James Heddon’s Sons and Sisson

1988 Heddon Lee Sisson ad.

1988 Heddon Lee Sisson ad.

Okay, yeah I’m on a lure rant this week but I’m not sorry for it. It was the mystique of the bass lure that got me interested in bass fishing to begin with. Not only that but anglers have been carving imitators out of wood for millennia in order to trick the worthy adversary, the bass, so without bass lures, we’d have a much different history to tell. So, for the third day in a row we’re going to talk about bass lures, this time one of the old horses in the stall and one of the contemporary ones. Specifically Heddon and Lee Sisson.

We all know the Heddon name and that they’re one of the longest living lure manufacturers in the United States. They’ve made some of the most iconic lures ever designed, held the title of the “lure that caught the world record bass” for over 70 years and have beat the test of time for over 100 years.

We also know the name of Lee Sisson, maker of the first deep-diving crankbait, Balgey’s Lure design guru and probably the most decorated wood lure designer to come out of the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century.

What I bet you may not know, or remember, is Sisson had a stint designing wood lures for Heddon in the late ‘80s. I know I didn’t remember that until perusing a late ‘80s Bassmaster the other day. In fact, the ad really confused me when I first glanced at it. There was a typical Sisson body style crankbait coupled with a Sisson-esque paint job but below that were what appeared to be a Heddon Dying Flutter and two Spooks. The synapses in my brain were misfiring and when I got that under control, I read the ad.

Yep, they were all Lee Sisson-made baits but they were made for Heddon by The Man himself.

I honestly can’t say I ever saw one of these baits up close and personal and barely remember the ad. In fact, it’s entirely possible that I never even saw that. One thing I can say, though, is I wish I had some of those wooden Spooks today.

Upon seeing the ad I let my fingers do the walking on my keyboard, www.eBay.com, and typed in Heddon Lee Sisson Zara Spook and was greeted by one result – an auction that ended on May 5, 2013. The person doing the selling had three Spooks for sale, one of which was a Sisson wooden bait. The winner got the three baits for the total sum of $4.82 USD. I was 53 days late and $4.82 short. You ever feel like a putz? I do.

Anyway I am so interested in this find I am seeking some history on Sisson’s work with Heddon. Bass Fishing Archives writer and resident weird tackle freak Pete Robbins has not only fished with Sisson but has spent a lot of time with him in the recent past so I have him on the hunt. I’d be surprised if our resident brainiac Brian doesn’t know something too. In the event that they don’t, does anyone out there know more about this interesting coupling of pairing of masters? If you do, please let us (me) know.

  • Brian

    Terry –

    Unfortunately I can’t add too much to the story. Right after his 12 year stint with Bagley (1985), he started collaborating with a variety of companies including Heddon, Strike King, Mann’s, Arbogast, Bass Pro and Cabela’s, not ot mention starting his own company.

    One thing that caught my eye from the ad is the knife and partially finished carved bait. Even the ad states “hand crafted wood”, but Lee actually invented a machine that mass produced wooden crankbait bodies. His brother was the one who built it. Suposedly, there were only 8 made as of late, and two of those eneded up in Japan. Another went to offspring of Fred Young who started making wood baits, and W2F reported that Zoom/Chambers/WEC had a Sisson designed machine.

    Guessing Pete will be able to track down a much more thorough piece on the subject after talking to Lee.