Collecting Fishing Lures
Ever thought about fishing with those old vintage lures like your Grandpa used to have or maybe even putting together a display of them? Better yet, have you thought about starting a collection of some of your favorite old fishing lures?
Collecting Fishing Lures is a Growing Hobby. Not only in the United States but around the world. What seemed like a crazy idea just a few decades ago has turned into a full blow passion for thousands of anglers turned hobbyists in their pursuit of vintage fishing tackle.
Collecting fishing tackle as a hobby is really at its core about the preservation of vintage and collectible tackle, information, history, and artifacts. Even more importantly though it is about memories. Maybe remembering those trips with your father or grandfather to the lake cottage, or as I've found out making new memories with fellow collectors trading lures and stories. After all this is a hobby and hobbies are meant to be fun.
History: Have you ever read those articles in Field & Stream or Outdoor Life that have those huge headlines such as "Ten Lures Worth a Fortune" or "Gold in That Old Tackle Box"? Well it wasn't always like that. Not that long ago, only back in the 1970's or so collecting fishing lures was almost unheard of. Fishing lures were for fishing, what else would you use them for. Well some smart people around the country started to pick them up at garage sales and flea markets and started to take notice of them and really began to cobble together their collective history. In the beginning there were no lure price guides or clubs you could join, much less an Ebay or Google to research anything on. It really began with small pockets of collectors meeting each other and exchanging lures and information. They formed friendships and traded lures back and forth and through the mail.
The first "book" if you will that I am aware of is something affectionately referred to as "Streater's Bible". Dick Streater out of Washington state had put together a collection of information in a three ring binder that helped identify vintage lures and their heritage. Years later this was rewritten into a paperback but it is still sold among collectors in the original binder from time to time (I still cherish my copy). Collecting fishing lures really began to take hold in 1976 when the NFLCC (National Fishing Lure Collector's Club) was formed. The club brought together people from around the nation and into this great hobby.
The NFLCC has come a long way since 1976 but still is the backbone to the collecting community. Fifteen to twenty regional shows are held around the country every year and a "National" event is held in July every year where collectors come together and display their favorite collections, buy, sell and trade lures and lots of stories and good times. As a side note if you do become a lure collector I strongly recommend becoming a member of the NFLCC. The small price of their annual membership is well worth their six yearly publications, meetings and the vast array of friendships you will make along the way. The knowledge you will gain from fellow collectors is invaluable.
Beyond the NFLCC the information age has really jumped the hobby, like most hobbies into hyper drive. The internet, specifically Google and Ebay has taken this hobby to new levels. What once might take you years to find could now be at your fingertips. It helps bring collectors together in ways that was previously never possible.
So where to start? What do you want to collect? There are literally thousands of ways you could go. From the most expensive very early lures that are museum type pieces to lures just a few years old. It really comes down to your budget and tastes. I personally recommend most new collectors start with what got them interested in the first place. I personally started with Lazy Ikes, and specifically Flex Ikes, as I have fond memories of fishing these lures with my father for Northern Pike and Largemouth Bass. They are not particularly expensive or rare but come in an array of colors and sizes and even now almost 20 years later I am still chasing down a few I need. Since then though I have expanded my collection into many other areas as my collection has matured but it was a beginning for me. Each person must really decide for themselves.
Should you start with a lure company? That is one way to go. There are certainly many choices. You could choose from great companies such as Heddon (out of Dowagiac, Michigan), Creek Chub Bait Company (Garrett, Indiana), Fred Arbogast (Akron, Ohio), Pflueger, Rebel, Rapala, Bagley, Bomber, Winchester, Storm, or one of many others. Some people choose one specific lure. For example they choose the Arbogast Jitterbug or the Creek Chub Pikie. Both of which literally have endless examples of colors and variations one could spend a lifetime chasing down.
Here's a brief run down on some of the top companies to consider:
Started in 1916 by Henry Dills, Carl Heinzerling and George Shulthless and based out of Garrett, Indiana. Creek Chub is a favorite among fishing lure collectors as they offer a wide variety not only of baits but some amazing colors. Creek Chub is famous for its' colorful paint patterns that have held up amazingly well through the years. The quality of these baits have really shown through.
The most famous of all the Creek Chub lures is of course the Pikie. It's the fishing lure that really put Garrett, Indiana and Creek Chub on the map. The Pikie was produced very early on in the history of the company right up until the end. You could spend a lifetime chasing down all the cataloged and special order colors of Pikies. Amazing to fish and equally amazing to collect.
One thing very common in the Creek Chub collector field is you see a lot of people collect certain fishing lures and lure collect to try to get all of the colors for example of that lure. You also see a lot of people go a different direction and color collect. They find a particular color that they like and try to collect all of the fishing lures Creek Chub made in that color. You see there is no right way or wrong way. Collect fishing lures and color collect or lure collect or do a little both, whatever makes you happy, have fun with it.
Creek Chub stayed independent and in Garrett until 1978. It is now owned by Pradco. Check out some of our Creek Chub baits for sale to get an idea of just the small sampling of some of the amazing baits Creek Chub produced through the years.
