Last week, as I was cleaning out my old truck, among the things I stumbled on were several bucktails that had clearly been flung into the carton of tackle in a rush to change lures, with their trailers still on them.Just a few years ago this would have meant that those bucktails were now adorned with a rock-hard, gnarled twist of yellowed or red animal hide, permanently twisted into a useless clump of plasticized garbage that would have to be sheared off the hook shank.
But instead, the shanks of these bucktails hung with the still soft ribbons of Jig Strips and Otter Tails. Theyâ€™d picked up a little sand and debris in the back of the truck but a splash of water and they were good as new.
It occurred to me how quickly this vast improvement had come about, purely because of necessity, not innovation.
Uncle Josh, of course, had essentially owned the trailer market for decades. Their pork rind trailers, in the trademark jars with green and white lids, were the standard in both freshwater and saltwater trailers for, essentially, the entire life of anyone reading these words.
We all remember that they were the best, especially in saltwater, primarily because of their durability. Plastic trailers never held up to more than a fish or two, while an Uncle Josh could endure the crushing and tearing of dozens of striped bass or bluefish.
But their downfall was they had to stay moist or they would rather quickly evolve into the grotesque fossil of their former selves described above. That meant that they had to be removed from the lure, sometimes laboriously, fairly soon after the last cast of the day with that lure, and stored in the jar. That, of course, didnâ€™t always happen quite as expeditiously as necessary and we all had the â€śdâ€™oh!â€ť moments on a regular basis.
And for all those decades nobody ever was able to break the Uncle Josh strangle-hold on the durable trailer market.
Then Uncle Josh up and went out of business. My understanding is that this wasnâ€™t so much because of financial failure as it was out of exasperation by an aging ownership with difficulty in getting supplies of the pig hides needed to make their product.
That gap in the market, and the considerable demand that suddenly was left with dwindling stocks of old Uncle Josh (I have 20 or so new jars in my basement still, that I now think will probably never be opened), suddenly gave birth to a product that was not just a replacement but, frankly, far superior to the old standard. Jig Strips and Otter Tails are both equally, if not more, durable than Uncle Joshâ€™s pork rinds were, and do not have the very limited life expectancy if not meticulously stored at the end of each fishing day.
Itâ€™s a funny testament to the prejudices of a consumer and resistance to change that even the powerful forces of competition could not knock an old habit off the hill, even though there were bigger, stronger kids on the playground.
Itâ€™s February now. The weather forecasters are saying they expect it to be a cold one in the Northeast. If they are right, we probably have at least eight more weeks before thereâ€™s any hope of a small striped bass showing in our waters. If we get a healthy February thaw, maybe there will be a quick peek in some of the backwaters before the March winter returns.
Catch â€™em up. See you out there.