Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Voices from the Past: Jim Gifford on Pork Rind Baits (1987)

A couple of weeks ago Bill Sonnett wrote about pork rind baits from the early 20th century, so I thought I'd run this fascinating article about pork baits written by Missouri writer Jim Gifford and published in the Frederick News for January 7, 1987 to show that they were still popular in the 1980s. It details a history of the revival of the pork rind bait in the 1980s, as well as the origins of the Uncle Josh pork rind company.

Bass Have a Liking for Pork Lures

by Jim Gifford

Bass Buffs have called it a lot of things . . . all of them good. Among the names they've hung on it are jig-and-frog, jig-and-josh and jig-and-pig, the last name being the one that's most often used these days to refer to this particular lead head jig and pork rind combination. Since its revival in 1977, the jig-and-pig probably has accounted for more big bass than any other bait or lure.

Bass in general and big bass in particular seem to have a liking for pork, a fact first discovered so far as we know by a couple of Wisconsin anglers as far back as 1921. The two were Alan Jones and Urba Schreiner and they founded the Uncle Josh Bait Company, now the major producer of pork rind lures including the pork frog.

At first the pork frog was used in combination with spoons and weedless hooks to bring bass out of hard to fish places such as dense weeds and lilly pads. The pork frog as it's known today, has undergone some evolution; the V-shaped tail on today's hog-hide frogs is a relatively recent innovation, for example.

Color was introduced also during the evolution of the pork frog. The early frogs were white; today they come in a number of colors including black, brown, orange, green and white, red and white and orange. And they are made in several sizes ranging from the small spinning rod frog to the Big Daddy, the largest in the line.

FOR THIRTY YEARS OR SO after Jones and Schreiner began selling their hog-hide lures, pork frogs retained their popularity with bass anglers. At one time, at least three other companies (Pedigos, Lutz, and Bill's 13 Pork Baits) competed with Uncle Josh for the pork lure market. Of those early hog-hide sellers, only Uncle Josh is still around.

The trade in pork lures suffered a sharp setback sometime in the Sixties when plastic worms captured the attention of the country's bassin' buffs. And the demand for pork lures remained low until the late Seventies when bass anglers in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas started a hog-hide revival.

Huland Nations of Prairie Grove, Ark., is given credit for starting the resurection of the pork frog. Nations used a pork frog in combination with a lead head jig to win the 1977 Arkansas State Bass Tournament. Word of match the weight of the jig and the size a pick up rather than a strike. If a bass if the jar it's in gets too much heat, the
Nations' secret weapon spread quietly but quickly among tournament bass anglers in the four-state area.

Less than a year later, a pair of Oklahoma bass anglers using a jig and pork frog combination set a record for the heaviest pair of 10 bass limits ever registered in the state. From a 20-yard stretch of flooded channel in the Pine Creek Reservoir, the two Oklahoma anglers landed 20 bass that weighed 129 lbs 10 ozs. Those fish ranged in weight from 5 lbs. 2 ozs. to 8 lbs. 14 ozs.

ITS ASSOCIATION WITH THE JIG gave a boost to the revival of the pork frog. The development of weed guards and rubber skirts added to the action and utility of the jig and made it the lure of choice for deep water cover with a pork lure. The jig-and-pig combination also gave cast-and-crank bassln' buffs a good crawdad imitation.

As a bass lure, the combination has three important virtues. It catches most fish it attracts. It is effective on sluggish bass, enticing them to hit when nothing else will, or so it seems. A large pan of the credit for the effectiveness of the combination is due to the life-like action of the jig's rubber skirt.

The usual explanation given as to why a jig-and-pig catches most of the fish it attracts is that the pork lure has an agreeable taste and feel and bass will hold on to it longer. Unlike plastic lures, the ones made of hog-hide do not become stiff in cold water.

During the early stages of the pork frog revival, it was believed that the effectiveness of the jig-and-pig was limited to cold weather. But with experience jig-and-pig was limited to cold weather. But with experience jig-and-pig users soon discovered that the combination was good almost any time of the year. Only in July and August is the plastic worm likely to give a better showing and then only in the daytime.

HOG-HIDE FROGS ARE naturally slow sinkers; the larger the chunk of pork, the slower it sinks. The buoyancy of the pork lure makes the jig-and-pig combination a good choice for getting to bass suspended in submerged tree tops 15 to 20 feet down . . . it can be retrieved so that it swims right to them.

Experienced jig-and-pig tossers match the weight of the jig and the size of the pig to the occasion. For example, when they're working on bass in shallow water, they'll use a 1/8oz. jig with a #101 pork frog, For bass in deeper water, they go with a 3/16 to 3/8 02. jig and a #11 pork frog, unless it's a hawg-size bass in which case they use a #1or a #10 pork frog.

There are about as many ways to fish a jig-and-pig as there are bass anglers. It's good for fishing brush piles, submerged creek channels and cut banks. And it's just as effective for taking river smallmouths. More often than not, a bass will take a jig-and-pig on the fall so it's important to keep a close watch on your line.

Strikes are not spectacular; fact is you hear jig-and-pig tossers refer to it as a pick up rather than a strike. If a bass doesn't take the jig-and-pig on the fall, the lure can be lifted up a short distance and dropped back. The same tactic is used in crawling a jig-and-pig through submerged tree top or brush pile: every time the lure comes over a limb,it's allowed to fall; if nothing takes, the retrieve is continued.

A jig-and-pig can be crawled along a rocky river bottom in a similar manner, falling 2nd rising as it moves from rock to rock. Wherever there's bass cover, a jig-and-pig can be worked to advantage.

Occasionally you will hear a com- plaint about hog-hide frogs, but there's really not much to criticize. In warm weather, a pork frog tends to dry out quickly when left out of the water. And if the jar it's in gets too much heat, the pork lure will become tough. But given the way bass react to a jig-and-pig, that's a small price to pay.

-- Dr. Todd

UPDATE: Mike Pollock shared this great photo of various Pork Rind materials on Joe's Board:

No comments: