A work in progress which all will appreciate I'm sure!
Many thanks to Rob (Mr Hi-Lo) from The Netherlands who recounts how he was bewitched by the Hi-lo
Please feel welcome to contribute and improve this account.
1955 to the Present!
As I began the Toby history, what better way to start off the history of the famous Hi-LO lure than to quote directly from the man himself, Len Borgstom's introduction to the creation of the Hi-Lo in his biographical "ABU and Garcia - What happened?"
"ABU introduced many lures that were very successful and remain big sellers to this day. One example is the HI-LO , a plug with a unique adjustable lip that allows it to be fished at different depths. While fishing for pike, my father came up with the idea that it would be very convenient to use the same bait at various depths. On the first prototype, however, the spoon's angle changed too easily upon impact with the water's surface. Since Ake Murvall happened to come along on this test expedition, it did not take long before a better design was in place....
...All our lures were tested for at least one year before they were introduced to the market. The same was true for all our reels. We wouldn't have to worry that any of our products would suffer any so called 'childhood diseases,' or that any of our customers would become unfortunate guinea-pigs."
My first experience with Hi-LO was in 1966 when the 6 position lip was already in production. I have not used the 5 position lip model from the first production in 1955/56/57.
I loved the HI-LO from first retrieve and they are still in my tackle box today after using them many different sizes and colours and articulation types for 33 years!
Going back a bit, I think due deference should be paid to the Heddon Dowagiac plug to show they were known in Europe in the late 1920's.
Obviously a classic shaped plug that would give rise to a multitude of similar baits over the decades.
I have used the original Heddon Vamp Spook with fixed lip and can understand why the symbiotic relationship between ABU and Heddon soured due to the Swedish adjustable lip model outselling the Heddon Spook/Vamp line. The deal struck re sharing technology was most advantageous for all fishermen!
It would be the ABU HI-LO that would innovate and survive more that 50 years though due to the innovative adjustable lip controlling depth.
For scaling purposes, top image above is a collection of all four Yellow shore XRY HI-LO in 12g 18g 20g Jointed ('Ledad') and 28g sizes. Also included is the Heddon ABU HI-LO River Runt Spook in 18g (only size available)
It is interesting that ABU included the catalog advertizing for Heddon ABU HI-LO Vamp Spook (to indicate the international popularity) HI-LO, but this was not reciprocal as I understand.
A good friend Rob, believes that the Heddon ABU HI-LO bait is a side show, and did not have too big a profile in the whole scheme of things relating to the ABU HI-LO.
A passing fad for the USA market I guess?
The Americans know it as a cheap, plastic (not wood) copy of their beloved (since 1933) River Runt available in a myriad of colours, in fact it never made a Heddon catalogue, the reference of 9440 is only known by a few Heddon specialists.
However there are a few boxed examples (Heddon boxes) in the USA and the owners will try to sell them for many hundreds of US dollars, better possibly to look at the real Swedish collectibles in the 5 position lip lures without "patent" on the belly.
The Heddon version lasted but a few short years and of course the real Hi-LO was still selling in its original 6 position lip form well into this century.
My friend Derrik (ABUFreak) has kindly shared some requested rarely seen images from his massive HI-LO collection here.
Production samples below before painting
26g Hi-Lo Prototype colours unnamed
40g RH and XBW Prototype correctly named on belly
Still other Prototype colours here
Perhaps another friend John Behrndtz will share some more images here
I have some reservations about the recent Asian changes to its overall shape and structure made to both HI-LO and Killer (ie Shad) and still calling them by the original names. A complete new name is needed and any markedly different design should not try to trade on a past successes. It devalues the history of many decades when changes were not needed.
HISTORY (as documented via catalog advertizing)
1955 The illustration below shows the essential difference between HI-LO and ALL other lures.
The adjustable lip or bib has five lock in positions which control the depth at which the lure will work.
The 5 lip positions were referred to as
Mycket djupt = Very Deep,
Djupt = Half Deep,
Normalt = Medium deep ,
Grunt = Shallow ,
Mycketgrunt = Very shallow.
Each set of saltwater treble hooks was attached to the lure by a stainless steel , two screw hanger.
The lures were initially only available in colours M, L, RH, XBW, XRY, XRS, T, and BGL (not illustrated)
The 26g 110 mm long Model 12450 Sjunkande/Sinking, when cast, falls very slowly waiting for the angler to decide the moment when retrieve will start. It can be easily "clicked" , with fingers and no tools, to a new setting deeper or shallower on successive casts. It had 3 treble hooks attached.
The 18g 80mm long Model 12455 Flytande/Floating, 28g in weight when cast, floats waiting for the angler to decide the moment when retrieve will start. It can be easily "clicked" , with fingers and no tools, to a new setting deeper or shallower on successive casts. It had 2 treble hooks attached.
Patent was applied for this unique concept!
1956 This illustration below show that the BGL was included in the pictorial line-up this second year of production. No other changes noted.
1957 The only difference this year is the catalogue page layout, with Tight Lines being two pages and N&N using just one page.
1958 This is the BIG year for a basic structural change where the lip positions increase from 5 to 6.
All name above stay the same except the HI-LO can now also run at Ytligt position which means on the surface, what we in Australia call a top water lure or popper!
All size ranges and colours stay the same.
1959 No changes for this year.
1960 One would be forgiven for thinking this was the year of the 6 position lip change due to the big double page advertizing spread in the Catalog.
In fact it was a very clear page depicting colour choices (LYS is illustrated for the first time with glow lines ).
Also the Nyhet ! 12g 65mm long sinking model HI-LO was announced. It had the usual hook attachment system.
A good friend and editor of this page, Hans from The Netherlands, has with his discerning eye noted that the 18g model does NOT have the usual hook arrangement. To me, having had this pointed out, it seems like it was a transition (but without cup) to the upcoming 1961 hooking change .
1961 From now till 1969, no changes have been noted in the range of HI-LO colours, style or sizes offered.
However the hook attachment system on last years new 12g HI-LO has been changed to a single attachment screw with a cup surround, presumably to stop fine lines becoming entangled in the screw bend.
1968 The hook attachment system introduced in the 1961 12g HI-LO has been changed from the single attachment screw with a cup surround to the original system on all other HI-LO's.
1969 The first significant changes for 9 years have occurred with the introduction of the jointed or Ledad HI-LO in 20g size.
All colours except LYS and the XBG are available.
The new larger 150mm long and 40g or 1 1/2 oz HI-LO in BGL, BO, LYS and M was released.
I have one of these monsters, released in Asia post 1981 in RH.
1970 The range of colours for the articulated or 'ledad' HI-LO have been increased to all nine except for the XRS
1981 sees ABU-Garcia take its lure production offshore and to the far east.
Questions on this matter produced these very helpful responses from different PF Managers in Sweden and France.
The manufacturing of all lures was moved to the Far East in 1981.
SE-376 81 Svängsta
We do not make
any lure in
Hope it helps. Any question I remain.
Manager PF (European Division) France.
I guess as ABU went off shore to Asia for production, new changes were inevitable.
To me the soul of the Hi-Lo and other ABU lures, I used in my youth departed when production left Sweden.
to be continued
If you have any other Hi-LO lures, particularly Hi-LO in XBG colour or the non patent 5 lip position models or Heddon ABU Hi-LO, that are mint or boxed, and are un-needed or doubles in your collection and are available for swapping or a reasonable fee, I would be very pleased to hear from you.