Antique and vintage fishing tackle has become highly collectible, both for its workmanship and appearance and for the nostalgic memories it evokes of a simpler time. Hand-crafted designs create a folk art feel, attracting collectors from a range of backgrounds. In addition to lures, collectors seek rods, reels, decoys, and licenses, plus items by early makers such as Heddon, Creek Chub, Shakespeare, and Pflueger.
Fishing lures are designed to resemble fish prey, such as a frog or a small fish, and are often very colorful and detailed. Lures have been made from a variety of materials over the years, like bone, plastic, bronze, and rubber. But in the collecting world, wooden lures are the most desirable. These were first made commercially in the late 1800s by Heddon and Pflueger. Until that time, wooden lures were created by hand by individual craftsmen.
Antique and vintage decoys are also a popular collectible. Fishermen cut holes in the ice and used the decoy to draw fish into spearing range. Decoys became popular in the upper Midwest in the mid-1800s and were banned in 1910. However, during the Depression, the prohibition ended and decoy factories reemerged. The most sought-after fishing decoys are those created by notable carvers such as Harry Seymour and Yock Meldrum.
Collectors also seek out antique rods and reels. The earliest rods were made of wood and were usually long, sometimes with a bamboo tip; bamboo wasn't used to make the entire rod until the late 1800s. Split bamboo fly rods are considered the most collectible rods today, but collectors also seek casting and spinning rods made of fiberglass, bamboo, or steel. Most collectors have at least a few reels to add to their assortment of antique fishing gear. There are many types of collectible reels, such as single action, multiplying, and automatic fly reels, level wind and non-level wind casting reels, and Ambassador casting reels.
Finally, vintage fishing licenses are very popular. From the 1910s through the 1940s, many states issued small badges for anglers and hunters before switching to paper licenses. Badges from Hawaii, Michigan, Connecticut, and southern states, such as North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi, are the most in demand. Some states' early paper licenses are also in high demand, for example those from Pennsylvania in the 1920s.