Featuring these Creek Chub Bait Co’s series:
#5100 Dingbat, #5200 Baby Dingbat, and #5300 Husky Dingbat.
The story behind the “Dingbat” will never be completely known, but through the help of avid CCBCo collectors, we have documents and a letter that will, although somewhat conflicting, explain the origins of these hair baits. One source states Austin “Toad” Van Houton, a long time employee of Creek Chub, was the driving force behind the Dingbat. Yet, the official patent papers for the #5100 series Dingbat shows only Sam Davenport as the official inventor (the patent was then assigned by him to CCBCo). Sam was a sales manager for Creek Chub from the 1920s to the early 1950s. Later, company officer Harry Heinzerling wrote to a collector stating that Davenport and Van Houton collaborated on the lure! The letter went on to state the name was derived from a friend of Van Houten who was given “Dingbat” as a nickname when he was a young man. This man didn’t actually work for Creek Chub. His given name was Earl Weaver (fig. 1, an image of Earl). His sobriquet was borrowed from an early comic strip that appeared from 1910-1916 entitled “The Dingbat Family” by George Harriman.
These are the first bait casting series that included horse hair as part of the lure’s attraction. They extended from the tail section of the bait and represented legs. The #5100 Dingbats are considered the most available of the three series, followed by the #5200 Baby Dingbats. By far, the rarest series is the #5300 Husky Dingbats. All three series were cataloged in the same seven colors: #00 Pikie, #01 Perch, #02 Red Head & White, #04 Golden Shiner, #13 All Black, #18 Silver Flash, #19 Frog. These patterns won’t be repeated under each type of Dingbat.
(fig. 2, catalog colors in the three series).
Three other Original Series were sold with the Dingbat moniker: #5400 Surface Dingbat, F1300 Fly Rod Dingbat (smaller body with a #6 hook), and #1400 Fly Rod Dingbat (slightly larger body with a #2 hook). A plastic #5300-P Dingbat series was sold in the 1960s-1970s, but totally unrelated to the Original Series baits shown here.
C.1938, Creek Chub offered retailers a countertop poster depicting an angler in a boat who was catching a huge bass on a Pikie lure. This poster also announces the newest additions to their line of baits – the Dingbat family. The three series covered here are illustrated plus the #5400 Surface Dingbat and the two Fly Rod Dingbats. (fig. 3)
Every color was offered for the entire 1937-1958 production period. #5100 Dingbats were listed as 2”, 5/8 oz. lures. These baits were sometimes listed as Ding Bat and more often as Dingbat. Evidently, the bait’s profile combined with the spiffy color-coordinated horse hair legs and popular catalog colors made quite an impact on sportsmen, because based on today’s availability, sales must have been brisk. The earliest examples had an unimproved (non-reinforced) lip and usually a stenciled “Dingbat” on the lure’s back. The next transition was the substitution of a ridged improved lip instead of the earlier type. By 1950, “Dingbat” was gold imprinted on the belly instead of the back stencil.
Today, all hair baits (including series other than these three) have a strong collector following. Some catalog colors are very easy to find, even in outstanding condition. Others will bedevil you for a long time due to limited demand from anglers of that era. A few tough examples are: #05 Dace, #24 Redwing Blackbird, and #25 White Scale. Fortunately, these rarer catalog colors are standard in other hair bait series, but not those featured here.
Boxes for most #5100 series Dingbats can be located with a reasonable effort. You can usually find the two piece cardboard labeled boxes, rather than the end stamped containers, if you are a little more patient.
Specialists have found a nice selection of special orders within this design. The latest CCBCo book by Dr. Harold Smith is devoted to Specials. Sixteen different Dingbat examples are depicted. It’s possible to have Specials with hardware changes, but most are special order colors. These are typically catalog colors from other series, but orders for unique color combos, imagined by customers, are also seen. One collector found some very unusual Dingbats and Baby Dingbats with ostrich feathers for legs instead of horse hair! They were sourced from a former CCBCo employee many years ago.
(fig. 4) #5105 Special Dace: This is the only Special I have been able to gather in twenty years. Most special order baits from this design are gobbled up by hair bait collectors who often work together long before the lure would otherwise be available.
