Old school lures are the ones people have forgotten but still catch fish. Before you dismiss the lures understand fish have likely never seen or experienced these lures. It will be something new to them. The modern angler seems to be more focused on the newer hot techniques. They have forgotten about the tried and proven baits of yesterday. The few that have taken the time to find a few oldies but goodies are enjoying success.
Why a lure falls out of favor is uncertain but it is not usually due to being ineffective. These lures were productive for years. At some point, younger anglers decided to try the newer lures. A few of the old school lures required techniques requiring new skills or practicing how to use them. In other words, you need to learn how to fish the lure.
Today people including anglers are impatient and want results immediately. That may be the reason some lures fell out of favor. Regardless a few old school lures are worth a try in this high tech age where everything is new and fancier. Sometimes the old school lure with its basic approach is what a fish wants.
Some of the lures are well known and other lures are lost to history. Anglers know of Heddon, Arbogast, and Creek Chub. There are other lures you have never heard about. They are still available and productive. Sometimes the old school lures can be the new approach in fishing.
A few of the old lures may be valuable so check before using an old lure to see if it has collector value. These will be very old pre-1950 lures, lures with glass eyes, and some in very good condition. Having the original box is a big plus with collectors also. It only takes a few minutes online to discover if a lure has value to a collector so check. Since it is not uncommon for certain lures to sell for thousands of dollars. Rarity and condition determine the value of old lures.
Heddon Old School Lures
The Heddon company’s lures are the top producer in the old lure category. The lures date back to the 1890s although most were made in the 1940s or1950s. It is true a few are sought after collectibles but the best are still made today. This gives you the advantage to buy the lures. The way they are used will take a little time to learn but they catch fish.
Heddon Tiny Torpedo
The little torpedos made by Heddon include the teeny 1 1/2″, tiny 1 7/8″, and the baby 2 1/2 inch versions. It is a small twitch bait made for walking on the surface. The lure has a propeller attached to the rear to add a little flash and splash. A lighter tackle option or for smaller bass.
The tiny torpedo is available in many colors and patterns. Children can use the bait by using a slow steady retrieve, but a twitch motion is more effective quite often. This is still a top-selling lure in many areas because of its ease of use.
Heddon Zara Spook
A true classic of old school lures is the Zara Spook. Every old-timer has a few of these lying around in a tackle box. The lure is a walk the dog surface bait that catches bass, pike, striper, and muskies. These lures do have a learning curve associated with them but are deadly when used the right way. It is worth a little time and effort to learn how to use a walk the dog lure.
The lure comes in 3, 3 1/2, 4 1/2, and 5-inch models. The colors vary among the lengths with many being a frog or baitfish pattern. You will need to sharpen the hooks before use since the hooks tend to be a little dull from the factory. Once the hooks are sharp they are ready for catching a few lunkers.
Heddon Crazy Crawler
A lure with a different look and action due to the creeper wings. The lure wiggles on the surface making it noticeable to any fish. The creeper winged lures fell out of the spotlight years ago. They are making a comeback because of muskie anglers. A lure that gets muskies going will ignite quite a few basses.
The crazy crawler comes in two sizes of 1 3/4 and 2 3/8 inches and weighs 1/4 and 5/8 ounces. The color selection is bold on many with a few solid colors. The best part of the lure is the ease of use. You retrieve it like a Jitterbug or spinnerbait. It will do the rest.
Fred Arbogast Old School Lures
Fred Arbogast made lures, unlike any others at the time. The lures have unique actions fish are helpless against at times. Speak to anyone that has or still uses a Jitterbug and they will tell it is one of the best lures ever made. The new ones are plastic but many of the older wood models still exist. Check out E-bay and you can find a few, yet, prepare to due to a little repair work on the lures.
Arbogast Hula Popper
The lure is often sold with Jitterbugs in a 3- piece multi-pack. You can buy it by itself also. The lure uses a twitch and pop technique to achieve a productive action. Hula Poppers are a child’s first topwater lure in many instances since they are unlikely to get snagged. The technique additionally teaches the fundamentals for walking the dog techniques. Walking the dog is used with Zara spooks and others.
Hula Poppers come in lengths of 1 1/4 to 2 1/4 inches making them ideal for lighter tackle. This makes the lure easy to use for children. Plus anglers seeking light tackle challenges while bass fishing. The lure has a good color selection with many frog style patterns and the classic black or yellow.
