Geneva School

Cassopolis, Michigan | C.1895

Photo Credit: Samuel Lima

In Southwestern Michigan, the quiet Cass County is an unassuming region teeming with wildlife and small lakes. At the turn of the 20th Century, however, Cass County was “schooling” the world in all things fishing thanks to one avid angler. 

At the ripe age of 15, James Heddon arrived in Cass County from New York, and quickly became enthralled not with aquatic creatures but with bees. Studying bee culture and inventing various innovations in beekeeping in the 1880s, Heddon would become one of the top honey producers in the United States. And along with his honey-making prowess, he would unwittingly invent a game-changing tool for modern fishing. 

According to the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, James Heddon “knew bass.” Waiting for a friend at Mill Pond in Dowagiac, Heddon accidentally dropped a piece of wood into the water and upon it floating, realized that bass fish began to try to eat the wooden object. And thus the “Dowagiac” fishing lure was born. The round-tapered lure would lead to many highly successful fishing trips throughout the country, and by the 1920s, The Heddon & Sons Co. was the largest producer of fish tackle in the world. 

Whether with bees or bass, one could argue Heddon had a “Midas Touch.” We may need to go back to school to find a similar success story for ourselves.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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