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 The "Dowagiac" Casting Bait

James Heddon & Son, Makers

This is one of the earliest, and most important, of all Heddon lures - the Dowagiac Casting Bait. The four-hook version shown here is also known as the Dowagiac No. 2, and appeared in 1902 alongside its much more common two-hook counterpart. Note the gold-washed cups, chalky white paint and early white picture box. This lure had been in the same family for more than a century before it was acquired for this collection. It is unused and in mint condition, complete with original box and wonderful instruction papers. Imagine how few of these have survived! It was a cherished possession of its original owner - who wrote his name in pencil on one side panel of the box.

Click any image below to enlarge - and enjoy this fine old classic lure!

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THIS HEDDON LURE IS IMPORTANT FOR SEVERAL REASONS....

First off, note the paperwork in the photo (above left) with the lithographed picture of the Slopenose. The lure depicted in the illustration is the even-earlier "rimless cup" lure that preceded the production models sold in this wonderful box. Note also that the paperwork (above right) refers to the lure as the "Dowagiac Perfect Surface Casting Bait." That dates this piece precisely to late 1902 or early 1903, when the name of this classic lure was shortened to "Dowagiac Expert." Finally, this paperwork is also very important in that - in its last paragraph - Heddon announces the news that "we have devised an under-water bait that is a wonderful killer, a beautiful bait to cast, and which is protected by our patent, and will soon be placed upon the market."

Heddon was referring to the now-famous "Dowagiac Underwater," which made its rapidly evolving debut early in 1903 and became the forerunner of the Dowagiac Underwater 100, 150 and other baits.

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WHICH CAME FIRST? 4-HOOK OR 2-HOOK?

 One of the first things Heddon did upon his entry into the fishing tackle industry was to secure a patent for his cup and screw hook hangers. Heddon applied for this important patent on Jan. 9, 1902, and the request was affirmed April 1, 1902 - a date that would appear on Heddon lure boxes for many decades into the future. Although some collectors believe the two-hook Slopenose was the first "Dowagiac Casting Bait," it is interesting to note the original 1902 patent drawing (shown above) portrayed the four-hook version, not the two-hook. I've often wondered whether the four-hook was actually the first of the Heddon lures, and was simply labeled as being the second in line because of the "No. 2" designation found on some boxes. Read on below for even more insight!

WHAT THE INVENTOR HAD TO SAY....

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James Heddon himself was once asked why his early lures always seemed to have a blue head, white body and painted red collar. The interviewer was New York Sun columnist Bob Davis, a well-known angler in his own right, who often fished with James Heddon and his business partner and son, Charles Heddon. Here's what the elder Heddon had to say:

"I wanted it to be the color of the sky, and thus invisible," he said. "The fish would then hit the white body which contains the hooks. It's an American invention - applied to business!"

Davis also inquired about the copious armament of the Heddon lures - four trebles, each with three barbs - and asked whether criticism that there were too many hooks was justified. Heddon assured him it was not:

"National stupidity," he scoffed. "A fish caught on a single hook is likely to take it into his gullet. The result is a dangerous wound from which he dies. The shape of my bait is such that a fish cannot swallow it. Thus, all the wounds are limited to the lips."

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Copyright 2005-2006 by Robbie Pavey. Duplication prohibited without permission.