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What's in a design?

February 08, 2022 1 Comment

Picture of an Old Dog Lures Pug Cone Popper

When it comes to lure design it certainly can be an emotive and controversial topic.  I’ve been producing lures now since the early 1980’s and I can honestly say that when it comes to design I’ve never had an original idea!  Nearly all our designs are based on an existing concepts and collaboration with an angler who wants that concept to do something “extra."

Our first lure was the 4 inch Killalure (4KL) it was based on a profile used by Norm Edwards, I think, and a discussion I had with Vic McCristal about flat sided lures.  At the time I wanted a lure to use on the end of the Townsville Breakwater so I based my profile on Norm's lure and developed it to do what I wanted it to do. (Very crudely I might add.)

Second came the 4”Barra Bait (4BB). It was based on the Old Heddon Tiger profile, as were many other lures of that time and quite a few still being made today.                 

Then came the 3”Barra Bait (3BB), it came about through a request from the Northern Territory (N.T.) blokes to make a lure that would work in the lagoons in the N.T.  The profile was again a Heddon Tiger and the actual finished shape was a manufacturing compromise. That lure was an outstanding success in the Barra market across the top of Australia. (And still is)


 The classic shape for a lure pictured above.

The Heddon Company was founded in 1902 to sell the lures, originally made by hand in the Heddon family kitchen in Dowagiac, Michigan. By 1904 they had a sales distributor in Canada and a new factory in Dowagiac. By 1950 the Heddon brand name was well known. In their growth years, the company also made rods, reels and other peripheral fishing gear.”

The next one was the 6” Barra Bait (6BB). It came about after Col 'Cords' Cordingley, who was a dyed in the wool 6”Nilsie user asked me if I could make him a lure similar in profile to the Nilsie only have a stronger bib setup. He and I worked to get that lure the way he wanted it to work and the rest is history. (In my opinion the 6”Nilsie was, and still is, one of the best big barra lures on the market except for its strength.)

Picture of Nils Master lure

 Photo above of the 6" Nils Master lure made in Finland.

“Designed in 1965 the Nils Master lure range has developed into a wide range of different models, sizes and effective colour choices”  

Then there was the Jewie lure.  That was based on the Cordell Big “O."  Terry Dunphy of Shimano fame used to use the Big “O” off the rocks in the Coffs area and when they stopped making or importing them he asked me to make him some from wood. He and I worked together to get that lure to do what he wanted and again the rest is history.

Cordell “Big O” a classic lure profile.

Picture of the Killalure Jewie Lure

Photo above: Cotton Cordell "Big O."

“He (Cotton Cordell) established his first fishing tackle manufacturing company, Cotton Cordell Inc., in 1952. The company manufactured lures for fishing tackle giants like Pflueger, Creek Chub and Heddon.

Cordell began branding his own lures in 1954, and many of those lures are still popular today.

The story is the same for most of our lure designs except for the poppers and in particular the “cone popper”.  That design was given to Killalure by a prominent tackle retailer in far North Queensland back in the 1980’s and they were claimed that the lure was no longer being produced and asked could they be made for them. The origin of that design has remained a mystery until now.

Recently I was approached by a gentleman called Peter Munt who claimed that the Cone popper was his original design. With 40 years in the industry a healthy dose of scepticism, a fair bit of experience with “design” and knowledge of Intellectual Property I was reluctant to believe his claim because 30+ years of production of that popper by others had elapsed and no one had ever stepped forward to contest ownership of the design. Subsequently Peter and I exchanged some correspondence over a couple of weeks and he told me his story of how the popper came into existence which I’d like to share with you now.

“I am responsible for the cone popper, it was influenced by a dished out front popper originally designed by Billy George from Tully, I recognise this influence if and whenever I am asked about the origin of my cone poppers…

Late in 1980 I purchased a timber lathe and commenced turning out poppers, initially following Billy Gorge’s scalloped out front (no one else was making such poppers) design for use by myself. I experimented and added the flange on the front and began selling them. I sold many of these cone poppers, no one else copied them and/or sold them at the time…

When I returned to Maryborough in 1982 I ramped up production of all of my lure models including the cone popper (due to taking on a partner and building a copy lathe).

For a period of time Roly Newton (TackleWorld Tully) purchased “all” of the lures that I could produce including my three different size cone poppers. As he could not sell all of the lures that I supplied through this store in Tully, he on sold many including the cone poppers to an outlet in Cairns (you mention a prominent retailer in Cairns).

When I cut back on production (due to my full time job as Forest Ranger in Charge, Fraser Island) Roly could no longer supply my cone poppers to them.”

I can’t say this for sure but its probable Billy got his inspiration from America where they have been producing cupped face surface lures well before my time and I know a lot of American lures were imported and sold through the fledgling tackle trade back in the 60’s and 70’s  In fact a Creek Chub Bait Co surface popper with very similar characteristics to the Cone popper was sold at auction in 2019 for in excess of $8,000 USD. (Note: Be careful who you sell your old lures to!)

“In 1916, Henry Dills, Carl Heinzerling, and George Schulthess established the company, which became one of the country’s leading manufacturers of artificial fishing lures. Crafted by a largely female workforce, the high quality lures featured a patented spray-painted scale pattern and metal lip, giving them a lifelike appearance and motion to help attract fish.”

Interesting side note: How many lures have a “spray-painted scale pattern and metal lip?"

You can see from the above that design is very much development and collaboration, we all build on someone else’s foundation and if you know the back story of the design it’s just common curtesy to give credit where credit is due. In this case Peter has convinced me his story is creditable and he was involved in the development of the cone popper, building on Billy Gorge’s lure to get it to what it was when Killalure started reproducing it back in the 1980’s.  As a matter of curtesy I’d like to acknowledge that the current shape sold by Old Dog Lures is where Peter left off in the development process of the cone popper. Since Old Dog started reproducing this lure there has been no further development except the addition of 3D eyes.  Thank you Peter for sharing your story with us.

For those of you who are genuinely on the cutting edge and developing never before seen concepts you might find this information helpful from IP Australia

1 Response

William Bryan Parker
William Bryan Parker

February 21, 2022

Great article mate 👍Enjoyed the history,Cheers Biro 🍻🇦🇺🚣🏻

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