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.”
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.
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.
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.
In the seventies I was a teenager and got a job at fishing store a few miles from my house called Bass Fishing North. This was one of the first fishing stores that carried large stocks of black bass lures and gear. It was run by a Vietnam Vet named Fred Dietz. While working there I met Frank Hauck and within a year Frank asked me to come help him open a store about ten miles away.
I joined Frank and we built Frank Hauck’s Sport Fishing Center. It was located at Laurence and Moorpark Ave in San Jose. During the time I worked there I met a lot of pro Bass Fishermen and learned how to fish competitively. When ever you fished with or against Frank there was always a small bet for ten dollars or who buys breakfast or lunch, he was very competitive.
He ended up meeting Dee Thomas and we all started “tule dipping” Dee and Frank were sponsored by Lew Childre, the manufacturer of Lew’s Speed Sticks and the Famous BB1 bait casting reel. Frank and Dee won most the tournaments that first year using the “Tule Dipping” technique and Western Bass quickly reduced the rod lengths to 7.5 feet to try and make it competitive. That didn’t stop Frank or Dee and flipping was soon invented. Dee went on to the BASS tournament trail and did very well.
Frank and I worked on the shop signing up to be the first Bass Pro shop dealer in CA and bringing in Tracker Boats. Frank was a retired NY cop but he was also a business man and owned a chain of fish and chip stores in the South Bay . Frank was always looking for new business and one day he found the manufacturer of a rubber product used by a company in Modesto CA called Brawley. Brawley made a lure called the Brawley bug for bass. It wasn’t long before we had hundreds of pounds of rubber material and were pouring lead heads to make Jigs for every fish you could imagine. We had a booth at the Sportsman Show in San Mateo CA and it was five deep the whole show . Living rubber was a hit! Frank was a great mentor and taught me how to run a business and market. I left the store to go to college and Frank eventually sold the store to Gordon Spencer and retired in Discovery Bay, CA. A place where he could tule dip and bass fish every day.
Wow Mike! What a history you have with Frank and Dee. It sounds like Frank really had a good affect on you. Being from SoCal, I always looked up to the NorCal anglers like Dee, Frank, Gliebe and Gary Klein. Thanks for the comment and sharing your memories.
Fishing flashback as I watch Johnny Morris Bass Pro Shops US Open on Table Rock Lake. I used to hang out and worked for Gordon Spencer at the Sport Fishing Center in San Jose in 1980. It was there I met Frank and helped put together one of the first shipments of Tracker bass boats. Frank gave me $100 to drive to the delta and stand in (park my truck) line for him overnight so he could buy one of the first lots at Discovery Bay. I think I spent more on gas for my old 1974 Chevy pickup truck to drive to San Jose from Palo Alto to work but it was worth the experience. Pouring jig heads, tying living rubber and telling fish tales!
That’s a cool story Jay. I just remember seeing those first Bass Trackers in the 1978 catalog and dreaming. 🙂 we had a 15′ Sea Nymph Bass Jon at the time and that boat seemed so cool.
Great story about Frank too. He did a lot for bass fishing.
At the start there were only a few brands available on the west coast , Many boats were converted and had two pedestals mounted . Frank and Dee started in an aluminum boat. As Frank became more savvy he purchased a Glastron which was very nice to fish out of. I remember launching at Redwood City and fishing the San Mateo bridge w Frank, we had a great day and on the way back it was flat as glass (not common in the bay) and he opened the Glastron up we were doing maybe 45-50. being flat we didn’t notice the huge swell created by a tug boat right before we came into the main channel . We hit it straight on and the Glastron was airborne for a good 15 feet maybe 2-4 feet off the water. Frank laughed he had another story to tell. I miss him he was a great mentor and character .
Mike, great story! I bet your back is still hurting from that one.
Isn’t Frank’s son still running the Living Rubber Co.? When I originally wrote this article back in 2012, he had contacted me and let me now he was still running the company. That was 10 years ago now and I’ve kind of lost track.