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    

1913~heddon Black Sucker #1300 Super Rare~wood Fishing Lure Bait~glass EyeHeddon "dowagiac Killer" Original BoxVintage Old Wood Heddon Dowagiac 300 Surface Minnow Fishing Lure Ge CracklebackVintage Heddon Bamboo Fly RodVintage Wood Fishing Lures Heddon Creek Chub Shakespeare Pflueger South BendVintage Fishing Lures & Tackle Collection Heddon Mitchell Garcia Rapala Bagley'sVintage Old Wood Heddon Musky Vamp Fishing Lure Glass Eyes Toilet Seat HardwareVintage Heddon 100 3 Hook Minnow In Correctly Marked Dlb Box Circa 1912 Tough!Awesome "rare 6-hook" Special Order 1931 Heddon #300 Dowagiac ~wood Fishing LureHeddon Dowagiac 00 Minnow Vintage L-rig Hardware, Ge, Nice Old Lure With BoxVintage Old Wood Heddon Dowagiac 300 Surface Minnow Fishing Lure Glass Eyes NiceVintage Old Heddon Floating Vamp Spook Fishing Lure Ge Toilet Seat Hardware Nice"rare" Heddon Top Kick Hi Tail Fish Lure FrogHeddon Pal Reel P-41 New In BoxLot Of Heddon Zara Spooks, Super Spook Jr And Other Fishing LuresVintage Heddon Dowagiac 150 Minnow 5 Hook Fat Body In Bar Perch Many Vintage Wood Fishing Lures, Jigs,rare,musky,pumpkinseed,southbend,heddonEarly Heddon 150 Minnow ~green Crackleback, Hpgm, Cup Rigged, Wood Fishing LureVintage Heddon Sunfish Punkinseed Fishing Lure In Original BoxVintage Antique Heddon 1906 No 100 3 Hook Glass Eye Minnow Lure & Dovetail BoxHeddon's Genuine "dowagic" Wiggler Very Good To Nm In Box With Rare Hand TagVintage Heddon Salmon River Runt Fishing Lure ~ Wood W/ Glass EyesHeddon ( Head-on ) Basser 8509v Orange W/black SpotsVintage Old Wood Fishing Lure Box Only Heddon Dowagiac Minnow Box W/ PaperworkHeddon Dowagiac 00 5 Hook Minnow Vintage LureHeddon Dowagiac 0 Minnow Lure In Red & Black Circa 1910sVintage Old Wood Heddon Dowagiac Tadpolly Fishing Lure Glass Eyes Green ScaleVintage Heddon Dowagiac Minnow 159 I Lure Box Only, Down Leaping Bass, Ca1920s Vintage Heddon Zig Zag Glass Eyes Nice Color Good Condtion Old Fishing Lure WoodVintage Heddon Crazy Crawler Flocked Mouse Fishing Lure In Original BoxVintage Heddon Dowagiac Vamp Wood Fishing Lure In Wood Lure BoxHeddon Dowagiac Minnow Surface Lure # 200 Rh With Correct Box Heddon ( Head-on ) Basser 8509 S........ A Real ScreamerHeddon Thorobred #14 Bamboo Fly Rod In Tube And BagVintage Old Heddon Punkinseed Fishing Lure In Box Yellow Shore Very Nice!!Vintage Heddon Flipper 140 Fishing Lure, Ca. 1920, L Rigg Hardware, No ReserveVintage Heddon Dowagiac Minnow 159a Lure Box Only, Up Leaping Bass, Ca1928s Vintage Old Heddon Punkinseed Fishing Lure For Your Tackle Box Sunfish Nice!!Heddon 2100 Xrs Crazy Crawler Wood Fishing Lure In Brush BoxHeddon Vamp Old Wood Fishing Lure Glass Eyes StrawberryWooden Heddon #920 Midget Digit Lure In Green Shore Minnow1937 Heddon Catalog ~ 7"x 10", Color & Bait Charts, Liars Lic., 40pp. The Works!Vintage Heddon Dowagiac 3 Hook 100 Minnow In Frog Spot With Down Bass Box Nice!Heddon Mouse...l-rigVintage Old Heddon River Runt Spook Sinker Fishing Lure In Box Flap Rig NaturalLarge Lot Of 84 Vintage & Modern Fishing Lures Heddon + More Vintage Heddon Zara Ii Spook Lure In Tuff ColorHeddon Dowagiac Minnow Surface Lure # 200 Rh With Box ( Early Version )Heddon Small Saltwater Old Wood Fishing Lure Glass EyesHeddon Bullfrog Crazy Crawler + Donaly Yellow Shore Wow Fishing Lures (2 For 1)Antique Heddon Zigwag In Original BoxHeddon Pal Pro Weight Fiberglass Fly RodRare Vintage Copper Fishing Lure Heddon Southbend Unusual Hard To Find SpinsHeddon #2100 Crazy Crawler Lure In Blackbird With Donaly ClipsVintage Heddon Bamboo Casting RodVintage Old Heddon Punkinseed Fishing Lure In Box White Shore Very Nice!!Vintage Old Wood Heddon Midgit Digit Fishing Lure For Your Tackle Box ShadVintage Old Heddon Punkinseed Fishing Lure In Box Black Shore Very Nice!!Heddon, Pflueger, Moonlight Old Metal Jitterbugs, Creek Chub, Paw Paw Musky MiscLarge Lot 50 Vintage Fishing Lures & Tackle Box Creek Chub Heddon Bomber Rebel

