New Discoveries

Often I get the question, “What old fishing item are you looking for?” My standard reply is, “It’s something that I don’t know exists.”

Recently there was a phone call from Wisconsin. The caller’s sister had a bunch of lures from her grandfather’s old long-closed tackle shop. She had thrown about half of these lures away before the caller had intervened and took the baits to find their worth and get his sister money for her living expenses.

There were a number of good old lures, but not much I hadn’t seen before in the first of several boxes I reviewed. Then I saw in another box several scarce and even unfamiliar items made by one of the major lure manufacturers nearly 100 years ago.

One was a Heddon Slope Nose lure that had been made with four treble hooks and there were other lures in boxes. There was a Heddon DEEP-O-DIVER in a special introductory box—very scarce.

The Heddon family had a bee keeping products business, a newspaper, and their tackle business started in 1902, so printing special boxes to introduce their baits was a natural. Some of these boxes were made with short runs for a limited time and are now quite rare.

But what really stopped me short was a box and item that was totally unknown to myself and other collectors of old tackle. The box was printed “James Heddon’s Sons – Dowagiac, Mich.” on two sides. On the other two sides it said “Heddon’s DOWAGIAC Practice Casting Weight.”

Inside the box was a beautiful natural-finished wooden casting plug with a line tie and cone- shaped lead weight on its end. I recognized the plug as one I found years ago, but was never able to identify it.

Now the hunt was on to learn more about my find. In a rare 1914 Heddon catalog, adorned with lilly pads on its cover, is an illustration and description, “Practice Casting Weights Made of Wood.” It goes on to say wood covered with white porcelain enamel, more easily seen at a distance than aluminum weight. Shape minimizes air resistance; an eye counter sunk, preventing fouling of line. It went on to add that 1/2- or 1/4-ounce sizes are guaranteed to be exact weight, with “Price each at $0.15.”

Another listing of Heddon’s Practice Casting Weights is in their 1921 catalog insert. It appears that there were no dated catalogs for a couple of years during the late teens following the end of WWI.

A friend found one of the Heddon casting weights left behind by Will Heddon in 1915 when he fished at a resort. It was aluminum and in a nice box as illustrated. How interesting, that their 194 catalog had criticized aluminum casting plugs.

I do have several casting weights made by the Creek Chub Bait Company, Shakespeare, South Bend and Pflueger. None of them were found in an original factory box. I wonder if any were made that way, and if so do they exist today? Does anyone have any lure producers casting plugs in their original boxes? I’d like to put them in upcoming exhibits.

 

Dan Basore is a fishing historian and steward of the history of the sport. In his efforts to preserve fishing history, Basore is always on the lookout for information about early lure makers, old lures, pre- level wind reels, manufacturer catalogs, tournament casting items and the like. If you possess information or materials that can help, please contact Dan Basore, Historical Fishing Display, at 630-393-3474 or 1-800-347-4525.