This is the true story of an unlikely gruesome genius, flesh hanging off hooks and people dredging a lake.
Bud Stewart has been called Michigan's Legendary Lure Maker (the title of a book as well) and Michigan is proud to claim him as their own.
Michigan is a state surrounded by water, with even more dotting the interior, and for many fishing is art, skill, hobby and life. As such, the state tends to bring out the best in carved fishing decoys and lures.
Oscar Peterson was one carver, and his lovely ice fishing decoys from the 1920s and 1930s regularly sell for thousands of dollars.
The other was Bud.
Bud's great invention, rather Bud's great concept, was the creation of the wounded lure. That's right. Wounded! What attracts a predator to prey? The weakest in the pack. The wounded.
Bud's genius was to create the crippled lure. His fishing lures were painted in places fish blood red, and often even WEIGHTED to appear wounded. Bloody messes which would float on an angle, a seemingly easy gulp for a bigger fish. Some, as this one, even had little plastic trails of blood.
Bud Stewart's lures were literally killing machines. Painted with deception in mind. Trained to hunt. They came out of the box ready to snare and snag any mouth (or finger) close enough to graze them. It is said Bud's lures were the last factory made lures which were hand-painted.
Could fish see color? Apparently, although they haven't tested every species. Do they sense the infirm among their brothers? Who cares. Fishing is a combination of superstition and luck. If a crippled lure catches a fish, it will be used again.
The lure above is more relic than art. It was an earner...it provided many a fish dinner for a Michigan family. Well-used and used well. Amazingly, it has even been repaired! Imagine repairing such a tiny, utilitarian object when so many efficient and modern replacements were so readily available.
Later in life, having been recognized by his peers and the collecting community, Stewart continued to make a few lures a year, but then for folk art aficionados as much as for fisherman. They stayed on tiny pedestals rather than lines, and caught only the attention of other carvers.
Years ago, on a visit to Michigan, and having read about Bud, I went to the area he was best known and asked around to see if any were for sale. Folks said nope. I said maybe someone should dredge the lakes to see if any old ones were caught in the weeds. Folks said they already had.
Bud Stewart Fishing Lure (Injured Minnow) Collection Jim Linderman