Should You Fish or Store Your Old Favorite Lures?

Lure collectors beware—I’m about to commit heresy.

I own several vintage fishing lures and use them frequently to catch bass, northern pike and walleyes. Before you have the men in white coats throw a net over me and haul me off to a padded room, let me explain.

There are several reasons for collecting old lures: they’re scarce and worth quite a bit of money; many fished them back in the “glory days” of angling and wish to display them; while others were simply great lures that caught lots of fish.

The last reason is why I still use them.

So, let’s talk about a few of these lures the old-timers like me still throw. Many decades ago the Shakespeare lure company of Kalamazoo, Mich. made a dandy bass/pike lure called the Swimming Mouse. This lure is wood, painted in many hues and sports a tail made from some sort of fiber. The lure ran about 2 to 3 feet on the retrieve and drove fish wild with its seductive wobble. And when these were pulled in front of lily pads in Indian Lake they were a real bass-killer. The last time I looked, prime specimens of these mice were over $35 apiece.

Now I do keep my best models high and dry, but the old beat up models hit the water on a regular basis and still pull in the fish to this day.

South Bend produced many great lures over the decades, and two of my favorites were and still are the Bass-Oreno and the Nip-I-Did-Dee. The Oreno I pick is the Red/White, which can be used on the surface or driven about 2-3 feet deep by increasing the speed of your retrieve. Once up in Ontario I saw the swirl of a northern chasing suckers in a small bay where we docked our boats. Two casts on the surface produced zilch. The next cast, though, the Oreno was driven under the water and elicited a healthy strike from a 9-pound pike. I would definitely like to know how many fish anglers have caught on this old reliable lure.

Back in the 1950s, my late uncle was casting a Nip for smallmouths in Lake of the Woods when a 25-pound pike engulfed his lure. After a spirited fight with the behemoth going through the bottom of the net, the fish was finally landed and eventually ended up on his wall in his den. The Nip works just as well today as it did then. Early in the morning and late at night is when fish are going to bite. Cast the Nip—or a similar, vintage Neal Spinner—into shallow water and retrieve with a steady cadence. If any bass are near, something is going to happen. When it does, pause for a split second until you feel the weight and then set the hook hard.

I’m not a wealthy man and don’t like to lose expensive lures, but I use premium line, usually FireLine, and a quality rod and reel and fish these old standbys as carefully as I can. I am very careful, but I’m not going to miss the fun of catching fish on these heroic lures from days gone by just because one might get away from me—having a challenge is half the fun.

Hang these on a display board at home or cast them to the fish. Either way, appreciate these “old-timers.”