I wanted to reach out one more time to all our supporters and anyone that Frank Johnson, Sr. has impacted throughout the fishing industry again for their support in writing a brief comment, email, story, or letter of their own that may help in our quest to have him nominated to the IGFA Hall of Fame.
The following is a letter that I have composed in an effort to have my father Frank Johnson Senior inducted into the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame with their next cycle of nominations. I would like to invite you and everyone else in the fishing industry to compose a letter of your own addressed to Rob Kramer the president of the IGFA to assist me in this end. Please feel free to include a story of your own. I’m sure there are many colorful ones that I have not heard. Anyone who knows my father is keenly aware of his far-reaching, long-term contributions and participation in the fishing industry and will agree that he is a worthy candidate.
Your participation is greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance,
Frank W Johnson III
To: Rob Kramer President International Game Fish Association
From: Frank W Johnson III General Manager VP Mold Craft Fishing Products
I’m writing a letter of recommendation to you and the staff of The International Game Fish Association on behalf of a large section of the sport fishing industry that firmly believe that Frank Johnson should be inducted into The International Game Fish Association Hall Of Fame. I will try to be as brief as possible but with his long list of accomplishments and contributions, it will be very difficult. As you well know, my father’s influence on sport fishing is both long term (40+ years), and far-reaching. I will begin with a brief biography and then describe some of his more notable accomplishments and contributions to our great sport. Frank W Johnson Junior was born In Middletown, New York on 7 October 1938. A simple entry in my Great Uncle Gabriel’s farm journal denotes this. Uncle Gabe simply writes in his farm journal, “ Frank Junior was born today.” A very humble beginning for a man whose influence on sport fishing in the past 40 years is impressive. Learning to fish in the lakes and streams of upstate New York as a child was where dad got his beginnings. His stepfather had a modest cabin on a trout stream in the Catskill Mountains. His first Job was as a clerk at a gun store where he became a consummate tinkerer and negotiator, buying and selling guns and ammunition. After graduation from high school in 1956, he moved To Portland, Connecticut and took on an apprenticeship with Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in Hartford, Connecticut. There he learned many aspects of manufacturing and product development. He developed many special machining processes incorporating what was at the time very new technology, Electrochemical Machining Electro Discharge Machining or EDM and ECM. He sat in on board meetings with the Board of Directors of Pratt & Whitney and United Aircraft with such notables as Igor Sikorsky. Included in the packet of articles are some photos of some of these machining process.
During this time he would frequently fish In the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. My earliest memories of fishing with my father were out of a number of small boats that we had, a 12 foot aluminum boat, 18 Ft. Square Ended Canoe with a used 3 HP Evinrude and a 15 foot Starcraft Explorer that we frequently used to venture Into Long Island Sound. One of the tales he tells is of a trip from Old Saybrook to Block Island with a Rand McNally Road Map in an Old Town sailing dink with sail and a British Seagull for power. On our many vacations to Cape Cod we would catch literally hundreds of pounds of Striped Bass, stopping only when we either ran out of bait or were at risk of sinking the boat. The first fishing rod that I remember using was A Zebco 202 and solid 5 foot fiberglass rod that I broke the tip off of too many times to remember. Maybe this was his very first fishing tackle innovation. He epoxied a 2 ft. section of bamboo to the pistol grip for me so that I could tuck the butt under my arm and wind. Most of our vacations were financed by selling the stripers to local markets. The truth be told, having been raised in a family that ate fish every Friday, dad never really cared to eat his catch.
After 12 ½ years at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, he moved my mother Karen and I to Boca Raton, Florida on Fourth of July weekend 1969. Packing as much as would fit in a Ford Mustang and a Volkswagen Beetle, he fabricated a towbar at Pratt & Whitney to tow the Beetle and we departed for Florida. He had been recruited by one Of Pratt & Whitney’s subcontractors in Oakland Park, Florida, Joe Surace with Chem Form. Shortly after our arrival in South Florida he went to Pompano Beach Marine Center and purchased his first fiberglass boat, a 19 ft. Aqua Sport with a 115 Johnson equipped with a Lowrance flasher depth finder. This was the first depth sounder that was able to mark fish.
He adapted many of the techniques from striper fishing to fishing In the Straits of Florida. He caught his first Sailfish on Penn Squider with a plastic spool which promptly blew up soon after he landed the fish. This may at least in my mind be the epiphany that led him to develop so many products for the fishing industry.
In the spring of 1973 he became a partner in the original Moldcraft with John Consolo who was a subcontractor for Chem Form as well as a tool and die mold making and prototype machinery company. He became involved in the marine industry nearly immediately. An injection molding company by the name of Master Tool in Miami was one of their well-established customers. They had a series of multiple use design molding equipment for which the original Moldcraft made molds for all sorts of products: the track components for Bimini tops, plastic cleats, rod holders, and a myriad of other marine related hardware. In the early days of his involvement with Moldcraft just about anything that was injection molded in Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County, he had his hands in. Next door to the original Moldcraft at the 4848 Ne. 10th Ter., Oakland Park location was a company called Phil Bart Inventions for whom he built tooling for a number of products, Including the Leader Keeper which was a bellows type expanding valise on to which you wound your leaders and then compressed them in a clamshell, the Snapper Outrigger clip, an innovative outrigger clip that was screw adjustable with two setting positions and an audible report upon release and the Teaser Lure in two sizes which had Polaroid film inside that changed colors with the angle of the light. Other tooling that he built Included the original molds for the Blacks outrigger clip and hook keeper for Play Action and the molds for many of their rod gimbals.