It was listed by Creek Chub at 1 5/8”, and ½ oz. This is a charming smaller hair bait that was a follow-up to the successful #5100 Dingbats. In fact, it has many of the same characteristics as the #5100 Series, only in miniature. One exception: All the lips on this series are the unimproved type without ridges. These babies were marked in every conceivable combination. I’ve found them with: No body marking of any kind, a back “Dingbat” stencil, or the name gold imprinted in two different belly locations! All colors were sold for the entire 1938-1958 period. These baits are slightly harder to come by than the #5100 series examples, but still available with a reasonable search. Correctly numbered boxes are also available if you look at all the venues available to today’s collectors.
This was one of the lures selected by Western Auto (WA) for their sporting goods department. Although I’m not aware of any #5300 Husky Dingbats being sold in Western Auto boxes (based on WA lure box codes), they did sell the #5100 Dingbats and the #5200 Baby Dingbats. The baby size baits were available in a few patterns produced solely for WA: V-344 Pearl Chub, V-345 Sun Spot, and V-346 Ghost. Two are shown under the Special section below.
I haven’t encountered a huge choice of Specials from any of these series. Flashy examples in great condition such as the #31 Rainbow Fire would elicit a very strong price compared to a less popular color. You should know that a #5300 series Husky Dingbat Special in ANY color would be a major rarity. Locating anything other than the standard catalog colors would be considered a newsworthy find.
Quite different from the CCBCo standard #38 Pearl catalog version. Most WA Creek Chub Specials are very difficult to find. This one is no exception.
Another unique pattern made exclusively for WA. These proprietary colors produced for WA have held their value much better than many other areas of the lure market.
Not one of the Western Auto options. This one was ordered directly from the factory. Finding just one lure such as this gem through any venue would be an exciting addition to virtually any CCBCo collection.
#5300s were listed at 2 ½”, 1 1/8 oz. This is the only series of the three to have thru-wire rigging, which was necessary for the intended market of angling for Musky and Northern Pike. All that I have seen have an unmarked and unimproved lip. They are typically backed marked with a “Dingbat” stencil. They were sold in the same seven catalog colors as the #5100s and #5200s. All catalog patterns were sold for the entire production period of 1938 to early 1946.
Creek Chub continued to use 1945 catalogs after WWII due to paper shortages. A tip-in dated Jan. 1, 1946 was found in one. It listed this lure with a price. A second 1945 catalog I own has a 1947 sticker over the original date. Inside is an Aug. 1, 1946 tip-in price list. This series was not mentioned.
Coming across any of the standard colors in outstanding condition (or even above average condition) is unusual and won’t be part of your experience at most lure shows. The combination of a short-lived series and a lure produced for a limited-appeal market at that time creates the perfect storm in terms of rarity for today’s collectors.
A word about condition: Most of us are content with owning nice examples of the #5300s without expecting to find the “holy grail” of a near perfect example. After personally looking at more than a few baits from this series over the last twenty years, it’s important to know that locating all seven catalog colors will take a grand effort because the original production of this size Dingbat was quite low. Deciding what state of preservation meets your demands is a matter of personal choice. If Very Good condition fits your budget, go for it. If super condition is all-important, you may need to rethink your sense of perfection on Husky Dingbats. Acquiring an example with a couple age lines and small pointers, yet displaying great “eye appeal”, may be all that is feasible. If you demand virtually flawless Huskies, the chances of finishing the catalog colors in this series could be no more than a pipe dream.
Finding the correct medium size box doesn’t make the journey any easier. Due to the diameter of this bait, the boxes are extra deep. They are recognized by a white border at the bottom edge of the lid (fig. 8). There are only two other CCBCo lures to utilize this unusual and scarce box variation: The metal S-40 Husky Champ and the S-50 Salt Champ! The #5700 Husky Dingers use the standard medium size CCBCo box because they are thinner than the #5300s.
Sorry, no Specials to share in this series. I have seen ONE for sale at a show long ago. It wasn’t pristine, but where would you find another? A hair bait collector grabbed it in a flash. It was a #5303 Silver Shiner. The new CCBCO “Special” book by Dr. Harold Smith shows only two lures. Both are Jersey rigged with a single and double hook instead of two trebles.
Thanks for the input from Mark Pritt and Robin Taylor for the documents they provided in order to have a clearer understanding of the source of the Dingbat moniker for these (and other) series.