After 93 Years, Uncle Josh to Stop Producing Pork Rinds

Though, it may seem a bit far-fetched, many of the striped bass I’ve landed from the beaches of the Northeast have been the indirect result of a frog shortage in Wisconsin during the summer of 1921. Let me explain.

You see, long-time fishing buddies Urban Schreiner and World War I veteran, Allen P. Jones were both very fond of using live frogs as bait. When fishing season rolled around in 1921, the two planned to spend much of their time catching black bass in Wisconsin’s Jordan Lake. They liked to cast plugs during the morning and evening hours, and fish live frogs during the middle of the day when the bass became unreceptive to artificial lures. That summer, however, frogs were tough to come by around Jordan Lake, and with these amphibians being the best way to catch bass during the heat of the day, Jones and Schreiner contemplated how they might be able to “create” their own frog from some other materials.

The quest to make their own frog brought them to a butcher in Oxford, Wisconsin, where they took a slab of fatback with the rind on, and cut from it a number of frog-shaped pieces. Throughout the summer of 1921, the two experimented with the shape, looking for one with sufficient tail action and enough meat for the fish to smell and the angler to cast.

The bait turned out to be so successful, that in 1922, Jones and Schreiner founded the Uncle Josh Bait Company in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin to sell their pork rind creations. Jones’ “day job” was at the Jones Dairy Farm, where he slaughtered hogs and made sausage. This made starting a new company that made baits from raw pork rind a relatively simple leap.  The company was named for a farmer on Jordan Lake who reminded Jones and Schreiner of one of their favorite comedic characters, Uncle Josh, a rube with a penchant for fighting.

This large striper, like many before it, fell to a bucktail jig tipped with Uncle Josh Pork Rind.

This large striper, like many before it, fell to a bucktail jig tipped with Uncle Josh Pork Rind. Uncle Josh will no longer be producing pork products, and after the remaining inventory is sold, it will be gone.

The first order was for $300 worth of the model now called the #11 Pork Frog. By 1923, the company offered several other baits, a bass and fly strip, which consisted of just the pork skin, and a “chunk,” which was an oval-shaped bait made up of both the skin and the fat. The original baits were white, but Jones worked with a dye to turn the skin on some of the pork frogs green, although getting the dye to stay on the skin was problematic.

In addition to setting the dye, the greatest challenge for the Uncle Josh Bait Company was figuring out how to properly cure the pork back fat and skin so that it wouldn’t spoil. Though Jones had experience curing bacon on his family’s dairy farm, curing the pork baits proved to be a bit more difficult, and once packed in glass jars, the baits would spoil and reek.

They did eventually figure it out. The Uncle Josh Bait Company would put 3-foot-long slabs of fatback through a 2-week-long curing process before cutting them into baits and dying them. The baits were then packed into jars filled with a salt brine, which simply consisted of a heavy dose of salt and water.

lotm uj jar

On the water, most Uncle Josh baits work best when paired with another lure to give it more action. One of the most popular combinations is the “jig-and-pig” in which an Uncle Josh pork frog is married to a skirted bass jig to make it resemble a crayfish underwater. A saltwater version of the jig-and-pig consists of a bucktail jig tipped with a pork rind strip. A variety of sizes and styles can also be added to spoons and spinnerbaits in freshwater, and umbrella jigs, tube lures an even spreader bars in saltwater. The skin of the pork undulates tantalizingly on even the slowest retrieves, enticing a large number of gamefish in a variety of situations. The addition of the pork also causes the lure to sink more slowly, making it linger in the strike zone on the fall and allowing for slower retrieves.

Tipping lures with pork rind instead of soft-plastic baits had a number of advantages. Though soft-plastic baits are easier to store and come in a greater variety of colors and shapes, even the most supple soft plastics can’t match the action of a pork rind fluttering through the water. Natural products will always appear more life-like underwater, ask any fly tier, and pork rinds are no exception. Pork rind baits are also much more durable than their soft-plastic counterparts. While even a glancing blow from a bluefish will render any soft-plastic bait useless, I have never had a single pork rind chopped by the yellow-eyed devils.

Just don’t forget to remove the pork rind from your hook and return it to the brine-filled jar after each trip. Otherwise, the bait will shrivel up and harden. This advice should be filed under the “Do as I say, not what I do” category, since I neglect to remove the pork rind from my bucktails so often that I think I could reconstruct an entire pig from the dried-up 70-S Striper Strips littered throughout the back of my truck. But, if you can remember to restore your baits to their jars, a single pork rind will survive weeks, even months, of heavy fishing.

pork rind uncle josh dicontinued

Unfortunately, in mid-December of this year, word began circulating that Uncle Josh would no longer be producing pork rind baits. The issue, explained a company representative, is that Uncle Josh has been unable to get the quality fatback they need to produce durable pork baits. These days, pigs are brought to slaughter at 6 months old, rather than 2 to 3 years old, which means the skin and fatback are thinner and no longer suitable for fishing baits. There is still Uncle josh available for purchase on their website, and at tackle retailers throughout the Northeast. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Just be sure not to let your remaining pork rinds dry out on the hook.

 

  1. Jon

    Always had a Frog or white pork rind om my Johnsons silver minnow, weedless, the Bass, Muskie and Pike went nuts for it

    Reply
  2. George P Korteweg

    Attention: Mr. Bichanich, Sales. Yes I am retired and I am also a fisherman. I also design fishing lures. I have one that you may be interested in. I designed a scent gland made up of a material dipped in a oil loving thermal plastic rubber solution, dried and cut into many shapes and configurations. Some of these shapes are placed on the hook similar to the pork rid. Several drops of oil such as bunker oil is placed on the material for long lasting periods. Many colors are available. If you are interested in seeing samples I would love to send samples to you. Thank you for your consideration. George.

