Vintage Fishing Lures

Fishing is a sport that has been traced back tens of thousands of years. Fishing lures have been around for as long, beginning as bone implements, moving to wooden and metal hand-crafted lures in colonial and pre-industrial times, and finally becoming today's mass-produced metal and plastic lure styles. Many of the lures in the vintage category date from the 1800s, when lures were first sold commercially, to about 40 years ago; they often feature hand-finished details, including painted and carved features.

What are some features of vintage fishing lures?

Vintage lures are designed to replicate common prey species or to stimulate predator behaviors. Common features include:

  • Handmade: Lots of antique fishing lures were carved by hand. They are often realistic depictions of small feeder fish like the creek chub, frogs, and minnows.
  • Complex movements: Some lures were designed to look like natural animals or scenarios. Examples include frog decoys with leg joints that move, or fish chasing other fish. Some even had mechanical systems with parts like driveshafts. These were used to produce lifelike movements in the lure.
  • Shiny: The shine when a fish turns quickly is a sign that makes fish want to attack; many lures have metal spoons or other ornaments that spin freely to replicate this shine.

What materials are used in vintage fishing baits?

Many vintage fishing lure makers used natural materials like wood or older metals like tin. Antique bait materials include:

  • Wood: Many early pieces were carved from wood and then painted with a water-resistant paint like an enamel. This is in contrast to lighter-weight fiberglass and other materials used in later decades.
  • Glass: Older decoys often feature details like glass eyes. This adds a touch of realism to the decoys.
  • Steel: Hooks attached to older tackle are often made of machined steel.
  • Phosphorus: Some antique fishing lures included phosphorus paint, designed to make pieces glow underwater.

What style lures are available?

Lures have changed a lot throughout the decades. Some styles like minnows are still common, while others have faded.

  • Frogs: These are some of the oldest and most commonly Seen vintage lures. Details may include hand carving, hand painting, and glass eyes.
  • Fish: Sunfish, minnows, and other fish were used as lures. Some designs feature specific species local to a certain area.
  • Mermaids: Novelty mermaids and other whimsical designs can be found.

Who made vintage fishing tackle?

While a number of lures that were hand-crafted by individuals can be found, there are other examples that were made for purposes of sale. Manufacturers to look for include:

  • Shakespeare
  • South Bend
  • Pflueger
  • Arbogast
  • Heddon