1985 Heddon Catalog Front Cover

Today in James Heddon and PRADCO, we’re going to look at the third catalog, 1986, produced by EBSCO after the acquisition of the James Heddon’s Sons lure company in 1983.  In 1980, EBSCO, a holdings company based out of Alabama, purchased Plastics Research and Development Company, better known as PRADCO, the makers of Rebel lures.  PRADCO, at the time, was the largest fishing lure manufacturer in the world.  The purchase of Heddon would be the first, or second depending on how you see it, in a long line of acquisitions that the company would make over the coming decade.

Upon the purchase of Heddon, EBSCO decided to move the Heddon factory down to Fort Smith, Arkansas in order to consolidate the two companies.  PRADCO’s factory was the biggest, most up to date lure manufacturing company at the time and to the company, it made sense to consolidate the two factories.

The move happened in 1984 and the Heddon factory in Dowagiac, Michigan was closed for good on August 9, 1984.

At this time, Heddon still had a mix of wooden baits as well as plastic baits.  Most of the baits at this point were still old stock from the Dowagiac plant and packaged in the remaining original Heddon packaging.

The cover of the catalog is pretty classy, showing an early Heddon patent, a Dowagiac topwater bait, and a couple of newer baits known as the Timber Rattlers.  It’s a respectful image featuring the old with the new.

Inside the cover is a more descript piece on both baits in the Timber rattler line, the crankbait and the jerkbait.  These baits were made out of white cedar and came with glass eyes along with some nice color patterns.  One thing I’m not too keen on are the old hook hangers but all Heddon baits at this time were still using them and we didn’t know any better.

1985 Heddon Catalog Page 2
1985 Heddon Catalog Page 3

A hint as to what year this catalog was printed is seen on the next page, featuring the Color-C-Lector color patterns.  In 1984/85, Dr. Loren Hill released his study on the effect of color on bass and with that release, he also released his new invention, the Color-C-Lector.  Never before had the fishing world seen the outrageous colors Hill suggested to be placed on lures, and it would take a while for the majority of anglers to relent to his doctrine.  Still, the lure companies were fast to offer colors that supported the Color-C-Lector color wheel.  Heddon was no different.

Pages 4 and 5 featured Heddon’s Chugger Spook, Dying Flutter, and River Runts.  The Chugger Spook came in three sizes as well as a skirted version.  The River Runt was offered in two sizes and the Dying Flutter one.  Color patterns offered were standard Heddon colors of long past as well as the new Color-C-Lector colors.

The next two pages had more Heddon gold in them, namely the Zara Spook, Crazy Crawler and the Sonic.  The Zara Spook was offered in three sizes; the Original Signature Spook, the Zara II, and the Baby Zara and was also offered in a new Rattlin’ Zara that weighed 1/8-ounce more than the Original Signature Spook.

The Crazy Crawler was offered in two sizes, while the Sonic came in two size as well as a Rattle Sonic version.

For the anglers who wanted to fish vintage, probably the oldest lure in this catalog was the Vamp seen on pages 8 and 9.  The Vamp was made from wood and was offered in the original and jointed versions.  It was only offered in four colors, which makes me wonder if they were just trying to get rid of old stock in order to discontinue the bait.  I’m sure some Heddon expert knows the answer to that.

1985 Heddon Catalog Page 4

Also on this page is probably one of the most famous of all Heddon lures, the Meadow Mouse.  I loved this bait as a kid and fished it at the golf course ponds I lived around.  I only had a couple of them growing up and wore the fuzzy frocking off both of them on feisty pond bass.

Pages 10 and 11 hold more legendary Heddon baits, starting with the Lucky 13 we mentioned earlier.  This bait was a favorite of one of my close friends and mentors growing up.  He’d fish it as a topwater lure, a wake bait, or was a sub-surface crankbait.  It was the one lure he’d start out with in the mornings and many of those mornings he’d school me on the old ways.  I’m sure this bait would still work today if someone would just fish it.

Next on the list of famous baits is the Tiny Torpedo.  I wonder if there is another topwater bait out there that has caught as many bass as the Tiny Torpedo.  This small, non-threatening bait could be popped on the surface or retrieved straight back to the boat.  There was no wrong way to work it.  It just caught fish.

The last bait I’ll talk about it the Big Bud.  Initially manufactured as a promotion, this bait became a collector’s item nearly as soon as it hit the shelves.  You’ll notice here it was only offered in one color but over the years it went through many iterations featuring beer companies, tobacco companies, cola companies, you name it.  Then, in the early 2000s, Japanese collectors went nuts over the bait.  PRADCO started making special runs for companies such as Smith Lures LTD.  There are even clubs in Japan that fish only the Big Bud.

1985 Heddon Catalog Page 6

There’s a lot packed into this short, 11-page catalog.  You’d be hard pressed to find half the lures featured in this catalog on PRADCO’s website today.  And, if you’re interested in looking at more original Heddon baits, you can view the 1950 Heddon catalog here.

For the entire catalog, check out the gallery below.  Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through each page.

I would like to credit Floyd Roberts of Antique Fishing Lures for some of the information in this article.


Gallery – James Heddon and PRADCO