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Dock Talk: 'Vintage' lures are true gems of the past

Pristine wooden lures with the original box are sought by serious lure collectors. Although this Holi-Comet, named for the hole drilled through its center, is weathered and worn, it still has value to the right person. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

For an avid angler, a walk through the tackle shop aisles is comparable to a child staring at the department store shelves; longing bewilderment.

Those flashy, bright-colored lures are like Las Vegas signs, tempting the observer with glittery facades hiding the wood, plastic or foam interior.

Ask even the most weathered angler and they can probably tell you the first lure they ever bought. Mine was a Helin Flatfish, purchased from Log Cabin Bait and Tackle (now the Velvet Antler restaurant) with a $5 gift certificate I won at Muskie Days.

That old lure caught a few nice bass and a pike or two, but soon only rested in the metal trays of my tacklebox as the collection of lures expanded.

Years later, a number of those artificial baits were relieved of their fishing duties and landed in a shoebox, now earning the distinction of being "old".

To some people an old lure is worthless; to others, it's more valuable than a new one of another make or model.

It's funny how quickly some of those lures I had as a kid turned into "old" lures. Or maybe it's simply that I've aged right along with them.

My grandfather saw how I started forming a fondness for collecting old lures and started a tradition of giving me one of his old wooden lures right out of his tacklebox as gifts for Christmas and birthdays. That fueled my interest in collecting less than perfect plugs, but rather those which showed a few scrapes and scars from years of use.

Traditional lure collectors, those who strive for complete collections spanning decades, often choose lures in mint condition, preferably accompanied with the original box.

In the past, collectors would find lures at garage sales, arriving earlier than the advertised start time to find items before others.

Another popular but pricier option was to find a fellow collector who was willing to sell or trade.

The hobby which once required phone calls, a rolodex of connections and a massive commitment of time to find the finest lures has been greatly simplified. For instance, my recent search for "vintage lures" on the online auction site ebay yielded 6,467 results. Sure, some of the lures deemed "vintage" are no more than a couple years old, but many are true gems from the past.

If choosing to embark on the mission of establishing a collection of old lures, become familiar with lure values and what conditions cause it to increase or decrease in price. A number of books giving approximate market values help to guide collectors from novice to expert and numerous websites devoted to vintage tackle collecting and trading make the process even easier.

Today I stare at my first lure, the Helin Flatfish, almost daily as it dangles from a make-shift display hanging above the computer in my home office. I could gaze at the combination of weathered wood and tarnished metal lures for hours. And although they might not have the flash and finish of today's lures, to me they're equally desirable.