Antique Fishing Lures by Floyd Roberts



 by The Bassman™


Website Author: Floyd Roberts

  During the May 10 - 17, 1988 PRADCO - James Heddon's Sons inventory Mr. Clyde Harbin Sr. was requested to inspect two 1898 Heddon handmade frogs that are stored in the PRADCO cage.  The "No Nose Bottle Cap Stick" (upper far left) and the "Toad Shaped Frog" (upper third from left) from the above picture were the frogs Mr. Harbin inspected.

  In Mr. Harbin's "Footprints" book W.T. Heddon stated in a October 7, 1927 write-up in the Clearmont Press that his father, James Heddon one day whittled out a "stick bait" on which he put gang hooks and a bottle top on the front of the bait.  James Heddon handmade these lures for himself and friends.   There were several variations of this handmade frog bait such as body length and body configuration. One such frog had a fatter belly and others were slimmer and longer than others.  These personally handmade Heddon Wooden Frogs are extremely rare.  The rarest of the rare is the pilot model without the frog body configurations which the hooks were embedded into the body (stick frog).  One such lure is in the 1977 Heddon Company Old Lures display. 

There are eight known  Heddon 1898 Handmade Frogs

  This four frog picture was taken June 16, 1977 when Mr. Harbin cleared the Dowagiac Board of all Non Heddon lures.  The upper left frog was in Mr. Harbin's collection until it was purchased by Bass Pro Shops, April 22, 1995.  

Pair of 1898 Heddon Handmade Frogs in The BASSMAN™ Old Lure Collection

  In the above photograph Mr. Clyde A. Harbin Sr. displays his two Heddon Handmade Frogs along with many other rare Heddon lures in his vast lure collection.  

(Left Photograph)  The two 1898 Heddon hand carved frogs were in Mr. Harbin's lure collection.

  Mr. Harbin acquired his first (left frog) hand carved frog from the Heddon Factory Board in 1977.  He acquired his second (right frog) Heddon frog from Larry Wysong in 1984



  Mr. Harbin got a exchange going with Larry Wysong at a Northern swap meet (no date or place) prior to 1/24/84 phone call of acceptance of this exchange of the marketplace found Heddon Frog.  Mr. Wysong never told Mr. Harbin how he acquired this frog.  Mr. Harbin also let his rare River Runt with GE and Bear hardware go with this exchange.  After many years past Mr. Wysong let Mr. Harbin have his River Runt back 

  February 6, 1984 Mr.. Harbin swapped his second Heddon handmade frog to his close friend Clarence Zahn.  Mr. Harbin saw no need to have two Heddon Frogs for himself because Clarence was always willing and gracefully assisted Mr. Harbin in gaining lure knowledge and helped Mr. Harbin to grow his old lure collection.  Mr. Harbin thought it was a favor he owed his close friend.

 Mr. Harbin copied these pages out of his lure swapping records of the 1898 Heddon Frog Exchange Events.

Record of Exchange of the 1898 Heddon Handmade Frog from Mr.Wysong to Mr. Harbin

Record of Exchange of the 1898 Heddon Handmade Frog from Mr. Harbin to Mr. Zahn


Six Pack of Heddon Game Fishers

 Shown (L-R) -  Interesting Six Pack of Heddon Game Fishers with different Hardware.   

CCBCO Wiggle Fish

  This CCBCO Wiggle Fish has High Loop L-Rig belly and rear hook hangers with black "Cup" protectors.  Notice the upper left Heddon Game Fisher has the same High Loop L-Rig belly hook hanger with the black "Cup" protector.  In 1919 James Heddon Sons bought one-half of the Dills/CCBCO scale finish paint patent with a Mutual Hardware Usage.

  The Name "Dowagiac" is derived from the Pottawattamie language and means "many fishes".  The correct pronunciation is "Doe-Wah-Ge-Ack".

  The 1902 First Edition "Are you a Bait-Caster?" is a "one lure" catalogue that has a April 1, 1902 patent date.  It says in this catalogue that they will have a Underwater lure this season.  Heddon did come out with a 1902 Second Edition catalogue that showed the Slope Nose, 4 Hook Slope Nose and the Underwater with a outside belly weight.  This catalogue is known as the "three lure" catalogue.  In 1902 catalogues the lures were not priced but in the 1903 all three lures were priced at 75˘ each.  In the 1905 catalogue they were priced at $1.00 each.

  The Dowagiac Underwater Lure -  The first Underwater lure was painted white, no eyes with a marine brass big front propeller and had an outside hung lead belly weight.  This lure is very rare and difficult to find.  

Above:  (left) 1902 Dowagiac Underwater Minnow.  It had no eyes, marine brass large front propeller with no name on the prop and one outside hung lead belly weight.  (center) 1902 Underwater Minnow.  (right) 1903 Underwater Minnow with non working tail propeller is the second version.  

