For fishing buffs, William Shakespeare was the bard of tackle and the poet of the lure. Shakespeare’s gear changed the way the world fished—from his 1896 reel that wound fishing line evenly onto a spool to his 1939 Backlash Brake for the Wondereel, one of the most popular fishing reels ever made.

Shakespeare founded his company in 1897—his patented level-wind reel would be the company’s first flagship product. Shakespeare’s second act came in 1900, when his dozen-employee company introduced the Wood Revolution, a three-treble-hook wooden plug whose bug-like body was divided by an aluminum collar and a pair of spinning propellers.

During the first decade of the 20th century, aluminum versions of the Revolution followed, as did rubber Sure-Lures, Evolution lures, and Frogs (one "mechanical" frog had legs that kicked when the line was pulled). Floating and submerged wooden Minnow lures were also a staple of this early Shakespearian era.

After taking a break during World War I to manufacture mortar fuses and carburetors for the war effort, the company regrouped in the 1920s to expand its line of reels, rods, and lures. The Hercules was the company’s "heavy-duty" reel; the nickel-plated Beetzel was designed to automatically release the line on a spool when the rod was cast. The Marhoff featured elegant black Bakelite detailing (it is a real catch for collectors of antique and vintage fishing reels) while the open architecture of the Shakespeare Hoosier appears downright primitive to contemporary eyes.

The 1920s also saw the introduction of the Bass-A-Lure, whose large, metal, lower lip caused the lure to dive enticingly when the line was retrieved by the angler. The Mermaid lures had white or red heads and shapely bodies, while the Swimming Mouse had glass eyes, a pair of treble hooks for legs, and a delicate, whipping tail.

For Shakespeare, the biggest event of the 1930s, other than the marvelous Jim Dandy, Sea Witch, and Barnacle Bill lures, was the invention of the Wondereel in 1939. This reel would go on to become one of the bestselling fishing products ever—not even World War II, when the company turned its attention to the manufacture of planes, tanks, and jeeps, could derail its popularity.

After the war, Shakespeare focused its attention on fishing tackle rather than lures. In 1947, William’s son Henry, who was now running his father’s company, introduced the first fiberglass fishing rod, blowing the competition out of the water. A push-button Wondercast spinning reel followed in the early 1950s, and by 1966 Shakespeare had purchased one of its biggest competitors, Pflueger.

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]

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]

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]

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]

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 Pflueger, Shakespeare Or Heddon Antique Three Hook LureVintage Shakespeare Rubber Frog Fishing LureEarly Vintage Shakespeare Antique Level Wind Fishing Reel With Tall Grey BoxShakespeare Tantalizer With Red Glass Eyes Fishing Lure Photo Finish Minty Vintage Shakespeare Wonderod 1459 Ekk 7' 4 Piece Fly Spin Cast Pack Rod Shakespeare Bass-a-lure ~ Photo Finish, Wood Lure Circa 1929 Mi Vintage Wooden Crackle Back 5 Hook Fishing Lure Heddon 150? Shakespear? PfluegerOld Vintage Engraved Shakespeare Professional Sportcast 1980 Reel In Box NarrowVintage Shakespeare Tournament Free Spool 1740 He Fishing Reel/no ResShakespeare 5 Hook Underwater Minnow BarsVintage Strange Looking Plug With Marked Shakespeare Rear Spinner Fishing Lure Vintage Old Wood Shakespeare Tantilizer Fishing Lure Glass Eyes Nice ColorVintage Shakespeare Bait Casting ReelVintage Shakespeare Kazoo #1877 X-wide Spool Fly ReelShakespeare? Rhodes? Other? Vintage Underwater Minnow Fish Lure Plug Old Vintage Shakespeare Standard Sportcast 1977 Gd Reel Narrow Spool Very Nice!Shakespeare Sea Witch Old Fishing Lure In BoxShakespeare 2052 Small Spinning Old Fishing ReelEarly Mini Shakespeare Slim Jim See Through Brown Scale Tiny EyesOld Vintage Shakespeare Sportcast 1973 Ge Reel In Box Very Nice! Fishing TackleVintage Wood Fishing Lure Superb Tackle Box Bait! Paw Paw Shakespeare South BendShakespeare No. 2052 Vintage Spinning Reel (mint) + BookletWood Shakespeare Old Fishing Lure Glass EyesVintage South Bend Fly Rod Fishing Pole 9 Feet Long Shakespeare Reel 1826 Mod EcNice Vintage Shakespeare Sigma Supra Hi-speed Baitcasting ReelLarge Vintage Shakespeare Spinning Reel In Huge Box !!!!19 Vintage Bait Casting Reels -- Shakespeare, Pflueger, Langley, Bronson, MoreVintage Shakespeare Wonderod Howald 8’ White Spirale Fiberglass Made In UsaShakespeare Bass Kazoo Old Fishing Lure 2 Vintage Fishing Lures- Shakespeare Surface Poppers- 2 Colors- Vintage Shakespeare President Reel #1970a Model Fh Camo LineVintage Wood Fishing Lure Shakespeare Swimming Mouse Jr. Grey W/ BoxVintage Shakespeare Pad-lerShakespeare Number 1827 Trueair Automatic Fly Fishing ReelVintage Shakespeare Wonderod 9'0" 2-piece Spinning Surf Rod/rare!Vintage Shakespeare 2062 Spinning Reel2 Shakespeare Wonderglass Spinning RodsOld Fly Rod Fishing Rod 7' In Shakespeare Wonderod Owner P1596 6'6" Canvas CaseShakespeare Silent Tru-art 1837 Gd Auto Fly Reel Near Mib Shakespeare 8200 Baitcasting Reel W/papers - The Big Boss - Nice -Vintage Old Wood Shakespeare Midget Spinner Fishing Lure For Your Tackle BoxShakespeare 1964 Marhoff Model Gl, Marbled With Box, Bag, Instructions & WrenchVintage Used Shakespeare 2411 4:6.1 Gear Ratio Med-hvt Spinning Red Reel FishingLot Of 15 Fishing Reels, Vtg Southbend Shakespeare Zebco Abu Garcia Diawa No ResVintage Shakespeare Imperial No.1957 Model Gj - Bait (lure) Casting Fishing ReelVintage Shakespeare Marhoff No.1964, Model Ge - Bait Casting Reel Nickel SilverVintage Shakespeare No. 1930 Hydro Film Control Model Ee Casting Fishing ReelLot Of 3 Openface Spinning Fishing Reels Shakespeare Zebco Never Used Very NiceVintage Shakespeare Silent Tru-art Automatic Fly Fishing Reel Vintage Shakespeare Wondereel 1810Vintage Shakespeare 3 Hook Lure Wooden ,glass Eyes,underwater MinnowVintage Shakespeare 030 Sigma Pro 2300 Graphite Spinning Reel Missing HandleVintage Reels: Penn Peerless, Shakespeare Sportcast, Bache Brown, Union, Etc... Vintage Shakespeare Swimming Mouse Fishing Lure With BoxVintage Pflueger Magnet / Merit 3600 Series Wood Fishing LureVintage Wood Fishing Lure Shakespeare Slim Jim Yellow Perch PhotofinishVintage Shakespeare President No.1970a Model Fh Bait Casting Fishing ReelVintage Shakespeare 1920 Fishing Reel Wondereel Model Ge Shakespeare Pop Eye Old Fishing Lure In BoxAntique Shakespeare Wooden Spinning Slim Jim Lure In Correct Box