The title of this piece, Save a Pig, may give you the idea we’re going PETA on you. Absolutely not. But if you’re old enough to remember the pork rind revival of 1980, this won’t just make sense, you probably have a couple of these little gems behind the workbench in your garage.
Around the time when the 1970s turned into the 1980s, a renaissance of sorts took place in the Arkansas/Missouri area. Bassmaster Staff Writer, Dave Precht, wrote about the resurgence in the January 1980 issue of Bassmaster Magazine (see Jig & Pork Frog Revival, pages 78-84), citing that Uncle Josh, the only commercial-scale manufacturer of pork rind at the time, couldn’t keep up with the demand that only four states – Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma – were requiring.
The resurgence of pork, used as a jig trailer to mimic a crawdad, brought about several changes in the industry. No longer was Uncle Josh’s best seller the #11 Pork Frog in the green frog pattern – a pattern that made up 90% of Uncle Josh’s sales prior to the revolution. Uncle Josh was now producing old standby colors such as black, brown, and purple, along with developing two-tone colors.
Within a couple years, Uncle Josh wouldn’t just be producing new colors, they’d me making different sizes and styles of the fake pork amphibian. Anglers far and wide were buying record amounts of pig and winning events from the local Wednesday nighter to major tour events.
At the height of the revolution, Uncle Josh was manufacturing no less than 10 different styles of pork. Of course there was the #11 Pork Frog and its cousins the #1 Jumbo Frog, #10 Big Daddy Frog, and the #101 Spin Frog. Other patterns from the old days were the Spring Lizards (models 800 and 900), the Ripple Rind (models 325, 340, and 350), Bass Strip (model 50), and the Split Tail Eel (model 260), amongst others.
New styles brought about due to demand and competition were the Craw Frog (model 25), Flipping Frog (models 12 and 14), and the Pork Craws (models 32, 33 and 34).
The problem with pork, and most likely the reason for its first and second deaths, was the simple fact it needs to stay wet to be fishable. That’s easy when you’re fishing it. It becomes a major pain, though, when you need to pick up a different rod for a while or need to make a move down the lake in the middle of the summer. Pork tends to dry out and become stiff as well as shrink. At this point, you needed a knife to cut off the old piece to change it out for a new one.
And herein lies the subject of today’s piece – the Save-A-Pig. ANCO Creations, out of Kansas City, MO, developed a foam cover that the angler could wet, place on the rod with the jig inside, and keep the pork moist. Within a year every angler had half a dozen of these accoutrements in their boat and on their rods, saving their pork from an early demise.
I bought a few of the pig savers when they first came out, but found them to be a pain to use. Not only that, invariably I’d forget to close them tightly, which led to them zinging past my ear when the boat was in motion. Instead of buying more Save a Pigs, I dealt with the situation by placing the bait in the water when not being used, and I’d put the bait in a small Tupperware container when enroute to another spot. Maybe not the best solution, but it worked for me.
For the past 20 years or more, pork has been relegated to the inactive list. In fact, so little of it sold that Uncle Josh quit making it about 10 years ago. Kids just picking up the sport in the early 2000s had never seen it used and how effective it is. Much like when I was picking up the sport in the early to mid-1970s. No one threw the pigskin unless it was on a field.
In fact, many of the anglers I grew up admiring at the tackle store called it “old” and past its prime, preferring to split a Sportsman’s Superfloater for a jig trailer rather than deal with the salty, greasy pork rind.
Then a couple of guys in the Midwest started winning tournaments and the rest is history. Pork was back for the third time. Then through the decades it again faded into the abyss of bass fishing, due mainly to the myriad of soft plastic trailers being developed.
Just recently, within the last year, pork seems to be making a bit of a comeback, maybe its fourth resurrection. Uncle Josh is again manufacturing it and there are a couple of small ma-n-pa pig makers selling their versions.
The long pole in the tent to bring it back from the dead, again, is twofold this time. First, you have to get people who have never used it to buy it, and two, the cost is ridiculous. The later being the biggest hurdle to overcome.
To get new anglers throwing the bait, it’s got to be cost-effective. Back in 1991, the year of the Bass Pro Shops catalog displayed here, you could get a jar of pork for $1.79. In today’s money that would be $2.15. Instead, a jar of pork is going for north of $12. Couple the pig with a jig and you’re looking at an $8 rock and tree magnet.
Say you’re willing to give it a try. What makes pork such a great bait? Let’s look at some of the attributes pork offers the angler when it comes to trailer options. First off, pork has a considerably different density than plastics. Therefore, its fall rate is way different that any plastic trailer.
Second, it’s a real meat, cured in brine solution. It tastes real because it is real, no scent required. So many anglers back in the day swore that finicky fish would hold on to the pork longer than a jig tipped with plastic. I have to agree wholeheartedly with that from experience.
Third on the list of attributes is pork has a much more subtle action than any plastic ever will, no matter the water temperature. The myth of pork only excelling in cold water is just that, a myth.
Anyway, if the pigskin does end up coming back to tackle stores and regains its once vibrant past, I’m sure we’ll see the Save a Pig come back to life too. Heck, at $4 per trailer you’d better be trying to get every bit of life out of each bait.
Timely, as one of the pieces I’m currently working on concerns Uncle Josh. I’m amazed at the prices old, rusty-lidded Uncle Josh jars command nowadays. But it was a great product, highly effective and long-lasting (if you could remove the stubborn chunk from your jig or Silver Minnow when you were done fishing!). These days if I run across any old Uncle Josh jars that I can afford, I keep them on the shelf. For on the water use I’m currently going with PawPaw E’s.