If you fish — and we know you do — then you’re a “collector” of sorts. All anglers are. In fact, many could be described as hoarders! Just take a look inside your boat, tow vehicle or garage …we’ll bet you have a stockpile of lures, rods, reels and other gear.
While much of the tackle you’ve accumulated is worth less than what you originally paid, some of it may have actually gained value. How? Through collectors. Just as you search for fish, there are countless collectors out there searching for old fishing tackle, and they’ll pay a premium for the items they prize.
This week, the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club (NFLCC) will hold its annual show in Springfield, Mo., where more than 1,000 members will gather to buy, sell and trade vintage fishing tackle. If you can’t be there in person, do the next best thing and take a peek inside our gallery of angling artifacts — where one angler’s junk becomes another’s treasure. Read the story here.
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Early Heddon lures are a favorite among collectors. Here, Bill Roberts (co-author of The Heddon Legacy) shows off his award-winning “Heddon Top-25” collection.
Photo: Courtesy of Bill Roberts
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James Heddon was a true pioneer in lure making, and his earliest creations set the bar for others to follow. Pictured here are some of the rarest examples known to exist.
Photo: Bill Roberts
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This collection of early William Shakespeare Jr. lures won best of show at the recent Florida Antique Tackle Collectors meet in St. Augustine, Fla. Its owner, David Lindsay, is a B.A.S.S. member from South Carolina.
Photo: Courtesy of David Lindsay
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Like Heddon, Shakespeare lures were top shelf. Each was painstakingly crafted and proven quite effective at catching bass and other gamefish.
Photo: David Lindsay
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Here’s a close-up of Lindsay’s early metal and wooden Shakespeare lures. Notice the magnum-sized lures? These were for musky, pike and really big bass!
Photo: David Lindsay
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These early wooden minnows represent the very beginnings of American lure making. They belong to Joe Stagnitti, head appraiser for world-renowned Morphy’s Auctions. Included are the Pflueger Trory Minnow, Pardee Minnow, Eclipse Minnow, Shaffer Minnow, Woods Expert and various others … all of which are more than 100 years old!
Photo: Joe Stagnitti
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Here’s a collection of Barracuda Brand lures belonging to Elite Series pro Bernie Schultz. Made in the early 1930s, these lures feature glass eyes and beautiful paint schemes — much like those of the more dominant manufacturers up north.
Photo: Bernie Schultz
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The Barracuda “Torpecuda” came with or without a feathered dorsal fin. Made in St. Petersburg, Fla., it’s considered one of the all-time classics produced in the Sunshine State.
Photo: Bernie Schultz
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Made in Michigan, these early Paw Paw “Casters” were skillfully crafted with lots of eye appeal. From the Kevin Hollingsworth collection.
Photo: Kevin Hollingsworth
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Jim Bagley’s lures are becoming more popular among collectors. They are colorful and still readily available for those on the lookout.
Photo: Roger Durham
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Storm lures — especially ones painted like these — have become popular, too. Just check out their values on eBay.
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Fly rod lures are the target for many collectors. Here, B.A.S.S. member Gene Meisberger shares his wonderful collection of early Heddons.
Photo: Courtesy of Gene Meisberger
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Not to be outdone, Creek Chub Bait Co. also offered a line of fly rod lures. Here are a few from the Don Murray collection.
Photo: Don Murray
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Here’s a very rare combo: A pre-1910 Shakespeare Revolution in its original picture box. These metal contraptions were hollow-bodied and could float. They were among the first topwater lures ever developed.
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Talk about rare! This wooden frog is straight out of the Heddon archives. Only a handful have true pedigree. The rest are counterfeit and basically worthless to collectors. So be careful!
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Articulating lures, like the Swiv-A-Lure are colorful and fun. Finding one in the box is good, but a dealer case is even better. From the Gary Deppe collection.
Photo: Gary Deppe
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Speaking of articulating lures, these Zig Wags are highly sought after by serious Heddon collectors.
Photo: Peter Lellos
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It’s likely these early Decker topwaters were inspired by the Shakespeare Revolution. Instead of using aluminum, however, Decker chose wood. The Ans B. Decker company was based in New Jersey in 1910.
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The earliest black bass reels were skillfully crafted by Kentucky watchmakers in the 1800s. Some were made of brass, others from German silver. Notice the numbered screws on this example by J.F. and B.F. Meek, which designated each for a particular hole in the reel’s sideplate.
Photo: Ron Gast
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Here’s a German silver model by B.C. Milam, another Kentucky watchmaker. Noted for style and function. Courtesy of Ron Gast.
Photo: Ron Gast
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This model Style-C by the William Shakespeare Jr. Co. is considered the first production, level-winding bait-casting reel. Because of a thin silver wash, these reels take on a dark, tarnished look. If you find one, DO NOT polish it!
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Although a bit more challenging to cast, side-mount reels were also popular. Here’s a spread of Billinghurst reels belonging to Jim Schottenham, an appraiser for Lang’s Auctions.
Photo: Jim Schottenham
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Even early reels required maintenance. These oilers span 50 years of reel making.
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Metal spinners and spoons date back to as early as the 1700s. This collection of New York metal is courtesy of NFLCC member Tom Wight.
Photo: Tom Wight
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New Jersey also had its share of lure makers. Here’s a diverse collection shared by NFLCC member Tim Clancy.
Photo: Tim Clancy
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In tackle collecting, quality “field finds” are rare. This extraordinary find was made by NFLCC member Bob Hoffman. Everything you see was preserved for nearly a century inside of this early leather tackle box.
Photo: Bob Hoffman
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Unique and colorful, this collection of mid-century, Texas-made shrimp belongs to NFLCC collector, Andre Fuselier. They include examples by Nichols, Farmers, English, Sportsman, Blackwell and Witts.
Photo: Andre Fuselier
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For you old timers, here’s a collection of Al Foss Pork Rind Minnows. The idea was to attach a strip of pork to these gizmos, then chunk and wind. From the Elizabeth Yates collection.
Photo: Elizabeth Yates
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Books, catalogs and other ephemera related to fishing are all highly sought after by collectors. No matter how insignificant something may appear, ask before you trash it. You might be discarding a small fortune! From the Brent Wagaman collection.
Photo: Brent Wagaman
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When artificial lures weren't on the menu, live bait was. Here's a rare glass minnow trap from the 1930s.