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Jim Pfeffer
Orlando, Florida

Jim Pfeffer is regarded by many as the premier lure maker in Florida. His classic designs and colorful paint patterns inspired many other Florida lure makers. Jim Pfeffer lures are still sought by fishermen today, though demand from collectors has made it impractical to fish with them on a regular basis.

James "Jim" Arthur Pfeffer was born in Iowa in 1885. His mother was from Iowa and his father was from Illinois. Jim Pfeffer settled in Chicago, Illinois after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWI.

Early Florida lure historian Steve Fussell reported that Pfeffer suffered a medical disability as a result of his war service. His doctors advised him to move to Florida for health reasons. In the mid 1920's Pfeffer and his wife Elizabeth moved to Orlando, Florida.

Jim Pfeffer quickly found work at an ice cream company in downtown Orlando. I am not certain about the name of the company, as various sources have called it Shirrill's, Shirriff's, and Sherriff's. I have a copy of a 1930's Orlando City Directory that gave the name as Shirriff Ice Cream Company, Inc. The Company was located at h449 South Hughey Street, and Jim Pfeffer was secretary / treasurer. Jim and Elizabeth "Betty" Pfeffer lived only a few blocks down Hughey Street from the Shirrif Building.

Pfeffer was probably already carving fishing lures before he moved to Florida. He certainly wasted no time when he got to Orlando. Fussell wrote that two old-time Orlandoans recall Jim as a frequent sight on Hughey Street, straddling an old kitchen chair, propped back against the side of the Shirrill's building and hand carving his lures to sell to the next fisherman who passed by. The year was 1926.

Years later, lure maker Pat Woodall recounted..... In 1927, with a pocket knife, Jim carved his first lure from a piece of cedar and it proved to be a fish killer from the very start. Friends, hearing of his success, encouraged him to produce lures for the market and for years he hand-carved and hand-painted them. Later he purchased a machine to carve the blanks and his wife Betty took over the hand painting process.

Jim Pfeffer

The Florida lure "experts" don't always agree on which lure Pfeffer made first. Some argue that the Jim Pfeffer Sunfish was the first bait he ever made. Others say it was the Jim Pfeffer Banana lure. Pat Woodall said that the Shiner lure is the first of many famous lures created by Jim Pfeffer. The truth is that no one really knows for sure which lure came first, and it doesn't really matter anyway. Jim Pfeffer never did a catalog of his lures and he didn't do any advertising, so we'll probably never know for sure.

We do know that the Orlando Shiner and Banana lures were among the first baits that Pfeffer was making. According to Fussell ...documentation recovered from the Pfeffer estate proves that he had designed and tested the Banana lure by 1929, and tried to obtain a patent on the design in 1930. A patent attorney contacted by Mr. Shirrill wrote that Jim should consider a copyright on the name, "Banana", rather than a patent on the body shape. According to the attorney, the Banana Lure's shape was not significantly different from a number of plugs then available....in 1932 Jim again tried to patent his Orlando Shiner, and was given the same advice. Jim Pfeffer did, in fact, register a trademark for the name Banana Lure in 1949 . That name, by the way, came from the nearby Banana River, which is a popular place to fish, rather than anything to do with the shape of the lure itself.

Pfeffer began carving his lures by hand, but soon built his own lathe to turn the wood bodies. Keep in mind that lathes are normally used to turn wood in the round and none of Jim Pfeffer's lures were round. Many years later, Pfeffer's equipment was acquired by Jim Heaberlin who, along with his brother in law Vic Densmore, took over Jim Pfeffer's lure making operation. Heaberlin described Pfeffer's lathe this way: Jim designed and built his own lathe which is part Singer sewing machine and part of a 22 rifle (the bolt action) and other parts he made. It doesn't really turn and cut like a lathe, but uses a small saw blade about 2 inches in diameter to cut the plug as it rotates on a tracer plug which is made of solid aluminum. Heaberlin also described the wood that Pfeffer used for his baits....no Pfeffer plug was ever made, except the early ones that Jim whittled by hand, with any wood except Honduras Mahogney (sp.) or the slang name spanish cedar, which was acquired by Jim from the cigar makers in Tampa...they used it for the old cigar boxes.

