The tin container appeared to be the type that cookies come in. Instead, the container held McCormick’s orange pekoe tea bags. It’s hard to say just how old the round metal tin was at the time, but to a collector it may have value. More importantly was what was found under the lid.
My father died in the mid 80’s, and the tin was amongst his fishing gear. Inside were some of his favorite fishing lures that he used when fishing for northern pike and other big fish. A number of the lures were, to say the least, well used. Others were in great shape.
Production of wooden lures began in the early 1890’s, and by today’s standards they were pricey, to say the least. Premium wooden lures often cost $1 or more, and a well-stocked tackle box containing these represented a substantial investment.
The first lures were top-water designs, most often cigar shaped with hooks attached.
Easy to manipulate and readily available wood revolutionized the young bait-casting companies. Manufacturers of wooden lures sprang up everywhere. Lures were carved and painted to imitate any number of bait-fish. There were versions that mimicked frogs and mice.
Companies with names like Creek Chub, Heddon, Pritzlaff, and Shakespeare produced wooden lures that anglers wanted. Why? Because they caught fish.
It wouldn’t be until decades later that plastics would begin to replace wood as a major material in the manufacturing of lures. After that, many wooden lure makers fell by the wayside. The few that remained were supported by fishermen who knew the benefits of wooden lures. And many of these diehard anglers kept an industry alive for a number of additional decades.
It was in the 1960’s when Milt Poe, founder of Poe’s and who was in therapy for a paralyzed left arm, soon turned his search for the perfect lure into a turnaround for the wooden lure business. Milt Poe chose California cedar wood to create the “Nervous Miracle”, his first wooden lure.
It didn’t take long until anglers began to be reintroduced to the wooden fishing lure. After that a resurgence in the popularity of wooden lures began to take hold. No longer were wooden lures just used as surface plugs. The lures, along with their design, incorporated more versatility, and the use of wooden lures was back in the spotlight.
Today there are a number of manufacturers of wooden lures that cater to anglers, but there is also a market for classic fishing lures.
During the 1920s, Winchester manufactured fishing tackle and accessories. They were reliable, high-quality products.
Winchester’s flagship lure was produced by the Little Sac Bait Company. Winchester’s Slim Jim finesse jig, featured a 2/0 60° turned eye, light wire hook with an O’Shaughnessy bend. The hook was specially designed by Gamakatsu for the Little Sac Bait Company, allowing for better penetration. The jig design also resulted in 75 percent less hang ups and better balance over rocks, ledges, and obstructions. The jigs were dressed with 22-30 strands of premium silicone skirting.
Winchester Shaky head and Grub head jigs were also available. The jigs all feature Little Sac’s flex systems paint, which is hard enough to withstand plenty of use, yet flexible enough not to chip.
While some lures are functional, others have become collectable. The #1 Winchester 2006 limited edition, and other lures, such as the #2 2007 Meramec Minnow Brook Trout, can be found only on the secondary market now.
There are a growing number of anglers and collectors that have an interest in vintage fishing lures. And with good reason. Many have become valuable. Fact is there are a number of old lures that are in excellent condition that will set you back twenty to fifty bucks or so. Then there are others that will command much more. The high price tagged lures are the exception rather than the rule.
The fact of the matter is most, if not the vast majority, of wooden lures produced today are for the collector. Still some are being produced to be used. After all, they still hold the potential to put a fish on the end of your line.
Regardless of the type of lure you’re looking for, you can be sure there is something out there that is made just for you or your tackle box.
(Charlie Burchfield can be reached at GWOutdoors@comcast.net)