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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of Elman "Bud" Stewart

Photo of Elman "Bud" Stewart fishing
Photo by Dave Kenyon

Photo of Elman "Bud" Stewart with fishing decoys

Elman "Bud" Stewart
1986-1987 awardee, Alpena (Alpena County), fish decoy carver

Fish lure maker Elman "Bud" Stewart (1913-1999) was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, but he lived in Michigan from the age of four when his family moved to Detroit. While living in Flint and Fenton he cultivated his love of a variety of out-door-sports, especially fishing, and it was not long before he was working as a fishing guide.

Disappointed in commercially available lures, Bud began making lures in 1920. He was only 14 when he whittled a crippled mouse lure that proved to attract bass. Other fishers soon wanted copies of the crippled mouse lure, and Bud began a lifetime of inventing and selling lures. He was insistent on creating lures that would be realistic in the water. He claims to have discarded more than 10,000 shapes in his quest to achieve effective lures. Among his most popular selling lures were the "Pad Hopper," "Bloody Chicken," "Crippled Wiggler," "Muskies," "Horseface," and "Crippled Frog." By 1933, Bud had established the Bud Stewart Tackle Company. He marketed his lures primarily at sports shows, where he would work up to 13 hours a day talking to customers about his lures. His sales pitches were memorable. A typical spiel was "Goofy things, torpedoes, spinners on front and back-there's no such thing if you look in the lake. There's 100 companies making door knobs, funny shapes, and broom handles. They put a big eye on it, give it a special name, and you will find some fisherman will buy it. Fish are susceptible at times to strange critters, but we have to refine the bait so the fish cannot see anything artificial." (1)

So successful was Bud's business that he claimed to have sold more than 100,000 of just one design across the country before he retired in 1980. He was named a "legendary angler" in 1984 by the National Fishing Hall of Fame at Hayward, Wisconsin, and he participated at the 1987 Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C. and at the 1987 Festival of Michigan Folklife in East Lansing.

(1) Stewart, Elman in Kenneth L. Peterson, "Bud Stewart: Michigan's Legendary Baitmaker," Michigan Sportsman, Vol. 10, No. 3, April 1985. pp.16-18. and
Stewart, Elman interview with C. Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell, Alpena, Michigan. 7 May 1985.

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