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Heddon Fishing Lures

James Heddon & Son, James Heddon's Sons

Dowagiac, Michigan

James Heddon was a leading apiarist (beekeeper) of the late 1800s whose careers in politics and newspaper publishing helped him launch what became the most important lure company in American history. The oft-told legend holds that Heddon was waiting for a fishing partner one afternoon at the Old Mill Pond near the town of Dowagiac. He tossed a whittled "plug" of wood into the still water and was startled when a bass struck the object violently. Thus, the idea for a topwater bait was born. The first Heddon lure - the Dowagiac Casting Bait - emerged barely a year later. Although James died in 1911, his sons, Charles and Will, built the company into a family empire that remained a leader in the fishing tackle industry well into the 1950s.

This is Page 1 of 7 pages of Heddon Fishing Lures.

(click HERE to see W.T. "Will" Heddon's personal reel)

(see PAGE 7 for Heddon Spook plastic lures)

Click on photos to enlarge

The first of the commercially made Heddon lures was the Dowagiac Casting Bait known to collectors as the Slopenose. It emerged in 1902 and was in the product line for about a decade.   This lure features the cup hook hanger patented by James Heddon & Son in 1902. The early white box is hard to find. This belongs to another collector, but I would pay handsomely to add one to my collection - even if the box is empty!  The Dowagiac Casting Bait box is a rare classic . Please call me if you find one!

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The is an even rarer - and earlier - version of the Dowagiac Casting Bait than the two-hook version shown above. Note that this lure is the elusive four-hook Heddon lure with matching picture box and lithographed papers.  This beautiful piece was acquired from a visitor to this website and is one of the most historically important lures in this collection. Click HERE for more details and photos!

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The Heddon Dowagiac Killer appeared around 1902 or 1903 and came in a white picture box. The lures had two or three belly weights and no eye detail. Some Dowagiac Killer lures had two propellers; the oldest ones had one, on the front. This all-white finish is a common color for  these early lures, which also came in yellow and aluminum. Any Dowagiac Killer box is a prize, even if condition is poor. I also need a Dowagiac Bucktail Surface Minnow.

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The fat-bodied 300 Series surface bait is a great early classic. This Genuine Dowagiac Wooden Minnow white box is circa 1910 and 1911, and the baits they  contained usually had wonderful paint finishes, cup rigged hooks and hand painted gills.  This crackleback specimen has never seen water, although it has age lines that give it character. These white Genuine Dowagiac Wooden Minnow boxes are scarce.

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This is one of the rarest Heddon Dowagiac Minnow lure boxes, showing the Dowagiac label without the Artistic verbage that normally adorns this circa 1911 small box. The Heddon No. 29B Baby Dowagiac minnow inside is in mint condition and the unit includes the original color paperwork.  Note the tiny body without the usual hi-forehead found on No. 20 minnows.

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This is the first box Heddon offered its No. 20 Baby Dowagiac Minnow in. The company re-used extra Heddon's Artistic Minnow boxes left over from a few years earlier. Note the box says James Heddon's Sons, a departure from James Heddon & Son. THe elder Heddon died in 1911 and his son Charles joined his brother Will in operating the company.  The Heddon Artistic Minnow is also a collectible lure.

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This is the first "downleaping" bass box Heddon offered, made only in 1912. Note the white border. A year later the typical "red border" boxes became the standard. The lure inside is very special. It's the No. 175 Dowagiac Heavy Casting Minnow.  It's a musky lure that uses the body of the No. 150 Dowagiac, but it has just three hooks instead of the usual five, and the hooks are much  larger and thicker. It is one of the rarer underwater minnows. This one is mint in the box. Both box endflaps are stamped "175."

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This is another rare Heddon box - the "blue border" Heddon Dowagiac Game Fish Minnow carton offered briefly in 1913. It was later replaced with the typical "red border" box used for the next half-decade.   This mine-in-box Dowagiac "0" Minnow was acquired from a visitor to this website and is one of the prettiest examples of this box I've ever seen.

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Prior to 1910, the Heddon Dowagiac minnow was sold in slide top wooden boxes. This all white 150 series minnow has cup rigging, red gillmarks and comes with a neat early flyer, "The Why of It," describing Heddon's fishing philosophies and picturing the early Slopenose and other antique fishing lures of the era.

