Worden’s Combination Minnow
F. G. Worden (South Bend Bait Co)
South Bend, IN
Late 1890’s to the 1920s
I selected this month’s “Lure of the Month” because of the patent date stamped on many of these lures -- Dec.29.3 – which is December 29th, 1903. A good friend of mine is celebrating a “milestone” birthday on December 29th, so I thought I would feature a lure with Dec 29th in common with her (but certainly not the year!).
The exact date when F. G. Worden started making fishing lures is uncertain. Many believe it was around 1894. Worden had a unique feature on most of his lures…the hair from the tail of a deer that simulated a minnow swimming when pulled through the water. This design was decades before the “rubber skirt” was invented and lures with this similar feature are still used today. This design made Worden famous, and earned him the nickname of “Bucktail”.
“Bucktail’s” most popular lure was the “Worden Combination Minnow”. This lure was made out of wood with a tail made out of hair. Due to this new design, his business boomed. In 1903, he worked out an agreement with P. Juneod & Co. and began using their propellers on his minnows. These spinning propellers were stamped with the patent date of Dec 29th, 1903 on one half of the prop and “Worden” on the other. Advertisements from this time point out the “new patented spinner” to potential buyers.
Also around this time, Worden made an agreement with yet another lure company, Shakespeare, which gave them the rights to sell their own “bucktail lure”. This lure was named “The Worden Bucktail”, even though it was made by Shakespeare, a competitor of Worden’s. Was the name of the lure an agreement the two companies made…or was it a display of respect put forth by Shakespeare?
Sometime around 1910, The Worden Bucktail Bait Co. became the South Bend Bait Co (named after the city they were now located in). The exact reason and details of the name and ownership change is still unknown at this time. Even with the company name change, the Worden Combination Minnow was still being manufactured and sold. The design changed little, except the propellers were now different and not the 1903 Juneod Spinner. Different hook configurations were also offered.
Another new feature on some of these lures is an example of more partnerships between lure companies. Some Worden Combination Minnows (now made by South Bend Bait Co) now featured “Bings” weedless hooks. This was a unique hook design patented by a man named A. F. Bingenhiemer from Wisconsin.
The Worden Combination Minnow continued to be manufactured until sometime in the 1920s. Minnows that were cheaper to manufacture, the depression, and new designs such as the diving lip ended the run of this and many other underwater minnows.
Looking at this picture of the three Worden Combination Minnows:
The top lure is an early “no-eye” version with Juneod Propellers made from 1904 – 1906. The bucktail from this lure has came off, which is very common with these old lures.
The middle lure is nearly the same style as the top one pictured, except this one features real glass eyes. This lure is from around 1908 – 1910.
The bottom lure is a single hook version made by the new South Bend Bait Co. This lure has the new propeller and Bings weedless hooks. This lure is from around 1914 – 1919.
The Worden Combination Minnow is a perfect example of a lure with a unique feature made by an early manufacturer that worked with many other companies at the time it existed. Present day lures with skirts made out of hair or rubber owe a debt to the man that started it all, Mr. “Bucktail” Worden.