'Folk art' fishing lures an important part of our culture
Folk art simply implies homemade. Decades ago such efforts were quite common, but for reasons other than making a dollar. People back then usually made their own fishing lures because they could not afford to buy them. Fishing at that time was done much more for food than enjoyment. Much the opposite of why most people fish today. There is a multitude of individuals making their own fishing lures today and the style, design and quality far surpasses what was made many years ago. Techniques are more efficient and effective today due to modern technology. There is something quite special about making your own lure and using it to catch fish.
There is no exact science or method to identifying folk art fishing lures. After all, they are called such because the maker is unknown. However, there are a number of aspects to look for. In my experience, many folk art lures are copies of successful lures from companies like Creek Chub, South Bend, Heddon and the like. This is where knowledge of lures such as the Mousie, River Runt, Jitterbug, Lazy Ike and others assists you. Such folk art lures rarely have the style of commercial companies. The hardware (hooks, etc.) are not as refined, most lures were made of wood, rough surface as they were usually were carved with a knife, metal lips can be crudely bent, simple eye lets were used to attach hooks and certainly the paint jobs scream of hand made. Most folk art lures will be in poor condition for a number of reasons. I believe the top two are use and lack of concern to preserve these lures. Rust will be all over the metal parts, paint will be cracked and the lures will look a bit odd compared to what you typically see today. That should not be taken as an insult to these homemade lures -- quite the opposite. I admire those people who used their own creativity to design a fishing lure which they believed with strong conviction would provide food for their family. It's interesting to note today, most fishing lures sell the fisherman or woman, not the fish. We all know how important initial appearances are to our buying decisions. Lures today are so realistic you want to touch them to make sure they are not real. Thus, many of the old lure designs are no longer used today. It's as if they are not flashy enough in their designs. To bad because those old lure will still work today. Many years ago, people made lures and if they didn't catch fish, they were likely discarded. There wasn't the luxury of time or awareness of future value. People were most concerned in a lure catching fish, not how it looked. It's worth mentioning, some folk art lures were made from blanks produced by companies like Herter's, formerly in Waseca, Minnesota. For very little money you could buy kits, which included the wood lure and all necessary components. You need to know this because such kits resulted in a more commercial looking lure, even though it was put together and painted by a lay person.
I search for such lures out of respect for the makers' effort, conservative attitude and desire to make a functional item with their own hands. We often forget how difficult it must have been during the depression and years that followed. There had to be a sense of necessity for the maker to use their lure to provide food for the family during such lean times. Value of such lures is primarily in the eyes of the beholder. Most vendors will sell them for $5 to $10 each. Flea markets are a great place to find these lures. When you give thought to the importance of these lures in our culture, you obtain a better understanding and appreciation for these uniquely beautiful lures. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.