    Reply
    • Bryan Zembreski

      I used to use 10″ x 1″ red and white Porkpine strips for trolling. If you have a product similar I would love to try it out. And if it’s successful I would purchase a large amount

      Reply
    • roger

      Looking for something to replace the pork rind black and red pm me if u have something. 2564976938 thanks roger

      Reply
    • Leo Holsen

      I always used a white pork rind behing a Johnson Silver Minnow and always used it to catch Northern Pike back in Wisconsing. I’m interested in seeing what kind of deal you’re coming up with. Thanks

      Reply
    • Phillip Chandler

      I’d like to find a bait that looks and works like a #11 pork frog. Orange is my favorite color, but I use several other colors. I’d definently like to check your product out. Thanks

      Reply
    • David Ayotte

      I need #11 pork frog spinner/jig trailer…do you have any samples that resemble them?

      Reply
  3. mike

    Are all of your pork rind products no longer being made or just the pork frog? I used the green pork frog when I first started fishing better than 60 years ago, sorry to here it will no longer be made,worked very well with a Johnson silver spoon, I also use the white spin strip with spinners, killer on pike.

    Reply
  4. BOB MILLIKEN

    IN THE LATE 50’S UNCLE JOSH MADE A LONG BLACK ( 10″ ) WITH A LARGE HEAD @ LONG SLENDER BODY ( LOOKED LIKE A SMALL SNAKE ) .JUST CAST IT @ LET IT SINK TO BOTTOM @ THEN EASE IT UP TO FALL AGAIN USING A SLACK LINE .WHEN THE BLACK BASS TOOK IT YOU HAD TO WAIT AWHILE FOR HIM TO SWALLOW , THEN SET THE HOOK . IT WAS RIGGED WEEDLESS. I FISHED THE DEEP CLEAR CANALS IN SOUTH FL . THAT THING WAS A KILLER. WITHIN 6 MO IT WAS PULLED FROM THE SHELF. ? HAVEN’T EVER SEEN ONE AGAIN . DOES ANYBODY REMEMBER THAT BAIT ?

    Reply
  5. Franky 2 fish

    I have used Uncle Josh Striper strip for over 45 years now.I was in shock last week when at a fishing show they said it’s no more. I have to conserve what I have so I can at least bucktail stripers until I’m at least 80.Wire line a 2 oz smilin bill with a white strip and you can pick em out of your favorite piece anytime. Uncle Josh Why did you do this to me[us]. A VERY SAD DAY IN THE FISHING WORLD.

    Reply
  6. Steve Tanner

    I have fished #11 pork frog on a spinnerbaits for 30 years and hate to hear this. Also like the kicker frog awful well. I would buy this by the case in the special colors. Again I just can’t believe this is happening .

    Reply
  7. Robert

    I think it’s other than not letting the little pig i.e. grow to be hogs. You know it had to be a less than favorable job to put josh in a bottle. Well there goes another tried and true if its not broke don’t fix it American job down with the flush . Now our frogs will be imported .

    Reply
  8. Randy

    I grew up with spotted green pork frogs on my Johnson silver minnows. And “Virgil Ward” “scorpion” spinner baits taught to me by legendary guide and outdoor writer Orville “Porky” Meyers. He even had flags on his boat trailer in the shape and color of uncle josh spotted green pork frogs. My arsenal still includes these frogs as well as all the other products uncle josh makes. I won my first bass contest on a jig with black split tail eel. Sad day to see this product go away.

    Reply
  9. Michael Smith

    The best alternative I’ve found so far are Jig Strips by a Long Island company called fat cow fishing.
    I love them because they are the same size as an uncle josh with the same durability, they hold up to bluefish and the container fits right in my surfbag where the uncle josh use to go. John Skinner likes them and they are becoming increasingly popular in the local tackle shops but i just order them on the website at http://www.fatcowfishing.com good luck!

    Reply
  10. Michael Gilson

    12 of my buddies and I are gearing up for a guys big lake fishing trip in two months. I pulled out my grandpas old fishing tackle box that he had before he passed away. Mind you, that was over 12 years ago and we havent opened that tackle box since the mid 80s. Anyway, you wouldnt believe what i found! 4 jars of Uncle Josh!…..#50 Bass Strip, #101 Spin Pork Frog, #160 Black Widow Eel and an unidentifiable jar of what looks like a white square cut curly strip!!!! Its all still moist and full of salt water! I cant wait to try them out. What do you think? Any good? I hope I hear back from someone!

    Reply
  11. Steven usa retired

    Used uncle josh baits at age of 5 on a fly rod to catch rock bass tha t was 1956.i cryed when i found out uncle josh baits. Would no longer be

    Reply
  12. Rett Jones

    It is a sad day in the USA when my jig has lost it’s pig….. 😭 Hopefully we have Uncle Josh and the boys coming up with something new in the R&D development! My dad, brother and I have landed more bass at Lake Sherdian in PA with the jig and pig over the years than we can count. We will truly miss “The Pig!” Thanks for memories and the fish. -Rett Jones –

    Reply
  13. Frank

    My grandfather would use bacon as I do not the sliced but whole piece you slice your own freeze it you can cut to what you want works good for catfish and flounder

    Reply
  14. mart

    It has been a few years sense I fished for Small Mouth Bass on Stockton Lake In Missouri. I always used jig and pig and had great success. Needless to say, this pass Thursday I spent the day driving all over Kansas City looking for Uncle Josh pork to no avail. I had 4 in my tackle box and used them sparingly but lost them anyway. I found that night fishing on this lake is the best for smallies. Point is, is that I don’t have the confidence in any other combination. Any suggestions?

    Reply

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