Honest Appraisals on Fishing Tackle
Looking for MN Tackle and Company History
Retired Lures
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Lure of the Month
December 2021
Each month, I feature fishing tackle on my website that I find interesting.  If you have a lure that you would like to see featured or have any comments on the lures I have already featured, please let me know.  I would like to hear from you!
Fred Keeling started his lure making business in 1914 after he took over the J. L. Clark Company in Rockford, IL…the makers of the “Expert” wooden minnow.

Fred Keeling was very creative and developed several lures he sold alongside the minnows. He developed a bait he called the “Tom Thumb Wiggler” that used a unique keel that he received a patent for in 1920.

The Tom Thumb was so popular, that it helped him compete with the much larger lure manufactures of the day. So much so, that he came out with several other lures using the “Tom” name, such as the “Slim Tom”, “Baby Tom”, Surface Tom”, “General Tom”, and many more. The lure featured above in the “Little Tom”.

Many of his baits featured his patented keel and are easy to identify as they are all stamped with the 1920 patent date. It makes you wonder, did he design this “keel” for a play on his last name?

Many types of boxes were made for these baits, but the most common box found for the Tom lures is the red and white box pictured. In the center of the box (where there is a blank space), the name of the bait inside would be stamped.

Keeling had many color schemes for his lures and some are very brilliant. However, the paint quality wasn’t always the best as he didn’t always primer the wood before adding the final color, so many times you find these baits with a lot of paint loss.

Keeling’s business was doing great…and then came the great depression. Sales plummeted and Keeling was forced to try to sell his company. In 1937, he tried to sell his company to Heddon…with no luck. Sadly, Fred Keeling died one year later. His brother then sold the company to H&I in 1938.

Little Tom
Fred C. Keeling Company
Rockford, IL

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Welcome to my Retired Lures Website!

This site features antique and vintage fishing lures as well as some other bits of information.

If you have information you wish to share, especially on the history of MN tackle companies, please contact me. 
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