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This is an early 300 Surface bait with a tall, slender body, long curved gills,shallow cup hardware and its wonderful wooden box and papers. The brass cup 300s are earlier, but this lure dates to around 1906 and is highly sought after due to its tall, shaped body. The Dowagiac Wooden Minnow box is in beautiful shape and is one of Heddon's most desirable items to be found.

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This is one of the company's earlier slide-top Dowagiac Minnow wooden boxes with unmarked sides and an exclamation point after the slogan "Notice how the hooks are hung!" These wooden boxes tend to fade and should always be kept away from direct sunlight and extreme heat. The 150 Minnow inside is an unusual finish.

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Heddon's Dowagiac Artistic Minnow included a wooden "buoy" that weighted the lure for casting. Its special box includes a flyer with directions for the "new" lure. This plug was first sold in 1907. Notice on the box where it says James Heddon & Son. The elder Heddon died in 1911, after which the company was "James Heddon's Sons." Any box with the "& Son" logo is old indeed. The Heddon's Dowagiac Artistic Minnow was gone by 1912.

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The 900 Swimming Minnow is an early classic that was made only for two or three years around 1909 or 1910. This elegant lure included a fixed double hook on the belly. The motto of this lure was, "It Swims, It Swims." This is another example of the white cardboard Genuine Dowagiac Wooden Minnow box made only for a year or two. These rare 900s tend to chip because of the beveled edges. The Swimming Minnow had a neat, beveled body.

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Around 1912, the first of the "leaping bass" boxes was introduced. This version, with the bass leaping to the left, was made only one year. It is called the "Pine Tree" box and is very sought after. The lure inside has cup rigging on its hooks and marked propellers, a new feature of that era. Note the blue sky in the background. It is absent on later boxes. The Dowagiac Game Fish Minnow is an early box.

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In late 1912 or early in 1913, the "downleaping" bass boxes appeared. The first versions had white or blue borders. This white border box has the " Dowagiac Game Fish Minnow" logo that preceded the "Dowagiac Minnow" of the later teen years. White border Dowagiac Game Fish Minnow boxes are hard to find and often in rough shape. This is a classic piece of fishing tackle.

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The Wiggle King was introduced in 1918, and came in this wonderful special box. "The Wobble makes em Gobble" is one of my favorite box jingles. This cup-rigged Wiggle King bait soon evolved to other lures like the Basser and Lucky 13. I don't think these lures, or their boxes, were made more than a year or two. The Wiggle King is one of my favorite Heddon lures.

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The Heddon's Dowagiac Deep-O-Diver is a small version of the famous Crab Wiggler. These lures had a pork rind attachment on the top, and were introduced in 1919 in this special intro box. Although not very attractive from a graphics standpoint, Deep-O-Diver boxes are quite desirable. The finish in this lure is green scale.

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The Heddon Deep-O-Diver introductory box can be found in two sizes. The longer version, shown here, is rarer than the short version, and also has a difference rosette border on its top label.   Both Deep-O-Diver boxes are interesting and fun to have for any lure collector.

The Tadpolly was introduced in 1918 in this very appealing intro box. For some reason there are quite a number of these boxes around, although I wouldn't call them common. The early Tadpolly lures had a heart-shaped plate at the line tie (see photo). Later versions had a pear-shaped face plate.

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The Heddon Tad polly, or Heddon Tadpolly, can be found in many colors. This interesting group of Heddon lures and boxes includes strawberry spot, deluxe green scale and my favorite - "bar perch." These lures were all found together in one tackle box. The lucky 13 fond with them is an  early version that is cup rigged and has a slightly different shape than its later successors.

The Heddon Westchester Bug was one of the premier flyrod lures of the late 1920s and ealy 30s. It was a large,, bulbous-headed wood bait - finely painted and highly adorned with feathers and hair. This Westchester Bug is new in its original and correctly marked box. 

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 Other Heddon lures of interest include the Vamp, Tad-Polly, Tadpolly, Weedless Widow, Flaptail, Wilder-Dilg, Zaragossa, Lucky 13, Zara, Luny Frog, Heddon SOS and many others. I also need a box for the Dowagiac Bucktail Surface Minnow. The Vamp was first called the Vampire and came out in the 1920s. The Vampire body was later the basis for other lures including the Flaptail, which has a metal spoon on its rear end. The Wilder-Dilg was a flyrod bait and was in the product line for several decades. The Heddon SOS was an injured minnow type bait that was banana shaped. The Weedless Widow was a chunk bait with hair and weedless hook hangers.Please see the other Heddon pages in this website for more details.

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