Looking through old bass magazines provides a bass angler interested in the history of the sport a lot of information. For example, you can track anglers through their careers, a bass organizations progress, and lastly a lure manufacturer’s place in the industry. Today in Heddon 1979, we’ll take a look at some of James Heddon’s Sons ads and see if we can deduce anything from what they were advertising.
First, these ads all came out of my collection of Bassmaster Magazines. My 1979 Fishing Facts magazines are AWOL, and the only other magazines I have from the year are a few American Angler and National Bass magazines, of which there were no Heddon ads in.
In 1979 Heddon was still a private company run out of their Dowagiac, Michigan plant. In roughly three more years, Heddon would be bought out by EBSCO, a holdings company based out of Alabama, and placed under the PRADCO label.
Starting off the 1979 Heddon ad campaign was a curious ad for a salmon/steelhead bait called the Hedd Plug. Why they were pushing a bait that they admittedly made to target salmonids in Bassmaster leaves me scratching my head. The bait bares a little resemblance to the old Lucky 13 and Basser plugs of yesteryear so why didn’t they write their description to reflect that this bait would catch bass. This seems like bad marketing.
The ad also features the Heddon Tadpolly as well as the Hedd-Hunter crank bait. The Tadpolly had shown success as a crankbait that caught bass but was primarily utilized by walleye anglers. The Hedd-Hunter was just another crankbait that didn’t make much of a splash. I’m not sure how long they were manufactured but it was around five years if memory serves me right.
The best thing about this ad is the mail-order offer for a Hedd Plug, patch and 1979 Heddon catalog, all for $3.50. How I wish I would have taken advantage of this offer at the time. The catalog itself would answer many questions I have regarding the company.
The next two ads I found in that same February 1979 issue of Bassmaster Magazine were more appropriate for the audience. Ad two was a dual ad that featured four baits and Heddon’s Slickstick bass rod.
The upper ad highlighted the new Whistler buzzbait. At this time buzzbaits were a hot commodity due to national introduction of Bill Harkins’ Lunker Lure in 1977. Every company was quick to get on that band wagon, including Heddon.
Below the Whistler was a spinnerbait called the Climax, the Slickstick rod, and a bait they called the Brush Hopper.
In this image, the Brush Hopper appears to have a buzzbait-style blade on the front, a body that appears to have a keel, a flat-rubber skirt and single hook that looks as if it may swivel up and down. There is no description of the bait in this part of the ad.
What’s curious about this upper Brush Popper image is how it differs from the Brush Popper in the ad directly below it. In the second ad, the Brush Popper features a front prop, but it’s more in tune with topwater prop baits like the Devil’s Horse or Dying Flutter. The image provided also doesn’t allow the reader to see the profile of the bait. So I had to get out a 1976 Bass Pro Shops catalog to see if I could make any sense of this.
In the 1976 Bass Pro Shops catalog, I was able to answer one of my questions. The bait in the lower ad does have a keel like the upper ad. Unfortunately, the BPS ad shows the Brush Popper again with the Dying Flutter style prop. This is where having the actual factory catalogs would help tremendously.
The final ad I was able to find in this issue of Bassmaster featured the iconic Heddon Sonar and the Sonic. Each of these baits caught bass by the boatload and still have a following today. The Sonar was one of the first blade baits to go into production in 1959 and continues to grace the PRADCO catalog today.
The Sonic, on the other hand, appears to have been discontinued in 1984, shorty after EBSCO/PRADCO purchased Heddon. This bait is rumored to have been invented by Cotton Cordell in 1956 and sold to Heddon. In the time is was manufactured, this little bait was one of Heddon’s best sellers. It flat caught fish. Why PRADCO would discontinue it is questionable. Maybe they believed it was too close in design to Th’ Spot.
Next in the line of ads placed by Heddon in 1979 came from the March/April issue of Bassmaster Magazine. In this ad they again are touting the Hedd-Hunter in both medium and deep-dive models. But this isn’t all they’re marketing.
If you remember from a few days ago, 1979 was the year of the natural crankbait and Heddon was right in the fray of that sensation. This ad featured two of their lifelike colors, the Natural Perch and the Natural Shad.
Also in this ad is another bait called the Khaki Minnow. I have never seen this bait nor had heard of it until seeing this ad. Again, I kick myself in the butt for not taking advantage of the mail-in offer to receive a Hedd-Hunter, patch and the 1979 catalog. It would serve me well right now.
The next ad placed was a single ad for the Whistler Buzzbait, again showing the Brush Popper, Climax spinnerbait and the Slickstick rod. This time, though, the ad it much bigger allowing a better view of the Brush Popper. And, you can see that buzzbait-style propeller on the bait.
The September/October issue of Bassmaster Magazine also contained a new Heddon ad, which is the lead-in ad for this post, this time featuring all of their natural colors on some of their most prolific baits as well as newcomers. In this ad I got a little better bead on the Khaki Minnow mentioned above. Evidently, the Khaki Minnow was part of the Hedd-Hunter series of baits, which included the medium- and deep-diver crankbaits.
This natural phenomenon lasted for only a few years, maybe a decade, until sales slowed down. It wasn’t just Heddon that was affected either. All companies essentially dropped their natural lines, moving back to the tried-and-true basic colors.
This shift was strange, in that anyone would think that the more natural a bait looked, the better it would get bit. Maybe Tom Seward was onto something when he designed his Flip-Flop series of baits where he reversed the paint scheme, placing light colors on top and dark colors on bottom. Seward is noted for saying that too much realism could hide the lures from the fish. I find that hard to believe but there was something a skew with these patterns.
The final Heddon ad in the 1979 Bassmaster Magazines I went through, was from the November/December issue and featured the Chugger Spook and the Torpedo. Both baits were again finished in their new natural series patterns. These two baits were pretty prolific, with the Torpedo, especially the Tiny Torpedo, taking top honors between the two.
As far as topwater baits are concerned, it never made any sense to me why anyone would need a natural colored bait. The bait is generally only half in the water and when worked quickly across the surface, no fish is going to get a chance to admire the detail. In the case of the Torpedo, you could finish that bait in a corn-speckled brown trout pattern, and it would still catch fish.
Well, that’s it for the 1979 Heddon ads I was able to find. If anyone reading this can add to the 1979 history with respect to Heddon, please feel free to leave a comment below. We’re always looking for things we’ve either missed or didn’t know about.