Jim Pfeffer made his lures in a garage workshop in the back yard of his house. His wife Betty did much of the lure painting, which was all done by hand in the early days. There is a report that Jim paid her 10¢ apiece to paint lures. As interest in his baits grew, the Pfeffers enlisted the help of neighbors. Years later one of two sisters from the neighborhood wrote ...when we were in the 5th grade they started coming and picking us up about one day a week and we would go to their house and sit at the dining room table and put together some of what he called eyes and washers. For each 50 we did he gave us $1.00. He had a shop out in the back yard where he made his fish lures. We went out there sometimes and I remember it smelled so good. The smell of fresh sawdust and paint. He would dip all the lures in paint and hang them on wooden racks to dry. Then Mrs. Pfeffer would paint the dots on with a small brush.

If you wanted to buy a Jim Pfeffer lure you could go to his house or to the ice cream store and buy it from Pfeffer himself. You could also go to Denmark Sporting Goods Store, one of only a couple of retail outlets where Pfeffer lures were sold. Tom Denmark opened Denmark Sporting Goods in 1941. The store was located at 149 N. Magnolia Avenue in Orlando. Denmark's store was the largest supplier of sporting goods in Central Florida, and was among the largest in the state. It was well known as a folksy sort of place where many locals would gather to swap stories and enjoy each other's company. Walter Hudson, Jr. went to work for Denmark after being discharged from the U.S.Navy in 1946. The two were distantly related as cousins, and often called each other "cuz". Denmark and Hudson appeared on a popular weekly outdoor sports television show that aired in Orlando from 1954 -1972. The show was called Hunting and Fishing With Don, and was named after Don McAllister, who was a local insurance man. Each week...for 18 years... Don and his sidekicks — Tom Denmark and Walter Hudson — would discuss the hot fishing holes and the best places to hunt. Denmark Sporting Goods went out of business in 1988, two years after Tom Denmark passed away. Walter Hudson, Jr. is seen in this picture with a 94 1/2 pound Jewfish he caught plug casting with a Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure. Walter Hudson with Jewfish caught on Jim Pfeffer Banana lure

Jim Pfeffer also sold lures by mail order and through distributors. Since I now live in North Carolina, I will add the footnote that a Carolina distributor of Pfeffer lures was Pete Nash, who sold tackle in the Kannapolis / Concord, NC area. Nash was himself a lure maker and it is easy to see that some of his inspiration was drawn from Jim Pfeffer.

In the late 1950's Pfeffer authorized Pat Woodall to manufacture some models of Jim Pfeffer lures. Woodall produced plastic versions of the Jim Pfeffer Banana lures as well as wooden versions of other Jim Pfeffer lures. You can read more about Pat Woodall and see examples of his work on the Pat Woodall page here. For a period of about fifteen years, Jim Pfeffer lures were being made concurrently by Jim Pfeffer and by Pat Woodall. It is fairly easy tell their lures apart. Lures made by Jim Pfeffer always had hand painted gill marks, while those made by Pat Woodall always had spray painted gill marks.

Upon Jim Pfeffer's death in 1970, Vic Densmore and his brother in law Jim Heaberlin acquired assets of Pfeffer's operations and continued making Jim Pfeffer lures. You can read more about Vic Densmore and see examples of his work on the Vic Densmore page here.


The lures shown here are part of our collection. Click on the thumbnail pictures to see a larger image

Jim Pfeffer Orlando Shiner
Jim Pfeffer Orlando Shiner Jim Pfeffer Orlando Shiner Jim Pfeffer Orlando Shiner
The evolution of the Jim Pfeffer painting style is evident in the three Orlando Shiner lures shown here.
Numerous hand painted scales became fewer in number before they were masked and sprayed.
This is a rather unique lure, as it is a paint patten not seen on any other Orlando Shiner. Similar scale patterns have been seen on other Jim Pfeffer baits. Pfeffer is known to have hand painted lines and patterns on other lures similar to the ones seen here. Jim Pfeffer Orlando Shiner
Jim Pfeffer Orlando Shiner Jim Pfeffer Orlando Shiner Jim Pfeffer Orlando Shiner
Jim Pfeffer used a dark varnish on some of his lures, as seen on the Orlando Shiner on the left.
Collectors generally refer to them as dark varnish baits.

