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Heddon 3-30 Tournament Reel

owned by W.T. Heddon, eldest son of James & Eva Heddon

This early reel was acquired, with a letter of provenance, from a family friend and hunting companion of Jim Heddon. The reel was owned and used by Jim's father, W.T. (Will) Heddon, the son of company founder James Heddon. The reel bears Will's initials, "WTH," and came with a rare boxed tournament casting weight identical to the one from the tackle box of Laura Heddon, W.T. Heddon's wife. Laura Heddon's casting weight is part of the fine collection housed at the National Heddon Museum in Dowagiac, Mich.


The photos below include the boxed casting weight found with W.T. Heddon's reel. The black & white sepia image of a youthful Will Heddon first appeared in a 1907 company catalog, and was originally captioned "ready for the overhead cast." Note the leather embossed "Heddons Dowagiac" case found with the reel.  The lower-left photo shows a closeup of W.T. Heddon's initials etched into the bottom of the reel seat. The 3-30 was one of Heddon's finest handmade silver reels, costing as much as $60. This one has Serial No. 196 and the original line is finely braided silk.

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 This rare Heddon 3-30 tournament casting reel was manufactured at the Heddon factory in the early 1920s and was owned by Will Heddon, the eldest of James and Eva’s three children. Will was born in Dowagiac on July 14, 1870. Although none of the Heddon children had middle names, Will chose to adopt a middle initial and became known as W.T. Heddon for the remainder of his long and fascinating life.

  W.T. Heddon co-founded the first Dowagiac phone company in 1897 – a venture that rapidly made him a wealthy man. Three years later, it was W.T. who agreed to loan his father $1,000.00 to help start a small company that would engage itself in the business of manufacturing fishing lures. James Heddon & Son was established in 1900 and the first commercial lure – the Dowagiac Surface Bait – appeared in 1902.

  During his long life, W.T. fished in many parts of the country and helped develop and improve countless Heddon lures, including the famous “Zaragossa.” He also authored articles about fishing in Florida under the pen name Billy Bass. W.T. Heddon died on Aug. 8, 1955, just a few weeks after his 85th birthday.

  Jim Heddon, who also owned this reel, was the son of W.T. and Laura Heddon. Jim was  born in Chetek, Wisconsin – where the Heddons had a rodbuilding business and vacation home – on June 25, 1913, and like his father, spent much of his life in Florida . Jim was named after the company’s founder, James Heddon, and briefly worked at the Dowagiac factory during his youth. Jim Heddon spent his later years in Waverly, Fla., and passed away on June 29, 1999.

  This Heddon tournament reel was acquired from a bush pilot who befriended Jim Heddon during his many hunting and fishing trips to the Alaska wilderness. Jim, who had inherited the reel and other memorabilia from his father, W.T. Heddon, gave this reel and related items to the pilot in appreciation for their years of friendship.

The pilot, now an older gentleman, owned the reel almost 25 years, keeping it safely stored in a gun cabinet at his home in North Pole, Alaska, a small town near Fairbanks.

 Below is the text of his original letter, dated Jan. 16, 2006,  describing when, where - and how - he obtained this wonderful old reel. The names of people mentioned in the letter have been redacted to protect their privacy, but they do appear in the original copy of the letter, which is displayed with the reel:

Dear Rob:

This old Heddon reel was given to me, along with the casting weight and lures, by Jim Heddon.  I met him through my friend XXXX XXXXXX who came to Alaska in 1969.  An avid fisherman and hunter, XXXX teamed with me for endless trips all over Alaska.  I kept a float plane & one on wheels ready to go all the time.

Jim Heddon was one of the people from the Orlando , Florida area, XXXX and I invited to Fairbanks around 1981.  He came up three years in a row during moose hunting season.  We took Jim to our moose camp in the Brooks Range , east of Cold Foot.  He was a super nice man and enjoyed the moose camp & also our fish camp at Minto Lake , mostly a Pike fishing area, but it had all types of fish and game associated with Alaska .

We took Jim Heddon and other guests without charge. He really appreciated the trips.  He gave me the reel and lures because I wouldn't accept money. He said they came from his dad & would be a cherished collector's item.


xxx xxxxx,

North Pole, Alaska



  The reel has W.T. Heddon’s initials – WTH – scratched into the reel seat. It also has a tiny tournament handle, original silk line and its Heddon embossed leather case. The rare Heddon casting weight box that accompanied the reel is decorated with an oakleaf cluster border design identical to early Slopenose picture boxes, although this box dates to the mid-1920s. Inside is the original aluminum, half-ounce casting weight stamped NASAC, which stands for the National Association of Scientific Angling Clubs, a group formed in Kalamazoo , Michigan, in 1906 to further the art of competitive casting. 

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