The old king of topwater lures responsible for many angler’s first fish caught on topwater. The lure shimmies and chugs along the surface driving bass and pike insane during the summer. One of these lures worked in the shallows during the morning or evening is very productive. They will catch fish when other lures fail.
The Jitterbug comes in several models and sizes. The size ranges from 2 – 4 1/2 inches with a few between. The smaller sizes have many color patterns available. The larger ones only have a few colors. All the sizes work but a smaller model will catch more fish. A 2 – 2 1/2 inch Jitterbug is a must-have for a bass angler.
Arbogast Buzzin Plug
What this lure is meant to mimic is unknown to me but it works. The lure is an older style buzz bait that floats. Working the lure across the surface in weeds and brush brings the bass up to strike. The blades slap and buzz through the water with a large body behind. This creates the noise and a silhouette bass will notice.
The buzz plug is available in two models: the standard and junior. The smaller junior is preferred by many anglers since it weighs 5/8 of an ounce. The standard model weighs a full once requiring a medium-heavy rod for effective use. The models have a good selection of colors. Angles use yellow, frog, and black for being the go-to colors in many situations.
Creek Chub Old School Lures
The classic minnow or chub lure of yesterday. The lure is available on the market today in either wood or plastic. Creek Chub Pikies can be jerked, cranked, or trolled making them a versatile lure. In other words, you can work them slow or fast something uncommon in modern lures. The lures are also bulkier presenting a larger silhouette for the fish to see.
The drawback of the Creek Chub Pikie is the availability of sizes and colors. The lure will go to 4-7 feet when cast and retrieved or 10-12 feet when trolled. The six-inch model is ideal for pike or muskies. It is affordable compared to many other larger plugs.
The Other Old School Lures
Old school lures are not limited to topwater and big plugs. Well represented are the metal lures with a few spinning types and spoons. People quit using these lures years ago. These lures were some of the best-producing lures in the 1950s and 1960s and still catch fish today if you use them. The lures are inexpensive and easier to use also.
The beetle spin is used for crappies today but catches anything. Use the Jig spinner frames and add a jig head with a 2 1/2 grub tail and it catches smallmouth and walleye. The frames can be hard to find in some areas. Buy them online or buy enough when you do find them. A dynamic little lure few anglers will even try.
You can buy the lures completed as shown in various colors. The Jig spinner frames are a better option. Allowing an angler to use different weight jig heads and any soft plastic they choose. As a result, you will have a small spinnerbait that works in any situation and only costs about two dollars each. It is better than people realize on smallmouth and walleyes.
Johnson Silver Minnow
I remember catching my first pike on the Johnson Silver Minnow spoon at the age of ten. The lure is still available and copied by many manufacturers today. It is a simple casting spoon with a single hook.
The spoon comes with a weed guard. It can work in cover with little chance of hanging up. As compared to classic casting spoons with treble hooks.
Likely one of the first lures made was a casting spoon. The shape creates a wobble on the retrieve and flutters while falling. The design is simple and so is the use. They are a cast and retrieve lure and there are trolling versions available also.
The older spoons were limited to silver and gold but today they come painted in many colors. The red devil is an old classic that came painted red and white. Spoons come in many sizes from 1/8 to 3 or more ounces. The chart below shows common sizes for freshwater fish.
|Weight in Ounces||Length in Inches|
|1 1/2||4 7/8|
How to Use Old School Lures
The old school lures are easy to use except the few that are walk the dog styles of lures. The lures are noted about the retrieve style needed for each. The cast and retrieve lures are simple enough to use. The walk the dog lures need to be learned for effective use.
Old School Lures Walk the Dog Technique
Anglers that have not used a walk the dog lure are missing a great skill for bass, pike, striper, and muskie fishing. The lure zig and zags on the surface imitating a distressed baitfish. If you have used glide baits it is similar action except on the surface. The lures use a similar technique to jerk baits but is more refined and steadier.
The lure is cast out and retrieved by twitching the rod tip. The amount of twitch can vary achieving more or less glide. The trick is getting the timing down on the twitching action. When done right the lure swims back and forth on the surface. It will zig and zag. The only way to learn the technique is through practice.
The old lures will catch fish but some anglers like them for sentimental value. The best of the era are still produced and worth trying if you want something different. A fish will see many of the old lures as something new since anglers do not use them much anymore. The lures are easy to find online, flea markets, or garage sales. Although buying new ones, they will not need restoring into usable condition.
Keeping fishing simple for tight lines and bragging rights