Above:  (left) 1903 Underwater Minnow with non working tail propeller.  A second model of the Dowagiac Underwater Minnow surfaced in the 1903 Dowagiac Perfect Casting Baits catalogue.  The body was slightly shorter.  These lures with this body configuration are the forerunners of the Heddon #100 minnows.  (center) 1902 Dowagiac Minnow "The Missing Link" between 1903 and the 1904 ad of the new Dowagiac Minnow showing the extended rear tube propeller.  This was the last un-catalogued Underwater before the 1904 extended rear tube propeller.  (right) 1904 Dowagiac three belly weight #100 Minnow. 

   Patent for See Through Hook Hardware - The US and Canadian patent offices have allowed us a patent which not only covers the socket or inset as used in the hook adjustment on the Dowagiac baits, but also its equivalent, as might be found by making a hole entirely through the body of the bait, building a socket up on the outside of the body of the bait and by other analogous methods.

  In the 1906 "Bait Casting and Dowagiac Baits" Heddon catalogue claims US and Canada patent for the "see through hook" hanger style.

  The Dowagiac Expert Lure - The very first commercially produced Slope Nose was in 1901 and they did not have a marine brass cup for the hook hole in the wood body.  The Dowagiac baits were patented April 1, 1902.  In the 1902 1st edition of the Heddon catalogue "Are You a Bait-Caster" this was the only lure listed.  This was a "one lure" catalogue. 

  1902 Dowagiac Perfect Surface Casting Bait.  It has rimless cup, small line tie, friction collar and crude paint finish.

  The wood hole was a feature of the Heddon method of attaching hooks to prevent body and paint damage from the hook travel.  The second method of hanging hooks featured a no lip shallow marine brass cup to protect the wood hole.  The third change came with full lip marine brass cups and the screw hook as in the previous hook rigging.

  1902 - 1904 Four hook Slope Nose.  This lure was not listed in the 1905 Heddon catalogue.  To the best of my knowledge a 1904 catalogue has not yet surfaced.  So it is possible this Slope Nose could be a 1904 or as early as 1902.

  1904 or earlier Dowagiac No.2 or Slope Nose.  The 1905 Heddon catalogue did not offer a 4 - hooker.

  In 1907 the metal hardware (propeller, hook cups, screw eyes, screw hooks and tool caps) were nickel plated instead of marine brass hardware.

  All of the Dowagiac or Heddon Experts, Dowagiac Surface Bait No.200 had a tail hook metal cap.  In the 1924 "Tackle Science and Successful Fishing" Heddon catalogue shows this lures as the "Dowagiac Surface lure No.200 without a tail cap.

  In 1915 the "L rigging" was introduced and was called the New Heddon Double Screw Hook Fastening.  The Cup rigged lures are more difficult to find and there are more of the L-rigged No. 200 in the hands of collectors.

A five hook "L rigged Pencil Nose, Expert 200 with flanged collar and tail cap.

  The last Expert 200 hook rigging change came in c.1930 through 1933 when the 2-pc Heddon hook hardware appeared on their lures.

  The Dowagiac Expert through the Surface 200 hook hardware was in this order.

   Another hardware feature to place manufacturing changes is the Collar.

   Until the 1903 Heddon catalogue was reprinted and published by The BASSMAN™ the 1903 Dowagiac Underwater Minnow with rear propeller was identified.  Since this event the second model has surfaced.  The Dowagiac Underwater lure are extremely rare and only about a half a dozen of these lures are in the hands of collectors.

  In 1921 and 1922 the Heddon, Dowagiac Minnow No.200 was priced at $1. for the White body, Blue Head - White body, red head - Frog coloration and Scale finish, natural green.  These four color finishes were offered through 1929.  In 1930 the green scale was replace with the luminous finish and the price held at $1. through 1933.  In 1934 and 1935 the No.200 was not listed but it was listed again without pictures in 1936 through 1941 for $1.00 and for $1.10 in 1942 and 1943.

  James Heddon was not the only lure manufacturer that used the name "Expert" for their wood bass lures.  In 1904 J.C. Holzwarth of Alliance, Ohio advertised the "Expert" Wooden Minnow with two propellers, 5-treble hooks that had a cigar shaped wood body.   In 1907 Fred C. Keeling of Rockford, Illinois offered "Expert" Wooden Minnows that had slightly rounded bodies and had holes in the propellers.  This lure had 3 or 5 treble hooks and came in lengths from 2 to 5 inches.

The Heddon Night - Radiant Moonlight Bait - This lure is not listed in any known catalogues except it was pictured with its box on the back cover of the 1965 James Heddon's Sons Catalogue.  Two models were manufactured c.1912.  One had 4-treble hooks 5 inches in length and the other had 3-treble hooks 4 inches in length.  They both had glass eyes and cup hook rigging. By 1978 only four Radiant lures have surface.  Two of these lures are in the Heddon collection and two are in the hands of collectors.  One collector is Mr. Clyde A. Harbin.  As the interest increases in this hobby of lure collecting more Heddon, Radiants will surface from attics, basements, old tackle boxes and out of wall or under floors of 100 year old buildings.


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