Today in Heddon 1950 – Part 3 we continue our look back at the 1950 Heddon Deluxe catalog featuring their full lineup of goods for the angler. Part 3, though, is going to deviate from the first two parts in that it doesn’t cover any tackle associated with the company. Instead, it is the last 20 pages of the catalog that featured the popular sportfish and suitable tackle for each gamefish of the period.
This section of the catalog features both freshwater and saltwater gamefish so we’re not going to post every page of this section in this part of the series. Instead, what we’ll do is post the bass-related pages as well as some of the saltwater and brackish-water fish that can be taken with bass fishing methods. For those who want to read the entire catalog, we posted the entire catalog in the Product Catalogs menu under Bass Tackle Catalogs.
A remarkable thing about this section of the catalog is that it was put together by Lou S. Caine, Vice President of James Heddon’s Sons and author of Game Fish of the South and North American Freshwater Sport Fish. On the following pages, Caine states that the renderings of the fish were from the Heddon collection and were thought to be the finest and most complete set of drawings ever assembled. It’s amazing what all Heddon did within the industry, other than manufacture tackle.
Each fish rendering was coupled with an in-depth description of the fish, its scientific and common names, range, characteristics, the standing world record, and tackle to use to catch it. What I found interesting was the world records of the time. For example, the IGFA was in charge of saltwater gamefish, but it was the magazine Field & Stream who was in charge of maintaining the freshwater records. In 1978, the IGFA would finally take control of all gamefish records, freshwater fish included.
Now, let’s get on to the catalog.
The Black Bass
The first three fish presented in the catalog are the three species of black bass known at the time. In order they were Largemouth Bass (micropterus salmoides), Smallmouth Bass (micropterus dolomieu), and the Spotted Bass (micropterus punctulatus). Since the publication of this catalog, the genus of the black bass has grown to over ten species with new species still to be identified and named.
The Largemouth bass was described as “the most popular and most fished for sport fish in this country.” I’m sure that would hurt the feelings of some avid trout anglers who looked down their noses at the black bass back in the 1950s and earlier.
Caine states that the world record was 20-punds 4-ounces and was caught by George Perry from Montgomery Lake, GA on June 2, 1932. All the other information presented is pretty much dead on except for the fact that there is no mention of the Florida species, which was discovered in 1822.
Other topics provided were Other Names, Characteristics, Range, Flavor (as in people ate them), Natural Foods, Lures, Methods, and Tackle. It’s a fun exercise to read all this information from the 1950s point of view.
The Smallmouth bass was next in line and its description provides a little more controversy. But first off, Caine describes the fish as “considered by many to be the greatest strictly freshwater sportfish in the world.” I can’t say I disagree with that but still, it’s a bold statement.
The description then delves into “Other Names,” “Characteristics,” and its “Range.” Then the craziness rears its head in “World Record.” Here’s what was written:
14 lbs., caught by Walter Hardin at Oakland, Florida, on February 9, 1932.
First off, there has never been a smallmouth anywhere that weighed more than 12 pounds and second, everyone knows there are no smallmouth bass in Florida. This brings up a topic concerning the Field & Stream records. Back in 1911, shortly after the Jamison vs. Decker event, Field & Stream ran a national fishing contest where readers would submit their catches for prizes. Controversy has surrounded these records for years due to the fact that little was required to confirm the fish submitted. Here are the important rules: The fish had to be weighed on a certified scale, a “sworn statement” by two witnesses that was notarized had to be submitted, along with the fish’s length and girth measurements. A picture was added in the later years.
You can see from the lax rules where cheating or fish misidentification could take place. In the case of the 14-pound smallmouth, it was probably a case of mistaken identity. But who is to say there wasn’t nefarious actions by the angler or other anglers who sent in their fish information. The Perry fish, which is still in a tie for the World Record Largemouth is littered with controversy itself.
In any event, I looked at the 1951 Heddon Deluxe catalog I have and the smallmouth record was not in there. All it says is: ”No authentic record for this species.” Sometime between the printing of this catalog and the printing of the 1951 catalog someone fixed the problem. It’s just another bit of history I need to straighten out.
The final black bass species mentioned is the spotted bass. They make no mention or distinction between the Alabama and the Kentucky, just one species, even though the Alabama strain was discovered in 1940.
The description of the spotted bass is fairly accurate with two interesting finds. First off, under World Record, they state that there was no authentic record for the species but also state that it was believed that the world record smallmouth was actually a spotted bass. Another problem with the times as well as the Feld & Stream fishing contest.
The next find was under the section Methods. Of course they mention flies, bass bugs, sinking lures, and the like. But there was also a term used that I am completely at a loss for. Spat-Fishing. Out of all the books I’ve read covering the times, I have never seen this term. If anyone out there can educate me, please leave a comment below.
What I found really cool was the suggested tackle to be used. For all the bass species, Caine recommended the use of 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 foot long baitcasting rods with a light to medium action with 10- to 15- or 20-pound nylon line. Now I have no problem with the 5-1/2 foot rods as those are what I grew up fishing with. I even have a 5-foot 3-inch rod I used for underhand casting a spinnerbait. But I have never used a rod shorter than that unless I was fishing through the ice. This makes me want to make a 4-1/2-foot rod just to see what it would do.
Some other Note-Worthy Fish
Next on the list were the pike family starting with the Musky. This was interesting in that the Musky record had only been set in July 1949, a few months before this catalog went to press. The more amazing thing is this record still holds. The fish was caught in Wisconsin on Lake Court Oreilles on a Pike Oreno by South Bend. But this record also has a bit of tarnish to its name also. In researching for this article, I ran across this piece posted on the GreatLakesNow website. It gives you a sound picture of why I said the Field & Stream records are questionable. It also shows that shenanigans aren’t just reserved for bass fishing.
Next, we’ll look at a couple saltwater or brackish water fish starting with the striped bass. I’m not sure the year where stripers were initially planted in land-locked lake but Arkansas claims to be the first in 1954. This might explain the reason why this catalog didn’t list stripers as both fresh and saltwater fish.
The description does recognize that the striper was planted on the west coast in San Francisco Bay and its natural range was the Atlantic coast, the Gulf of Mexico. The world record at the time was 73 pounds and was caught in 1913 at Vineyard Sound, MA.
The next fish I think is worth mentioning is the Redfish, or Red Drum. Its range is the entire east coast and throughout the Gulf of Mexico and it frequents brackish waters where one can fish them as they would target largemouth bass. The world record at the time was a 75 -1/2-pound fish caught off Cape Hatteras, NC.
Tackle recommendations for both the striper and redfish with respect to baitcasting tackle were 5- to 5-1/2-foot rods in medium to stiff action. Lures were baits you’d consider for bass or pike fishing.
That’s about all I’ll cover in this final part of the series. If you want to take a deeper dive into the catalog, head over to Product Catalogs / Bass Tackle Catalogs. Also, if you’re interested in more information on the Field & Stream National Fishing Contest there’s a great website run by Ron Gast, Lure and Reels.