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James Heddon and Sons

Dowagiac, Michigan

When people think of fishing lures they probably picture a Heddon bait in their mind. Whether that be a 100 year old beautifully crafted wood lure or a 1960's plastic River Runt.  Chances are your Grandpa fished Heddon lures, your Dad fished Heddon lures and you've fished Heddon lures.

Established in 1894, Heddon is the world’s oldest fishing lure manufacturer in continuous production.  For more than 100 years Heddon’s been on the leading edge of fishing lure technology. From Legendary wooden lures like the Heddon 150 and Gamefisher to "Spook" lures like the River Runt, Vamp, Punkinseed, Sonic, Tadpolly, Lucky 13 all the way to today's Heddon lures you know and trust, such as the Zara Spook, Tiny Torpedo and the Spit’n Image. 

The story how it all began famously goes something like this.  James Heddon was waiting by the Dowagiac Millpond one day for his fishing partner and began to whittle some wood.  As it got small and smaller he threw the chunk or "plug" into the millpond and a bass exploded upon and it.  Hence an idea, and legend was born.  Now that story has a few variations but that is the basic idea behind it.  Soon after James Heddon started carving frog lures out wood, broom handles and other available materials for himself and friends and they caught fish with these new and strange creations.  Now before we move on, just a note.  These early Heddon hand carved frogs are extremely rare.  How rare?  Only nine authenticated examples exist today.  They are in the hands of seasoned collectors, museums, etc.  Why do I mention this?  The reason is there are people out there always trying to catch some new unsuspecting collector with an original Heddon Frog.  It's too good to be true, and if you are unsure, please ask a Heddon expert (of which I do not claim to be but can direct you to many).  Now back to the story.
Heddon Millpond 1800's

Millpond in early undated photo

Soon after the Heddon bait company was born. Heddon was located in Dowagiac Michigan and there it housed some of the largest and most state of the art factories of it's time. They made everything from fishing lures to rods, reels, fish decoys, and a host of other products. Heddon was a family run company until 1955 responsible for hundreds of patents and innovations in their field. Talk to any fisherman and I guarantee they have caught fish with a Heddon.

Heddon like most companies started out with wood lures, painted with many layers of thick paint and equipped with glass eyes. These are some of the most sought after lures of collectors today. An original Heddon wood lure from their early years in its original wooden box can bring hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars at auction from collectors. In 1932 Heddon introduced "Spooks" (plastic) lures. These lures were made from early forms of plastic (some tenite). A lot of these original lures were made of unstable mixes of plastic and no longer survive today. However, the "spook" led the way in plastic lures, and as the years went by they became a more stable plastic and are now what you know today as plastic lures.

Heddon lures are very collectible and can range in value from $5 all the way up to a few thousand dollars for the really rare and mint bait. In 1955 the Heddon family sold the business and it became Daisy-Heddon in 1959.  By 1966 it was starting a series of ownership changes and is now owned and operated by Pradco. Pradco continues to make some Heddon plastic baits and the occasional wooden collectors series. The days of Heddon's glory are long gone though.

1956 Heddon River Runt Ad
1956 Heddon River Runt Ad

Important Dates in Heddon History (in process)

  • 1898 - Original Heddon Frog carved / developed, changing the fishing world forever.
  • 1901 - Heddon "plugs" become commercially available for the first time.  The company was started in a small upstairs room at 303 Green St, Dowagiac, Michigan by James Heddon.
  • 1902 - Sometime around 1902 James son Will invests $1,000 and joins his father in the company.
  • 1902 - Patent for Heddon Slopenose lure.
  • 1903 - The Heddon catalog now reads James Heddon and Son.  Also around 1903 Will and his wife Laura relocate to Meneola, Florida.  Over time Will will lead research and development from this Florida location.
  • 1907 - Patent for Heddon Underwater Minnow.
  • 1908- Heddon catalog now reads James Heddon and Sons.  James son Charles has joined the company between 1903 and 1908 and has a strong sense for business.
  • 1911 - James Heddon dies (1845-1911).
  • 1915 - Patent for Heddon Dummy Double type fish hooks.
  • 1941 - Charles Heddon dies (1874-1941).
  • 1955 - Will Heddon dies (1870-1955).
  • 1955 - All Heddon family ownership ended with the sale of the company to the Murchison brothers / family who had made their wealth in the Texas oil business. 
  • 1959 - Murchison's bought Daisy B.B. Gun and Daisy-Heddon was created with company headquarters moved to Rogers, Arkansas and a plant established in Preston, Ontario.
  • 1966 - Heddon was sold to Victor Comptometer Company of Chicago, Illinois.
  • 1981 - Heddon was sold to a group of Chicago investors consisting of Greenfield, Koenig, Holback, Marsman, Wolfrom and Zeinsky. 
  • 1983 - On November 28, 1983 PRADCO purchased the Heddon company and decided to consolidate operations in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  This would begin to mark the end of nearly a century of operations in Dowagiac, Michigan.