I didn’t really appreciate the full potential of Heddon Chuggers until the early 1990’s after losing my favorite Chugger Jr. to an angry black bass in a Nacogdoches, TX farm pond.
After morning classes at Stephen F. Austin State University, my friends and I would meet to discuss fishing reports and new pond discoveries. There was one pond in particular that had not been fished, so off we went. After parking down the road and jumping a fence or two, we were soon catching bass after bass using a black shore Heddon Chugger Jr. As the sun was setting, I made one last cast over a submerged tree….chug, chug, chug...SPLASHHHH!!!! RRRRR!!!!! POP!!!!!! My favorite (and last) chugger was history as a huge black bass took it under the log.
Losing that last chugger didn’t bother me so much until I learned how scarce they had become. My search soon turned into frustration as I drove from tackle store to store, looking for replacement chuggers. The shop owners informed me that whatever left on the rack was it, as chuggers were discontinued…This prompted me to STOP casting my favorite topwater and start saving them for what is now my prized collection.
One year later while visiting Shreveport, Louisiana I was visiting an antique store when I noticed a display of lures hanging over my head. As I looked closer, I was amazed that the display was full of chuggers, and black shore chuggers at that! I quickly paid $3 each and got in touch with the owners, NFLCC members Ed and Toni Moore. They were the nicest tackle collectors I had ever met and soon they were inviting me to their home where they’d share volumes of information about old lures and lure collecting in general.
I thought my collection was becoming quite mature as I piled up multiple colors that I now know are common: white shore, yellow shore, silver shore, black shore, and bullfrog-colored chuggers. I had no idea that Heddon made a gazillion other chugger colors! With the Moore’s help, I soon realized there were so many more colors out there than anybody knew existed.
My First “Tough” Chugger
I couldn’t sleep the night after I forked-out what I thought was a TREMENDOUS price of $20 for a white snakeline (WSL) chugger. I thought that had to be the tops that anybody or any fool must have paid for a plastic lure…I remember calling another chugger collector here in Texas soon afterwards who was liquidating his collection. I heard him mention the fact that he had about 2-300 colors to sell and was getting $20 each for them. As I was gasping for air, I just could not believe or justify such outrageously high prices----but later realized how outrageously LOW that was! I later met with other “veteran” Heddon plastic collectors who were paying 10 times that amount for the tougher colors, so I had to quickly reconsider what I would give if I was to move forth in my collection. Looking back, I shake my head at all of the dozens of rare $20 chuggers I laughed at—nowadays a steal!
People constantly ask me what chugger or what color I am hunting for. Well, I am not sure I or anybody else will ever know how many colors were produced, or if it’s even possible to find them all – so many colors were special or custom ordered…However, there are two (2) pictured above that have eluded me over and over: The Pikescale (M) White Belly and the 2) Spotted Orange (SO). I know they’re out there, I’ve just been a minute late or in the right place at the wrong time! But that’s lure collecting…the search is half the fun!
Since becoming an official NFLCC member, we attend as many NFLCC shows our schedules allow and still excited to find our favorite Cordell Spots and chuggers. I’ve also put together a website (www.heddonspooks.com) to share with our friends and other collectors our lures for sale and trade. It’s been a rewarding experience meeting all of the old tackle fanatics like me and learning more about other lures. I’ve even taken a part-time gig selling lures and bait at a local tackle shop on Galveston’s West Bay-- one of the perks includes free bait and tackle!
If you can’t find me on the water chasing redfish and trout I’m probably somewhere hunting for old tackle. Hopefully we can make more shows in the coming months and share with others our stories and collections. If not, you’ll know that I’ve finally gotten accepted into the Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden Academy this fall and will be patrolling the water and woods around Texas real soon!
I am sure I speak for everyone when I wish Todd the best of luck in his new career as a Texas game warden!
-- Dr. Todd