Jim Pfeffer Midget & Spinning Shiner
Jim Pfeffer Midget Shiner Jim Pfeffer Midget Shiner Jim Pfeffer Spinning Shiner
The Jim Pfeffer Orlando Shiner was also made in Midget and Spinning Sizes

Jim Pfeffer Banana Lures
Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure 
It is easy to see differences in older and later styles of Jim Pfeffer baits. You can probably see
differences in the eye paint pattern, as well as variations in paint masking and coloration.
Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure
Two very early Jim Pfeffer Banana lures with simple screw
eye hardware. The bucktail was added by a fisherman.
Jim Pfeffer found yellow and red to be effective fish catching
colors and used several variations on his Banana lures.
Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure
These are some of my favorite colors of Jim Pfeffer Banana lures. Notice the unusual 2-hook rigging on the strawberry lure.
Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure Jim Pfeffer Banana Lure
Banana lures were also made in smaller sizes like
the Midget Banana and Spin Banana seen here.
These big Bananas are 6" and weigh nearly 3oz. The one on
the left is marked Jim Pfeffer & the other is a Goggleye Banana

Jim Pfeffer Darter
Jim Pfeffer Darter The common darter is anything but common when it comes to Jim Pfeffer. A Pfeffer darter is rather hard to come by. The little lure on the right was named "Art's Special" Jim Pfeffer Darter - Art's Special

Jim Pfeffer Cripple
Jim Pfeffer Cripple Jim Pfeffer Cripple Jim Pfeffer Cripple Jim Pfeffer Spin Cripple
The evolution of the Jim Pfeffer painting style is evident in the three Cripple lures shown here. Numerous hand painted scales became fewer in number before they were masked and sprayed. A smaller, spinning size was also made as the Spin Cripple

Jim Pfeffer Mullet
Jim Pfeffer Mullet Jim Pfeffer Spin Mullet Jim Pfeffer Mullet
Jim Pfeffer Mullet in Mullet paint pattern.
This one was likely done by Vic Densmore.
The Spin Mullet was a smaller,
spinning size.
Jim Pfeffer Mullet in Santee paint pattern.

  Jim Pfeffer Cast Top  
Jim Pfeffer Cast Top Jim Pfeffer Cast Top Jim Pfeffer Cast Top Jim Pfeffer Cast Top
The Jim Pfeffer Cast Top was a popular top water chugging lure, and was made in a wide assortment of colors.

  Jim Pfeffer Spin Top  
Jim Pfeffer Spin Top Jim Pfeffer Spin Top Jim Pfeffer Spin Top Jim Pfeffer Spin Top
The Jim Pfeffer Spin Top was a smaller,spinning size of the Cast Top lure.

Jim Pfeffer Hud Chug
Jim Pfeffer Hud Chug Jim Pfeffer Hud Chug Jim Pfeffer Hud Chug Jim Pfeffer Hud Chug
Jim Pfeffer named the Hud Chug lure after his good friend Walter Lee Hudson, Jr.

Jim Pfeffer Dilly
Jim Pfeffer Dilly Jim Pfeffer Dilly Jim Pfeffer Dilly Jim Pfeffer Dilly
A lot of folks say that the Jim Pfeffer Dilly was the best trout lure ever made.

Jim Pfeffer Spin Dilly
Jim Pfeffer Spin Dilly Jim Pfeffer Spin Dilly Jim Pfeffer Spin Dilly Jim Pfeffer Spin Dilly
The Dilly was also made in a smaller spinning size.

  Jim Pfeffer Sailfish Shiner  
Jim Pfeffer Sailfish Shiner Jim Pfeffer Sailfish Shiner Jim Pfeffer Sailfish Shiner Jim Pfeffer Cripple Sailfish Shiner
The Jim Pfeffer Sailfish Shiner is a rather large lure at approximately 5" in length.
A Crippled Sailfish Shiner was also made, as seen in the last picture.

Jim Pfeffer Packaging
Jim Pfeffer Envelope Jim Pfeffer Envelope Jim Pfeffer Envelope Jim Pfeffer Envelope
Envelope for Spinning Lures
Jim Pfeffer lures were packaged in small manila envelopes. The earliest envelope showed P.O. Box 4164.
The box number was changed to 5164 on later envelopes. Several envelope sizes and styles were used over the years.
Most were stamped with the lure name. Some had hand written information about the lure name, color, style, etc.
Beware fake envelopes. They are out there!

We are always interested in adding to this collection. Please send an email if you have any old Jim Pfeffer baits for sale or trade.
Visit my page about Antique Florida Lures to see other lure makers from Florida.

Send e-mail to jyates@ix.netcom.com with questions or comments about this web site.
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