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Helin Tackle Company

Helin Flatfish Helin Tackle Company, Detroit Michigan

The Helin Tackle Company was founded by Charles Helin in 1933.  The most famous of the companies lures is the Flatfish.  The Flatfish, not to be confused with a Lazy Ike, started with two offset hooks on a patented attachment that was a first of its kind.  He applied for the patent in 1934 and it was granted in 1936.  The first Flatfish were handmade and hand painted, assembled by Charles, relatives, friends and neighbors all under the close eye of Charles Helin.  These first lures, some 3,900 Flatfish were crafted in his home.

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In 1937 the first Helin factory was opened in Detroit.  Below is a picture of the factory from the 1962 Helin catalog.

Helin Tackle Company Factory

Later a second factory was opened in Canada.  As you can see the factory is adorned with advertisements and plenty of promotional material.  This is a common theme in the Helin company as Charles was quite the salesman and had many advertising items from pin-up calendars to airplanes.  One of the easiest ways to date Helin material is by the amount of Flatfish recorded as being sold.  This was a common theme in Flatfish ads until the early 1970's.  As of 1971 well over 40 million flatfish have been sold worldwide.  The sheer number of flatfish in tackle boxes may account for the limited collector interest in these lures, although there has been more movement in recent years to collect these great lures and preserve the history.  Below is a chart compiled to attempt to to date the amount of Flatfish sold to the year (if you can help ad to this please let me know).

Annual Sales (from catalogs) Cumulative Sales   Total Sales from Brochures and Ads
1934 400
1935 1,000 400
1936 2,500 1,400
1937 10,000 3,900
1938 40,000 13,900
1939 100,000 53,900
1940 200,000 153,900
1941 400,000 353,900
1942 450,000 753,900
1943 330,000 1,203,900 1,050,000
1944 340,000 1,533,900 1,500,000
1945 540,000 1,873,900 2,000,000
1946 840,000 2,413,900 2,600,000
1947 800,000 3,253,900 2,750,000
1948 1,000,000 4,053,900 4,000,000
1949 1,000,000 5,053,900 5,000,000
1950 1,272,000 6,053,900 6,000,000
1951 1,482,336 7,325,900 7,500,000
1952 1,681,023 8,808,236 9,500,000
1953 1,756,078 10,489,259 10,000,000
1954 12,245,339 13,000,000
1955 2,019,086 12,245,337 14,000,000
1956 14,264,423 17,000,000
1957 14,264,423 18,000,000
1958 14,264,423 20,000,000
1959 14,264,423 21,000,000
1960 14,264,423 23,000,000
1961 14,264,423 24,500,000
1962 14,264,423
1963 14,264,423
1964 14,264,423 28,000,000
1965 14,264,423
1966 14,264,423
1967 14,264,423
1968 14,264,423
1969 14,264,423
1970 14,264,423
1971 14,264,423 40,000,000

 

In addition to the Flatfish, Charles Helin also invented the Fishcake and Swimmerspoon which were very successful lures in their own rights but never approached the level of success of the Flatfish.

Helin mansion was quite the attraction. It contained early Helin fishing artifacts as well as museum quality displays of butterflies and photography equiptment.  Unfortunately it was torched by an arsonist on March 18, 1978 and burned to the ground.  

Helin was family owned until March 2, 1989 when the Helin Tackle Company was purchased by the Yakima Bait Company from the state of Washington.  Yakima purchased all the original molds from Helin and moved the manufacturing operation from Michigan and Canada to Granger, Washington.

Helin lures are still produced under the Yakima Bait brand and are still catching fish almost 100 years later.

Helin Historical Dates and Items of Note:

1933:  Charles Helin crafted the Flatfish and began the Helin Tackle Company.

1934:  Flatfish patent applied for by Charles Helin.

1936:  U.S. patent number 2,033,829 approved.  You can see patent drawing here.

1937:  Helin quit his job at an auto plant and opened his factory.  First Flatfish models were U-20, LU, T-4, and S-3.

1938:  First full year of factory production begins.

1939:  First catalog published.  New models introduced:  M-2, F-7, and F-6.

1942:  Material shortages due to WWII caused the plant a shortage on treble hooks.  As a result many lures we adorned with single or double hooks.

1948:  New models introduced:  L-9, P-8, X-5, x-4, F-5, and F-4.  Conversion to plastic lures begins.

1950:  Rollaflote fishing bobber introduced.  New models introduced:  T-50, T-55, and T-60.

1952:  New modes:  F-2, and F-3..

1953:  Conversion to plastic continues although many models were both made of wood and plastic yet.

1956:  The Fishcake patent applied for.  You can see Patent Number 3,012,357 drawing here.  New models SPS and SPU introduced.  (Note these two models were always made of wood.)

1959:  New model T-61 introduced.

1960:  Swimmerspoon introduced and Patent Number 3,090,152 applied for.

1961: Fishcake patent approved.

1963:  Swimmerspoon patent approved.

1971:  Wood was available in all models of the Flatfish lure with a choice of plastic or wood at the customers discretion.

1978:  Helin's famous mansion burns to the ground due to arson on March 18th.

1979:  Charles Helin dies at age 74.

1989:  Company sold to Yakima Baits.

We will be adding additional information in time.  Please be sure to check back.

 CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR HELIN TACKLE COMPANY LURES FOR SALE

Sources:

The Collectors Guide to Helin Tackle Co. by Jack L. Turner 1996

The Encylopedia of Old Fishing Lures by Robert A. Slade 2011

Helin Tackle Company catalogs