Fast Facts: The Evolution of the Fishing Lure
Lure fishing is challenging yet exciting because, instead of using bait, the angler navigates the fishing lures to attract the fish. But do you know how far back fishing lures date and how they have changed since their original conception? Let’s look at the history of fishing lures.
Fishing lures weren’t always bright, colorful curiosities. Fishing lures have been around since antiquity and were first made from bone and bronze. The Chinese and Egyptians used fishing rods, hooks, and lines as early as 2,000 B.C.E. The first hooks were made from bronze and were solid and thin. The Chinese were the first to make fishing lines spun from fine silk.
During the mid-19th century, lure fishing took off in a big way. Because of this, fishing lures were manufactured on a mass scale. The lures were very basic in design, which is why they were so successful. Today, most lures are made to look like dying, injured, or fast-moving fish.
During the 3rd century AD, the ancient Romans were also huge fans of fishing. Roman author and teacher of rhetoric Claudius Aelianus would document his fly fishing experiences in writing. He also wrote about how he would create his own lures and use feathers, lead, bronze, and even horsehair, to help attract the fish.
Michigan beekeeper James Heddon is documented as the originator of the artificial lure known as the plug. Though disputed, lore has Heddon “discovering” the plug as a wooden topwater bait after he carved a sliver of wood into a mill pond near his home and watched a bass strike it. He received a patent for “fish bait” in 1902 for his Dowagiac Casting Bait.
Heddon established James Heddon & Son Co. (later James Heddon’s Sons after Heddon’s death), which grew to become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of artificial lures.
Before big manufacturers started making lures, most fishing lures were made by individual craftsmen. Commercial-made lures were based on the same ideas used by individual craftsmen but on a larger scale. It was sport fishing that encouraged the advancement of artificial baits across Europe as early as the 14th century.
It was not until the 1980s that Allan Cole invented the AC Plug, a wooden, jointed lure with a rubber tail that resembled a swimming fish as it moved through the water. It was the beginning of swimbait, though he didn’t go public with it until the early 1990s.