For Moldcraft he began to produce a line of aluminum rod butts the most notable of which was his patented designThe Uni Butt. This patent was later sold to Aftco as was his patent for the Roller Troller outrigger clip. Other marine related items produced by Moldcraft in that era included the John Emory fly reel, Push Poll Points and Feet, tooling for Fin Nor’s plastic roller guides, Ray Bud’s pie plate access panels, and lift and lay hatches as well as the extrusion dies for their spray rail extensions. Sometime shortly before April 1976 the then owner of Boone Bait approached Frank to build a new machine to injection mold plastisol material. This tabletop version was the first true injection molding machine for plastisol material, trout touts, rubber worms, curly tails etc. etc. etc. Before this equipment was developed plastisol was hand poured or pressure potted into hand held molds. This revolutionary machine incorporated an oil heat transfer tank and coil system, and at the time space aged pneumatic control systems for timing pumping an opening and closing. On the way home from Orlando he and his then partner Fred Dorman came up with the idea for a much larger version of this piece of equipment and sold the idea to his neighbor at Phil Bart Inventions. The original mold for what we now call the squid machine had a variety of more than a dozen different products to demonstrate the versatility of this revolutionary machine. It is relatively unique in that rather than a conventional molding machine where an electric motor drives a hydraulic pump to provide the motivating forces, the squid machine utilizes pneumatics. Although highly refined and modified, this piece of equipment is still in operation today. This accomplishment alone should be noteworthy as it revolutionized the production of all soft baits.
Due to some mitigating circumstances PBI had to dissolve its assets and Moldcraft reacquired the squid machine. With a handful of 5 gallon buckets of plastisol, Frank began production with the sample mold. He brought these samples around to the various tackle stores in the area to demonstrate what the equipment was capable of Scott Boyd of Bill Boyd’s Bait and tackle, an already established customer for the rod butts and other products, took Dad under his wing and suggested that he make a series of Artificial Squid. So the Squirt Squid was born. Originally In four sizes 6, 9, 12 And 16 inch and in five colors. Both as hooked baits and Daisy chain’s the Squirt Squid was a moderate success. In April 1977 with Scott Boyd and Charlie Foreman, he went to Cozumel, Mexico. In a fortuitous turn of fate their charter fell through and they were invited to fish with Peter B. Wright who was, even at that time, a boat captain of some acclaim. Peter had devised ingenious fishing lures fabricated from inner tubes that were split glued and rolled to make a softheaded fishing lure. Up until that time trolling lures were made from either casting resin, wood or metal. They married the concepts of what they called the Kaka Kaka and the artificial squid and the Softhead was born. Originally in one size and two styles and only in solid colors, now the legendary line of Softhead fishing lures has diversified into literally millions of possible combinations in 6 sizes and more than a dozen styles.
Softhead lures are responsible for more than 200 International Game Fish Association World Records as either teasers or hooked baits. Jerry Dunaway’s Hooker team had 40 that were all current at one point. Softhead Lures have also caught more Granders than any other lure, probably all other lures combined. Additionally there have been more tournament dollars won on Softheads than any other lure in the history of fishing. There are so many other products that my father has been involved in with manufacturing and developing that I cannot name them all.
His other contributions to the industry of sport fishing include and are not limited to: Participation in the development of Broward County’s artificial reef program, consulting with development of the Billfish Foundation’s tags, numerous innovations in kite fishing. At a Pompano Beach Fishing Rodeo meeting he suggested a building fund for the International Game Gish Association which at the time was a still located on Atlantic Boulevard in a small office on the second floor. He in fact was the first one to contribute $10,000 to that fund. He encouraged many others to make likewise contributions. Without that initial spark it may have been much later in time that the international Game Fish Association would be in its present grand location or if ever. He has been a staunch supporter and contributor to the International Game Fish Association for over 40 years.
In The 70s, 80s, 90s and Early 2000’s he was extremely active in education, advocacy and conservation. He was also extremely active in the tournament fishing circuit on the east coast of Florida with most notable wins and placing’s in the Pompano Beach Fishing Rodeo, Fort Lauderdale Billfish Tournament, Fort Lauderdale Swordfish Tournaments, Mako Masters, National Sailfish Championships, dozens of writers’ tournaments, special events and tournaments all over the world. He has also contributed to many, many newspaper, magazine and book articles. I’ve provided some of them for your review.
Frank Johnson is an inventor who truly revolutionized the sport fishing industry. With all of this having been said I respectfully submit that my father Frank W Johnson Jr. should be considered for induction to the International Game Fish Association’s Hall of Fame at the earliest possible date.
Respectfully and Sincerely,
Frank W Johnson III
General Manager and Vice President Mold Craft Fishing Products