1940 Heddon CRazy Crawler ad from the July issue of Hunting and Fishing magazine.

Over the past 10 years, crawler style lures have made a comeback from their popularity in the middle part of the last century.  Baits like the Jackall Pompadour, Defiant Bird, and a myriad of other smaller companies’ products have found their way back into the boxes of anglers.  Today in Heddon Crazy Crawler 1940, we’re going to step back in time to look at the bait that originated the crawler genre.

Introduced in 1940, the Crazy Crawler was most likely Heddon’s response to Fred Arbogast’s Jitterbug that was introduced in late 1938.  By the end of 1939, the Jitterbug was well on its way to stardom, having made a heavy impact with its ability to catch fish.

But Heddon couldn’t just copy the bait outright and make their own version.  Arbogast had painstakingly filed for a patent on the bait before it was released, and the patent was pretty watertight.

1940 Heddon Crazy Crawler ad from the June issue of Sports Afield magazine.

Before we go any further, I would like to state up front the following is my opinion on how and why the Crazy Crawler came to be.

Heddon needed a bait that would compete with the Jitterbug.  But, because of the patent, they would have to design something from the ground up, or buy something that already had a similar action.

This is where James Donaly’s WOW lure comes into the picture.

James Donaly had been in the bait business since the turn of the 19th century.  In 1926 he filed a patent on a surface lure that had “lateral wings” which would not fold back past 90-degrees with respect to the body.  He was granted the patent in 1928 and released the plug as the WOW.

Upon Donaly’s death on June 29, 1937, his wife and daughter tried to continue manufacturing the baits but ran into trouble.  This is when they started selling off the rights to certain plugs, and Heddon purchased the rights to the WOW.  It is not known the exact date that Heddon purchased the rights, but it didn’t show up in their catalog until 1940, two years after Fred Arbogast introduced the Jitterbug.

James Donaly's 1928 patent on the WOW, which would become the Heddon Crazy Crawler.

Now Heddon had a bait that could compete with the Jitterbug.

The Crazy Crawler had a body similar to the Jitterbug but its action providing arms were clearly different than the scoop in front of a Jitterbug.  The sound the two baits made was different but the action on the surface was fairly consistent between the two.

The Crazy Crawler would turn out to be good competition for Heddon as it became a proven fish catcher.  How many fish it caught compared to the Jitterbug will probably never be known.

Like the Jitterbug, the Crazy Crawler is still produced by PRADCO, lending to its fish catching ability.  But what’s even more amazing to me are the knock offs that have been hitting the market for the last decade or longer.  As mentioned in the opening paragraph, several companies are producing their own crawler-style surface bait.

James Donaly's death announcement from The Courier News Wednesday June 30, 1937.

Most all of these baits are big in stature compared to the original WOW or Heddon bait, some stretching all the way to four or five inches in length.  The arms on these contemporary baits are generally twice as long as the Crazy Crawlers, most likely to make up for the added length of the lure.

Jitterbug has been on the market for over 80 years.  But if you go back to Donaly, the Crazy Crawler has been around nearly 100 years.  That right there should be enough evidence that they catch fish.  The fact the Crazy Crawler has been knocked off by no less than a dozen companies shows its ability to continue catching fish.