddon Baby Torpedo Fishing LureHeddon Excalibur Saltwater Spit 'n Image And Saltwater Pop 'n Image (2 Used) Vintage Heddon Hi-jacker Fishing LureHeddon Crackleback Fishing LureVintage Heddon Midget River Runt Fishing Lure (lm#14)1950's Heddon 320 Xrs Tiny Crazy Crawler Spook LureVintage Heddon Deep Dive River Runt Fishing LureHeddon Baby Torpedo Fishing LureBright Finish Early Heddon Super Sonic Unseen Gold Eye Crystal Shad #9385 LureHeddon Super Snook 5" 1oz. 2pcs Brand NewHeddon Gamefisher Lure VintageHeddon Sonar Fishing LureLot Of 10 Fishing Lures Of Various Types And Colors For Bass & Pike Some UnknownHeddon Sonic Fly Rod SizeVintage Heddon Midget Digit Fishing LureVintage Heddon Hi-jacker Fishing LureVintage Heddon Spin Fin Lure In Original Box 412 XbwBright Finish Tiny Lucky 13 Gold Eye + Clone Vintage LureHeddon Excalibur Super Spook Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston Fishing LureVintage Heddon "crackleback" Deep Diver Lure 2 3/4in Group Of Old Lures - Heddon, Millsite, Lazy Ike, Ccbco, OthersHeddon Super Spook Jr.'s Topwaters (3 Used) 1 Dance/ Houston Excalibur SeriesVintage Heddon Tiny Torpedo Fishing LureVintage Heddon Tiny Torpedo Fishing LureAntique Fishing Lure Heddon's Dowagiac Wood Wooden Glass EyesHeddon Zara Spook Walking Topwater BoneVintage Heddon "zara Spook" #9250 Lure 4 1/4in Heddon Tiny Torpedo Fishing LureHeddon Tiny Chugger Vintage / Antique Fishing Lure Vintage Heddon Tiny Torpedo Fishing LureGreat Lot Of Early Tackle Items, Heddon, Mcharg, South Bend....Heddon Vamp Rare Orange Black Spot In Correct BoxVintage Heddon 3 Hook Wood Box Minnow Fishing LureOld Heddon Wood Box Paper - "the Why Of It"Fishing Lure ... Folk Art .. Unknown Maker ?? ...... Vintage ???Early, Vintage,heddon Bamboo Flyrod, Black Beauty, With Tube. RareVintage Heddon 3 Hook Wood Box Minnow Fishing LureTackle Box, Full Of Old Fishing Lures, Wood, Heddon, Chub Creek, Jitterbugs PlusVintage My Buddy Fishing Tackle Box Stuffed Full Of Lures Heddon Creek Plistic 1939-40 Heddon #206 "lone-eagle" Jeweled Casting Reel, Scarce Original Gold Box,