Dee Thomas (L) and Frank Hauck (R) sipping a cold one after their win on Lake Nacimiento in 1974. Photo California Lunker Club Newsletter June 1974. Notice the “Lew’s Hats on their heads.

Readers of the Bass Fishing Archives may well remember the name Frank Hauck. He’s been written about here a few times before – namely with his early tournament partner Dee Thomas. Hauck was not only the guy who convinced Thomas to start competitive fishing, he was Thomas’ first sponsor. But what he is little known for outside his native northern California is his contribution to the tackle industry – namely jigs.

Hauck was an adamant jig fisherman. That would seem obvious since he was paired with one of the best jig anglers. Not happy with the standard skirt materials of the day – primarily marabou, vinyl and hair – Hauck set out to find a material that had more action. What he came up with was what he called “living rubber.” At that time, Hauck went into business mass producing the material under the name Frank Hauck’s Living Rubber Lure Components.

The original rubber came in strips or rolls about an inch wide and perforated down its length. You placed a length of material on your jig and wrapped the strip onto the shoulder of the jig with either fly tying thread or wire. Once the strip was affixed to the jig, you pulled on one end of the strip and cut the strip with scissors to release the strands. The original rubber produced strands that were square and is known as “flat rubber.”

Frank Hauck’s ad from the July/August issue of Bassmaster Magazine.

The first rubber became the standard and what is known today as medium. A few years later, Hauck developed two other sizes, fine and large, with the fine rubber becoming known as “frog hair.” After that, round rubber was developed and sold in the same configuration as the flat rubber.

As early as 1977 you could find ads for Hauck’s living rubber in Western Bass Magazines. It wasn’t until 1979, though, that bass anglers nationwide would find out exactly what Living Rubber was when it was written about in Bassmaster’s July/August 1979 issue. Prior to that, Hauck had placed a few small ads within the magazine in 1978 but little interest was received outside of the West.

1978 ad for Living Rubber. Ad from the spring 1978 issue of Western Bass Magazine.

Shortly thereafter, the living rubber craze took off in the U.S. and you were hard pressed to find a jig made of anything but living rubber. Arkie Lures became the rage in the 80s as did Gary Klein’s Weapon jig. Regional tackle manufacturers and home jig tyers alike flooded the market with jigs tied with Hauck’s new rubber material. Then around the mid-90s, silicon was introduced.

Silicon skirt material offered something the rubber didn’t, translucency.  You now had a skirt material that was transparent, had glitter or pearlescence.  It seemed like within a year, rubber skirting material was out the door. But the tried-and-true jig anglers stuck with rubber because the early silicon was stiff and lacked action. By the early 2000s you were hard pressed to find a jig with rubber.

Living Rubber article from Bassmaster Magazine, July/August issue.

Thankfully, there are a few companies today that still offer living rubber, in both the flat and round configurations. You can find it as Living Rubber Company (round rubber only), and Andy’s Custom Bass Lures (round and flat rubber).

Back in the later part of April, 2013, I received an email from Frank Hauck’s son. He wanted to let me know that his father had passed on April 17, 2013. He also said that those days fishing with Thomas were “the time of his dad’s life.”

Thanks Frank for developing arguably the best skirt material ever made and thanks for talking Dee into competitive fishing.