Antique Lures Made in Stillwater, MN

Stillwater is known for its rich history of early settlements, logging and steamboats.

But did you know that Stillwater was the area several fishing lure manufactures called home in the early to mid 1900s? Three of these manufactures are The St. Croix Bait Company, National Bait Company and The Scandinavian Bait Company.

Little is known about the fishing lure called the "Neon Fire Fly" that was manufactured in Stillwater by the St. Croix Bait Company. This could be one of the earliest lures ever made of pyralin (plastic) in the history of all of lure making. It is assumed to be manufactured in the late 1920s or early 1930s. This unique lure featured a front half that was clear and contained several ounces of liquid mercury. This mercury caused the lure to glow in order to attract fish, thus the name of the lure. Not many of these lures are assumed to have been made as they are rarely found now and this may be a good thing for the environment's sake! This lure is valued at about $40 now. With the old and rare box…it is worth $200 or maybe a little more, depending on the lure’s condition. As you can see, the addition of the box with the lure brings the lure value up as the box can be more rare than the lure itself. Most boxes were thrown away when the lure was purchased and many lure collectors value the box and catalog inside for the history and notes that are contained on both.

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Now all three of these lure companies have been out of business for over half of a century. With them, a lot of the history of these lures has disappeared also. The information provided in this article is assumed to be correct and any addition information you can add or any corrections you can make would be great appreciated. It is my hope that maybe, just maybe, there are a few people in Stillwater that used to work for one of these companies (or others not mentioned) or somehow might have more information on them.

If so, please help me preserve the history of these lures by calling me at 612-889-2234 or emailing me at with any additional information you can share. I would love to hear your stories and information for my research or to see any lures or other fishing related items that you may have.

-as found in the Stillwater Gazette, 2007
The "Bass King" and the "Little Bass King" were manufactured by the National Bait Company around the mid 1920s. These two lures were similar, but were just in different sizes. Features of these lures include a wood body, unusual long grooves cut into the sides to give it "wiggle" on retrieve and it was available in several different colors (although red and white was by far the most popular). Also, the box states it has a "metallic core" inside the lure. I am not about to cut one open to see what is inside. National Bait Company also had a contest offering $100 in prizes for the biggest fish caught on their lure, which was a lot of money back then. This lure in very good condition is worth about $40 today for the common red and white lure. Other colors can bring slightly more. With the box, price would go up to around $150 to $200.
Sometime in the 1930s or 40s, someone left the National Bait Company and started their own company (as rumor has it). They modified the Bass King slightly and called their new lure "The Scandinavian Sockaroo". It was manufactured by the Scandinavian Bait Company which was also located in Stillwater. The lure was advertised as "The bait with plenty of vim, vigor and viggle", spoken like a true Scandinavian. As far as I know, this bait was only made in red and white, the hottest lure color of the day (and arguably still is most preferred). The present day price for this lure is similar to the Bass King, $30 for the lure in very good condition to $150 to $200 for the lure and box together.