New Tech Can’t Replace Heritage Tackle

New Tech Can’t Replace Heritage Tackle

While the newer tackle companies show their lines at Winter shows- you might look to some of the more seasoned veteran companies for tackle innovations 30 - 80 years old that continue to out-fish the new stuff. Tournament anglers and weekend surface-breakers take notice, you should get back to your fishing roots and fish what you're dad or your dad’s father threw to discover “new” secrets.

Companies you can look to include Heddon, Rapala & Gapen Fishing.

Heddon lures began their run in the late 1800’s and much of their tackle has 50 years of experience. You will find a good example of lures that really work for their action and craftsmanship that is tested and true. The Hellbender has been imitating  crayfish and sparking attacks by bass and pike for 50 years. The Zara Spook has been “walking the dog” across waters for 75 years and causing fish to lose their minds. In the 1890s,  James Heddon launched a hand-made lure into a Dowagiac, Michigan pond and watched his hand-crafted creations make the water explode. Many different crank baits, surface lures and even a few bobbers were designed on that pond. If you haven’t walked the dog, you owe it to yourself to try a Heddon lure- still great today.

Lauri Rapala, a hungry Finnish guy with a carving knife, whittled his first lure from some cork and covered it with foil from candy bars to imitate wounded minnows. He saw minnows straying from the school, wobbling after being attacked.  In the 1930s he saw how hungry predator fish would dart into a school of minnows and attack the one that swam with a slightly off-center wobble -every time. Like many tackle inventors - those who fish and then hit the work bench, Rapala hand-crafted solid wooden crank baits and modified them to perfect action.

With every Saturday afternoon fishing outing where a kid at the local fishing hole threw a Rapala, the legend grew. For years anglers have taken detours to the local tackle store to get just one more Rapala, as using them usually means success. The original floating Rapala is still going strong today and newer Scatter Rap and X-Rap continue to trick fish. This second heritage lure company really produces - try them.

We take a look at the Gapen co. next to complete the trio of fishing greatness and a legacy tackle company with great lures. Gapen started at the Hungry Jack Lodge in 1916 (recognize the name?) The 14-cabin resort was parked on lake trout, landlocked salmon and northern pike. Jesse Gapen planted the first smallmouth bass in Northern Minnesota waters. His son created the Muddler Minnow Fly.  Dan Gapen’s father created a great weight-forward spinner and his son modified the spinner with the tied fly hook, called the “Nepag" which later was modeled by the Paul Bunyan and then made popular as the Lake Erie weight forward spinner.

The Gapens were the first to introduce float planes traveling past the Albany River into Canadian wilderness. With a host of hand-crafted fly patterns grabbed by the handful by smart anglers, there are many Gapen flies you should try. The modern fisherman can try out the “Bait Walker”, a great way to present your live bait slightly above bottom.  This was invented in 1964 and is still effective today. The final item was one of the first lures I ever read about in Fishing Facts. The Ugly Bug is another Gapen invention offering bait presentation on a jig that allows the angler to work rocks, rip-rap and crags with over 75% fewer snags. This odd-looking critter has ingenious arms and legs on this jig to help keep your rig above trouble.  It is the off-set jig eye and scalloped jig head that help you get your jig out of deep trouble with a tug. Tournament and weekend Bass anglers, walleye anglers, crappie and panfish fans - check out these bugs invented in 1968 because they are still effective even on modern rocky bottoms and shores! Then again, the rocks are 2,000 years older than the jigs.From surface-ripping to wiggling waggling and even rock-climbing lures, there are many heritage lure companies which should fill your box. What all three of these companies, Rapala, Heddon and Gapen have in common is that their founders fished, observed fish and then hand-crafted lures to have quality, strength and fish-catching powers.  This can’t necessarily be said of newer companies that sell products they didn’t invent, knocking-off others and rushing items into production. Instead, you should pick a company with the experience and fishing chops to put high-performing, tested and true tackle in your box. Some of these produced today are so nice, you might just put a couple on the wall. Then again, fishing them is so much more fun.

Visit, or and discover lures and tackle that rocks. If your box was filled with Rapalas, Heddon or Gapen crankbaits, jigs and tackle - your would have one potent collection of fishing weapons. Two of these companies have made some of my favorite bobbers but only one is still selling them!

Read more articles on pole fishing and float fishing right here in Adventure Sports Outdoors Magazine! If you are in the region and you want fishing lessons, private or group fishing lessons are near Chicago. Visit or call me at 630.235.2162.

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