What started as a promotional play on the crankbait, later gained steam as a bait that would actually catch fish too. Heddon Big Bud ad from 1975.

You can argue all day long about what Heddon lure was the most popular over the course of time. I’d hate to count the number of Zara Spooks that have sold over the years or even the old River Runt. Both of these lures have had a cult-like following for years and the fact that the Spook is still one of the best topwater baits is proof how good it is.  But in today’s post, Heddon’s Big Bud, we’re going to look at a Heddon bait that was designed for a marketing campaign by Anheuser-Busch back in 1975.

Back in the ‘70s, when I saw Heddon had come out with a Budweiser lure, I just laughed.  Certainly, it wouldn’t catch fish.  It was just a gimmick lure for a promotion.  Boy, was I wrong on all accounts.

What I didn’t realize back then was this bait would become a collector’s dream, a hit in Japan and it actually caught fish.

As stated above, the Big Bud was a promotional lure designed for the Budweiser company and is still in production today. Many versions have been sold internationally and it wasn’t only Bud that got the advertising love on its sides.  Heddon/PRADCO did paint schemes for Coors and U.S. Tobacco amongst others.

The crazy lure was introduced to Japan in 1977 and from there it went on to cult status. Anglers and collectors would custom paint the baits and actually formed clubs where only the Big Bud could be used.

Although I never expected the bait to work, my Japanese contacts said it was known as one of the best wake baits. Thinking about it, the bait has the properties that would make it such – a thick body and the tail blade would rattle.  The confusing thing to me is by looking at the angle of the bill, you’d never expect it to be a good wake bait.

If you’re interested in reading the entire history of the Big Bud, here’s a great article on Floyd Roberts’ Antique Fishing Lures website.  Floyd has done an amazing job categorizing the Big Bud and has followed its entire life from 1975 through current times, even documenting one of the Japanese knock offs, the Bad made by The Flake Company.

I’ve also talked with a friend in Japan about the Big Bud.  Yuki Nagara, wrote me the following notes about the history in Japan as well as some of the other companies that knocked the bait off.  Here’s what Yuki had to say:

“In Japan, the Big Bud went on to cult status, that’s right!  I love it too. I use Bud as a big fish bait just as I would use a big swimbait.

The Lake Police Bunny, a bait designed after the Heddon Big Bud, from Japanese lure manufacturer, Jackall. Photo Terry Battisti.

“Around 2000 (maybe after 2001), some other companies made a similar bait in Japan.  Examples would be the Jackall Bunny and more recently Imakatsu’s Waddle buggy.  I remember Katsutaka Imae, who is the founder of Imakatsu, introduced the prototype of the Bud-type bait in the Japanese Magazine “Bass World” after 2001. He won a Japanese tournament in 2001 and the winning bait was modified Big Bud. I guess that is why Japanese still go wild for the Big Bud lure.

“Because of the body, which has high buoyancy, the bill or lip angle is very shallow angle (about 24 degrees) and looks like a deep diving crankbait’s lip angle.  Usually, a wake bait has a steeper angle lip like 90 degrees. Anyway, I love the original Big Bud, including the bill angle.  The Big Bud is special to me.  I love this design and history of the designer’s cleverness.”

The Heddon Big Bud, whether made for a promotion or to catch fish, has become one of Heddon’s biggest selling and most collected baits of all time.  Did you, by chance, laugh at them when they first came out, or were you on the cutting edge of the Big Bud cult as it was first gaining steam?  Drop us a comment below.