Recent News: Heddon Fishing Tackle

Source: Google News

Revealed: the widening gulf between salaries and house prices
The Guardian, September 2nd

Heddon Street in Mayfair, the London postcode district where the median house price stood at £2.9m in 2014. Photograph: Jeffrey Blackler/Alamy. The postcode district where houses were cheapest was central Bradford in West .... The only 'we' who can...Read more

Art Lander's Outdoors: Fall provides lots of opportunities for great fishing ...
User-generated content (press release) (registration), September 2nd

The beginning of September is the unofficial start of fall fishing in Kentucky, although the calendar says the first day of fall is still three weeks away. Two sure signs of the season are already here — days are getting shorter and mornings are cool...Read more

Topwater bassin' in the summer
Lakenewsonline.com, August 29th

This past May, while practicing for the Bassmaster Elite tournament at Lake Havasu, Brandon Palaniuk tied on a big topwater lure to use in the ultra-clear water. The Yamaha Pro finished 10th in the event. Months later, that lure is still tied on one of...Read more

Ultralights - One Man's Setup
YakAngler, August 28th

Tennessee handles are lighter, and provide ever so much more sensitivity at the reel that anything the lure touches is felt in the handle. Factory rods ... Heddon “Tiny Torpedos” sucked up a lot of smallmouth in Maryland and Virginia. When the crappie...Read more

Schoolers offer hot summer action on area lakes
Times Daily, August 20th

Start large with a bigger topwater bait like the Heddon Super Spook or a larger swimbait. ... The spoons – Hopkins and War Eagle make good models – come in the right sizes, get down quick, and also cast well on both spinning and baitcasting tackle...Read more

Outdoors column: Let's just wade a minute
Tallahassee.com, August 13th

They are popular because you can cast a very light lure or an unweighted shrimp a long distance without much effort. Matched with a 7 ½- .... Many years ago while covering the Miami Boat Show for the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel I spoke with Gary...Read more

Best bet: Three types of billfish offshore of Miami
Miami Herald, August 5th

Captain Ray Rosher of Miss Britt Charters out of Bayshore Landing Marina in Coconut Grove reported this past week his boats hooked and landed three types of billfish while fishing offshore of Miami. Bob Hunter of North Carolina released a white marlin ...Read more

Beat The Heat To Catch The Fish
The Island Connection, August 5th

Fish strike topwater lures based on the commotion they make on the surface and aren't able to discern that the lure isn't a real struggling baitfish. These lures will also catch redfish and ladyfish. Heddon's Super Spook Jr. lures in chartreuse and...Read more