Heddon founded in 1894 was the grandfather of the them all. Out of Dowagiac, Michigan. I can almost guarantee you've fished a Heddon in your life. Makers of great lures from very early on with such wood classics as the Heddon 150, Vamp, Tadpolly, and Game Fisher to leading the evolution into plastics with their spook line. Great plastic baits included the famous River Runt, Punkinseed, Lucky 13, Tadpolly Spook, Zara, and Tiny Torpedo just to name a few. They remained in Dowagiac until 1984 when they were acquired by Pradco. Still produced in limited quantities today.
Heddon is one of the most collected baits out there. You could go a lifetime and not acquire all the different River Runt models and variations and the early wooden baits complete with their boxes would be a museum quality collection. There are hundreds if not thousands of ways you could take a Heddon collection on your own. Easily one of the most popular fishing lures to collect if not the most popular vintage lure.
Check out some of our current Heddon baits for sale here to give you ideas.
The Bomber Bait Company out of Gainesville, Texas is another of my favorite lure companies to collect. Founded in the mid 1940's by partners C.S. Turbeville and Ike Walker they are most famous for their original Bomber lures. The Bomber originally was made of wood shaped somewhat like a football and had a metal diving lip. It was the first bait really made to dive fast and deep. The bait was designed specifically for this purpose fishing Texas reservoirs. The Bomber, while no longer in production today was one of the most successful bass lures ever made and was made in a wide variety of colors (see the color chart here). One of the all time favorite colors is pictured to the right, color #15 Christmas Tree.
Bomber went on to produce a bunch of other successful baits such as the Speed Shad, Model A, Long A and others. The company is currently owned by Pradco and limited models are still made today. Check out some of our vintage Bomber baits we have for sale to give you some ideas of what you may want to collect.
Here's a list of some other great companies to consider. In time we will expand on some of these in more detail as well:
- Pflueger (Enterprise Manufacturing Company)
- South Bend
- Paw Paw Bait Company
- Fred Arbogast
- Wilson (Hasting Sportings Goods)
- Lazy Ike (Kautzky)
- Paul Bunyan
- Eppinger / Dardevle
- and many more...
Some people collect by state. For example I am from Wisconsin and naturally I have a fondness for Wisconsin made baits and have collected quite a few of the smaller Wisconsin makers such as Biff Baits and Hub. Being from Wisconsin I also collect Musky lures. You can see how quickly this can grow.
Color is also another avenue you can go. One person I know only collects Rainbow Trout colored lures. Doesn't sound like a lot until you realize almost every company produced their variation of that color on almost every one of their baits at one time or another. That's a lot of Rainbow Trout!
The choice is really yours. One thing is for sure. Wherever you start I can almost guarantee you will change your mind and expand or branch out one way or another at some point. We all do. It's natural. You pick up a lure, find it in a book and begin to learn it's history and really start to enjoy it. That's when it gets fun. So get started.
What do you need to collecting fishing lures? Not much. Maybe an old tackle box to display them in. Maybe a case eventually to hang on a wall. I like to display some of my favorites on shelves using these lure stands. One thing you will need is something to clean your lures. Over time you will develop your favorite methods for certain types of grime. My go to cleaning cloth is Miracle Cloth. It works on just about everything. Give it a try and see for yourself. Over time you will see what works for you. You won't need many supplies but you can always check out what we have for sale. If there is something you would like us to carry that we don't sell, let us know. Check out our Fishing Lure Collecting Supplies.
Thanks to the internet and reduced price of publishing there are now more books and resources available on this hobby than ever before. There are literally hundreds of books on the topics of fishing lures, reels, glass minnow traps, mechanical hooks, wooden lures, plastic lures, pre-1900 lures, catalogs and so on. My personal library is probably well over 100 books and growing and weekly I find myself wishing for new information I can not find.
Don't fear though. To start you only need some general reference books and there are some good ones. I recommend one or two good all purpose books with many lure manufacturers in it. That way you have a good general knowledge base at your fingertips. Additionally maybe one lure company specific book depending on the direction of your first collection. For example if you plan to collect Creek Chub baits it would make sense to buy one of Dr. Harold Smith's books on Creek Chub lures. He is literally the expert in the field.
I have put together a pretty good list to get you started. You can find that list here, on the "Collector Books" page. It has descriptions and links to some of the books that will help you get started.
Appraisals: A lot of times people ask for lure appraisals or ask me for appraisals for their collection or Grandpa's old lures. I am happy to answer those questions. See my Appraisals page here.
Is it expensive to start collecting fishing lures?
No, not all. It can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. There are literally thousands of great lures to choose from to start your collection with.
How many people collect fishing lures?
There are thousands of people in the United States alone that collect fishing lures and vintage fishing lures. Additionally the hobby has become an international hobby and become quite popular in countries such as Japan.
Where can I get purchase fishing lure stands?
MyBaitShop.com sells fishing lures stands and other fishing lure collecting supplies.
Where can I learn more about collecting fishing lures?
Right here on this website MyBaitShop.com
Lure Lore: History on specific lures and items as we dive deeper into the past.