James Heddon (1845- 1911)— Credited with the invention of first wooden-body artificial lures in the 1890s, James Heddon, and his company James Heddon and Sons, produced the first commercially-successful lure called the ‘Dowagiac.’ The round tapered wooden body bait – especially designed for bass fishing, featured a three-tine hook at its rear end, with another three-time hook at its mid-point. From the book The Heddons and Their Bait, written by Donald D. Lyons, Heddon described the lure in his first product catalog as this – “In angling for bass (for which the “Dowagiac” is especially designed) or any other surface-feeding game fish, nothing is gained by making the bait to resemble any living thing. The Black Bass is primarily a fighter’ secondarily, a feeder; therefore that lure which excites his belligerency rather that his appetite is bet calculated to place in the creel. It is the commotion in the water and note the resemblance to frogs or minnows which attract the bass and excited the biting instinct. Imitation minnows, frogs, etc., may have tendency to catch the angler who does not know the nature and habits of the bass, but it is certain that these imitative qualities perform no part in provoking the ‘”strike.”
It can truly be said that all the way back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, James Heddon knew bass. His passion for bass fishing is said to have started on the shore of Mill Pond in Dowagiac, Mich., where a sign at what is now ‘James Heddon Park’ commemorates his invention with these words – ‘It was near this spot in the late 1890’s that James Heddon sat whittling while waiting for a friend. When he got up to leave he tossed the small piece of wood into the water where it was immediately struck by a bass. That seemingly insignificant event led James Heddon to imagine and build a topwater lure which he called the ‘Dowagiac’. By the 1920’s James Heddon’s Sons was the worlds largest producer of quality fishing tackle.’ It’s a great story, and to this day, that is what it just may be.
Heddon’s innovations in using artificial lures to catch fish helped revolutionize bass fishing. Several of his creations remain popular today, including the Zara Spook, River Runt, Meadow Mouse and Lucky 13. James Heddon was born on August 28, 1845 and passed away at the age of 66 on December 7, 1911