James Heddon is credited for inventing the first artificial fishing lures. The material that was used for making baits at that time was wood. Mr. Heddon was originally a beekeeper who created his plugs by carving wood beginning in the late 1890s. Anglers of every generation since that modest beginning recognize the company named lures as being synonymous with a high quality plug used in the fishing industry.
In 1902 the Heddon fishing lure company was founded. The manufacturing plant was based in the southwestern Michigan town of Dowagiac. These beginning baits were manufactured by hand in the confines of their kitchen. By 1910 the Heddon family acquired a new factory in Dowagiac and had a sales representative working in Canada. The business really took off and by 1950 this manufacturer was producing more than 12,000 lures daily. During the plant's zenith they also produced fishing rods and reels along with other items that were related to the fishing industry.
James Heddon wanted to quit the lure manufacturing business while his company was still turning a profit. That fact would appeal to prospective buyers of the plant and be a major selling asset. The successful business was then sold in 1955. Increased competition was cited as another good reason for this man to sell his company. The Heddon lure company was originally purchased by the Murchinson family. Since that original sale the company has been sold multiple times. Heddon even bought the company back once because he was not satisfied with the quality of the product. The Heddon plant is now part of Ebsco Industries which is located in Birmingham, Alabama. Ebsco manufacturers fishing lures of all varieties under the Pradco name.
History of Heddon Fishing Lures-A Time Line
1898-The very first creations were frog imitations carved from broomsticks by James Heddon. The idea for this pattern was conceived when one day Heddon threw one of his carvings into a local lake A bass came to the surface inhaled the piece of wood and an idea was born.
1902-The Heddon Company consisting of James along with sons Will and Charles created and manufactured their first production lures. Will moved to Florida in order to develop and test new plugs. The term "plugs" became the name that these wooden lures were called. Even to this day the Heddon lures are referred to as plugs.
1932-Plastic became introduced as a material that would replace wood and be used in the construction of fishing lures. Because plastic at that time had no color and was transparent the ghostly looking lures were called spooks. This is how the infamous Zara Spook got it's name. Plastic at that time was very susceptible to decay due to that new mixture being of poor quality. Therefore only a very few examples of these early pieces remain today. That is why those old plugs demand a premium price and are highly sought after by collectors.
Heddon lures are an American tradition that have withstood the test of time and have been passed along from generation to generation.Credit: Raymond E