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Fooling fish with interesting lures

September 14, 2018
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To many anglers, names like Wigl-Y-Rind, Sinful Sal, Revolutions, Pee Dee or even the Close Pin have little meaning. Even a Paw Paw Spoon Belly Wobbler probably wouldn't ring a bell with 99 percent of today's anglers.

Well-known fishing names like Shakes-peare, established in the 1890s; Pflueger in 1864; on back to James Heddon & Sons starting its lure-making business in the 1850s, those, as well as other lesser known names and companies they started, represent the very beginning of modern lure making and early fishing reel designs.

Fish have been fooled or lured by humans as well as other animals since the earliest times. Surely, many have already seen the fascinating video of a bird fishing for dinner using bait. Using discarded bread found along a shoreline, the bird would peck out a piece and carefully drop it on the water's surface and wait, the fish would come to the chum, and with one lightning fast peck claim its bluegill-sized prize .

Many early lure companies like Heddon stated out by carving not lures but actually hook-less, ice fish decoys or attractors used to draw fish. Adding hooks, of course, was the next logical step.

These early ice fishing decoys are usually large, colorful and, of course, quite collectable. Some Native American tribes still use them to attract large pike and muskies for spearing.

According to legend, young Mr. Heddon threw a stick he had been whittling into the water and a big bass savagely attacked it. He reasoned that if hooks had been attached he may have had a nice dinner.

The Heddon Lure Company, started by Jim and his two sons making lures in the kitchen, needed a factory by 1907 to keep up with demand.

If you own a Heddon Broomstick Frog made from a cut-off broomstick with a bottle cap head and four single hooks, you have a winner made in 1890 and worth $4,000 - $5,000.

Soon the Heddon Dowagiac Minnow was all the rage and by 1902 production went from 6,000 in total to making up to 15,000 a day by 1950.

Traveling company salesmen would actually take retailers (hardware store owners) out to their local ponds and streams to demonstrate the effectiveness of their lures, like the Dowagiac.

Soon many of these early companies branched into the next logical step: perfecting and mass manufacturing fishing reels, and still continuing today.

Many of the earliest designs showed wild imagination and some really far-out lures were produced probably scaring the intended quarry instead of attracting them; others like the Dowagiac Minnow put fish in the boat.

At that time, putting fish in the boat not only meant great fun but food on the table for struggling families. The notion of catch and release wasn't even considered, instead catch and cook was the norm.

For crazy designs, none beat the early oddball designs of muskie lure builders. Not only wild color patterns but weird "natural" creations like baby raccoon lures, baby duck lures both with real fur, feathers and hooks and sold by the thousands. Pike and muskies regularly eat waterfowl so early attempts at "matching the hatch" worked quite well and these odd lures still produce.

Being an avid muskie angler that's spent lots of time in Canada pursuing those toothy and beautiful critters, I've yet to cast a shoe-sized, real fur, baby raccoon lure with matching tail and multiple treble hooks (which was probably the only lure those highly unpredictable fish would hit on my last unsuccessful trip)

Those in the 50+ age group would be familiar with their childhood lure names like the famous Jitterbug or Hawaiian Wigglers, Dying Flutters or Wounded Spooks.

Overall, lures really haven't changed that much shape-wise but, of course, plastic changed the world.

If you find schooling redfish, cast an old Jitterbug, just for old time's sake. They still work great.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or



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