Heddon Torpedo, one of the most popular Heddon baits of all time. 1977 Bassmaster Magazine.

From the turn of the 19th Century to the late 1950s, Heddon was a powerhouse in the fishing industry.  From the first wooden “plug” lures introduced in 1902 to rods and even reels, if you used Heddon you were a serious angler.  Today in Heddon 1977, though, we’re going to show the beginning of the end of their reign on the industry.

By 1977, Heddon had become a shell of the company it once was.  Starting in the 1960s, after the Heddon family sold to the Murchinson brothers in the mid-1950s, the number of products they sold started to decline as did the quality.

A Heddon rod from the 1920s through the 1950s was considered a high-end rod.  They used the best bamboo available as well as tubular steel.  Then, when tubular fiberglass hit the market, they struggled to keep up.  They made good rods but companies like Conolon, Fenwick, and Shakespeare (under Howald’s patent) ruled the market due to their R&D efforts.

As with the rod market, Heddon used to make some of the best casting reels.  But once the ABU 5000 hit the shores in 1954, it made everything else obsolete.  Heddon continued making casting reels, but everything was a bad copy of the Swedish made reel.

Line, nets, and other fishing paraphernalia dropped from the catalog by the end of the 1960s, leaving only their rods, reels, and lures.  As I said above, Heddon had become a shell of the once vibrant company.

By 1977 the company hadn’t grown at all and was still fighting to stay alive.  Let’s move on to the ads from that year.

The lead-in ad is probably one of the most popular baits Heddon ever made, the Torpedo.  If a kid didn’t catch their first fish on a Jitterbug or a Hula Popper, it’s likely they may have caught it on the smallest of the line, the Tiny Torpedo.  It’s the perfect sized lure for spincast outfits and irresistible to the fish.  It’s a bait that not only catches bass, but it’ll trick a bluegill or crappie.  And, in recent years it’s become highly valued by collectors.

1977 Heddon Slickstick rod ad. Bassmaster Magazine.
1977 Heddon Brush Popper ad. Bassmaster Magazine.

Next in the line of ads is their Slickstick casting series of rods.  At this time, graphite rods were all the rage and every company worth their salt was making one.  But in this ad, there is no mention of graphite or carbon fiber.  This leads me to believe this rod was made from glass and painted black to look like a graphite rod.

A quick look at the handle also shows they were not using the state-of-the-art Fuji handle either.  They’d either made their own handle or outsourced a cheap handle.  Having worked in rod repair at this point in time, if it wasn’t Fuji or Fenwick, the handle was bound to be heavier and give you ample problems.  Most of the time the problems centered around the clamp mechanism that held the reel in place.

Also in this ad is their last hoorah at casting reels.  The “famous” Heddon 3200 casting reel.  I never held one of these reels, let alone fished one, so I can’t really knock it.  The reel came with a disengaging levelwind and was supposedly the “freest” reel on the market.  It may have been, but the problem was ABU and the recent newcomer Lew’s.  They were tried and true and you were hard pressed to get anyone already using those brands to change.

Next on the list is Heddon’s Brush Popper.  This bait came out right at the start of the buzzbait craze.  What I believe Heddon was trying to capture here was a cross between a Johnson Silver Minnow (weedless spoon) and a buzzbait.  One bait, the Silver Minnow, was an old standby still catching bass, and the buzzbait was a new genre.  Why not incorporate the two into one.

The Brush Popper was only around for about five years and then it was relegated to the bargain bin.

The final two ads feature a couple of baits.  One a tried-and-true producer and the second another new bait that would have the same destiny as the Brush Popper.

1977 Heddon Zara II ad. Bassmaster Magazine.
1977 Heddon Head-Hunter ad. Bassmaster Magazine.

The Zara II was a small version of the original Zara Spook.  Unlike the Zara Puppy, though, this lure had the same diameter as the original, it was just made smaller in length.  The bait walked well and caught fish.  The main problem was nobody but Charlie Campbell was using a Zara Spook of any type in 1977.  At least they weren’t talking about it.

Then in late 1980 the company stated they were discontinuing all Zara Spooks from the line-up.  In August of 1981, Greg Hines won the first U.S. Open was won on the Zara Spook and all hell broke loose.  The remaining Spooks flew off the walls of tackle shows and Heddon reconsidered.

The final ad featured is the Heddon Head-Hunter ad.  This lure today has a following amongst collectors and can still be had for a very reasonable price.  But back in the day, I think the bait may have been too drastic of a change in body shape for people to look at seriously.  It wasn’t round or oval in cross-section and it had a “hydronic” hole molded into the bill.  The bait came out right at the peak of the deep diving crankbait craze but unfortunately, it didn’t look like a DB1 or a Deep Little N, the baits that were getting all the attention at the time.

The Head-Hunter would spend a few years in the catalog and then, like the Brush Popper, was relegated to the bargain bin.

In 1983, Heddon was acquired by PRADCO.  After the purchase, everything except for the lures was dropped from the catalog.  Today all that remains from this once prolific company is the Zara Spook, Lucky 13, Crazy Crawler, Sonar, Torpedoes, and Moss Boss.  There are a couple of contemporary lures, like the Spit’n Image and Pop’n Image but to me, those are PRADCO lures and not Heddon’s.