The Wiggly Wriggler


I’m regularly asked after 59 years of collecting old fishing tackle, “What are you looking for?”

My stock answer is: “Something that I don’t know exists.”

With the collecting gene from early years, coins were a natural starting point. Many coins were found in change from my paper route and getting bags of coins from banks and going through them.Harvesting silver and scarce coins finally became more difficult as others competed for these prizes. Coin books detailed the dates and variations of all coins that had been made.

But as I soon discovered it, there are so many different lures, reels, rods and miscellaneous tackle items that even though there are over 100 books on the subject, there are too many to record. There are even some that have been written about that are so scarce they are virtually unknown.

A recent acquisition contained a spring-looking body with a spinner and was very intriguing. Emails to websites and collector friends failed to identify it. We had little help without the name of the lure book, or from our catalog of extensive files. Many suggested various manufacturers, but these leads failed to be correct.

Finally, a friend was looking through the tremendous, 18-volume set of Bob Slade’s The Encyclopedia of Old Fishing Lures: Made in North America—he had found it.

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Slade wrote: “The very rare Wiggly Wriggler reminds me a little of the Detroit Wire Minnow Cage in appearance. The 3 3/4-inch-long metal lure had a spiraling spring wire affixed to an Al Foss-type prop that gave the lure an eerie effect as it spiraled through the water. The unique fold-over metal plow-shaped head looks like a mouse head with big ears.”

He also gave its patent number, 1,967,089, issued July 17, 1934. Googling this supplied many details of inventor Harry J. Hick’s bait, who sold it to Clarence J. Rodman who later formed the Alliance Manufacturing Company of Alliance, Ohio.

The patent application claims his invention is, “A device which overcomes most of the objections of previous known plugs and additional features not approached by any present types. …” The fins were adjustable to regulate depth. “ … Due to its light openwork construction, the bait makes little disturbance when striking the water. If a (gamefish) seizes the body the spring will be compressed and quite likely seize the fish.”

A smaller 1 1/4-inch fly rod size was made that is very rare; the lure boxes with the lure and name on the lid are hard to find too. The search for these and other unknown and rare items continues with great anticipation.

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.