By Hiro Naito

If you are an avid fisherman, you must have thought about when and how fishing with lures started.

Julio Thompson Buel was born in Vermont in 1806. Around 1830, Julio accidentally dropped a spoon into the lake. He witnessed large trout taking his spoon as it spiraled down into the deep water. With this accidental finding, he had discovered the new way of catching fish. His finding was patented in 1852. This was the first approved patent for a fishing lure in USA.

Some forty years later, another fisherman made an accidental discovery. His name was James Heddon of Dowagiac, Mich. One day he was waiting his friend outside of a lumber mill to go fishing. While waiting, he whittled a broken rim with a pocket knife. When he heard the quitting time steam whistle from the mill, he tossed the remaining piece of wood into the water. There, Mr. Bass came up and swallowed it.

It is said that moment gave him the idea of creating a plug lure.

He then carved his famous frog with the fishing hooks embedded in the legs. Within 20 years, he must have tried many different shapes of plugs to catch bass. He eventually established a lure company, and introduced lures to bass fisherman all over USA with a mail-order catalog in 1904.

If you are establishing manufacturing company, you put your best product on the front cover of the catalog. Heddon’s first lure (Dowagiac Expert) appearing on the cover was not frog or minnow shape. It was a cylindrical stick with a metal collar around the neck. He must have had a strong faith on this design. Heddon used this design with metal collar from day one through 1937. It came back during mid-70s for two years under the name “210 Surface Lure.” But I think anglers did not realize the true function of the metal collar.

I didn’t understand it either, until I began studying it. Then I found the following paragraph in 1904 catalog: “Common in the water and not resemblance to frog or minnows, which attract the bass and excites his belligerent instincts. Imitation minnows, frogs, etc, may have a tendency to catch the angler who does not know the nature and habits of game fishes, but it is certain these imitative qualities perform no part in provoking the “STRIKE.””

I started wondering why his metal collar has such a complicated curved surface rather than simple cup shape or flat surface. I could not be able to find any information on this metal collar even in James Heddon’s patent application form. I knew I needed to find one and fish it.

Then I was able to understand his message in the 1904 catalog. James Heddon stated “nothing is gained in constructing the bait to resemble any living thing.” Instead, his lure had built-in action which can be expanded with the use of rod work. The lure can be used as popping lure, chugging lure or it can be used as a stick bait. To maximize the probability of catching bass with this lure you must use a combination of actions within the same retrieve. Changing the action is the trigger point. You are creating the strike rather than waiting for something happen.

Since I learned and understood James Heddon’s message from 1904, I have been truly enjoying my bass fishing ten times more and catching more bass. Sometimes to make some progress, the answer is in past.