February 24, 2011
Vintage Tackle Contest: Old-School Mud Puppy
By Joe Cermele
I have to admit, I'm having a blast looking through all the photos that keep pouring in for our weekly vintage tackle contest. There are rods, reels, books, gaffs, nets...tell you the truth, picking a weekly winner is no easy task. Of all the different kinds of gear I'm seeing, lures outnumber the rest, and although I struggled to pick one for this week, I kept coming back to the Mud Puppy below. The photo was sent by Rebecca Schoon, who wrote:
I found this in an old tackle box in an old boathouse at a place I worked on Lake Vermilion, Minnesota. The Mud Puppy is really neat. The tail piece rotates when being pulled along the water's surface. The wooden body detaches from the hook when a fish strikes so that the fish won't have any leverage to spit the hook. The included paper document says that you just go pick up the floating wood body after you land the fish.
Rebecca, that's a sweet find, but can vintage tackle expert Dr. Todd Larson of The Whitefish Press and "Fishing For History" blog make it even sweeter with a high-dollar appraisal? Let's find out. Dr. Todd says...
"Many Muskie anglers consider the Mud Puppy, invented by Mosinee, Wisconsin, resident Constance C. Roberts in 1920, one of the best muskie lures ever made. Roberts received Patent #1,698,735 in 1929 for his lure, which has three distinguishing features. First, it has a rotating tail (there were many rotary head baits on the market by the 1920s but almost none with revolving tails). Second, as you noted, the hooks were connected to a wire that pulled out of the lure's body. Third, it was hand carved and hand painted. There are many variations of the Mud Puppy; because of the painted eyes and smaller tail, yours could date anywhere from the 1940s to the 1960s and is valued at $30-$50 in the box. Older glass-eyed versions can be worth over $100. It is still being made today, a testament to its iconic status. Click here for a picture of four different versions of the Mud Puppy."
Not bad at all for a lure plucked from an old boat house, Rebecca. If I found that Mud Puppy, I'd display it, but if you're looking for a little pocket loot, perhaps it has eBay written all over it! No matter what you do with it, you've earned a new pair of pliers. Keep an eye on your mailbox.
If you've already sent me photos of your vintage tackle, keep checking every Thursday to see if I chose it for an appraisal by Dr. Todd. If you haven't and want to enter the contest, email photos of your old tackle to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with your name, mailing address, and story of how you acquired the gear. If I use it in a Thursday post, you get a pair of Berkley Aluminum Pliers (above) worth $50.