You know, it doesn’t matter what kind of bait you use if you don’t have a hook in it. That sounds simple, but when it comes to choosing the right hook, I consider that decision very carefully.
Hooks are obviously extremely important because that’s how you’re able to land a fish. However, you have to use the right style of hook for the right application. Otherwise, you decrease your chance of catching fish.
When I’m determining the type of hook I’ll use, a lot of factors come into consideration. The type of bait I’m using is certainly a big element, but so are line size, the habitat I’m fishing and the size of fish I expect to catch.
For instance, you wouldn’t use a thin wire hook with 20-pound fluorocarbon in heavy cover. Conversely, you wouldn’t use a heavy flipping hook in open water with light line. Every hook has its purpose and learning to select the right one for the job will increase your success as an angler.
Here are a few of my favorite hooks and a few details on how I use them:
HOOK 1: Gamakatsu Straight Shank Heavy Cover Flipping Hook
How I Use It: This hook is great for fishing around any shallow cover such as grass or wood. The strength allows you to set the hook and drag that fish out of cover. In this scenario, if you try to use a hook that’s too light, one of two things will happen: Either your hook will bend, if the fish will wiggle loose.
When you hook a fish in that heavy cover, those fish have so much leverage. By comparison, out in open water, the fish is pulling against you, which means they’re pulling against your line and your rod. There’s not much pressure on the hook and on the fish.
But when that fish is in the target area and he’s pinned against something, they have so much leverage that they can turn their head really hard really hard the other direction and it will bend the hook. So you need a heavier hook for that situation.
This is my choice for flipping/pitching with 22-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon. I’ll rig this hook with the Yamamoto Flappin Hog and use a 4/0 for the larger size bait and a 3/0 for the smaller one.
Hook Pointer: When I feel the bite in heavy cover, I drop the rod tip, reel up any slack and set the hook pretty hard.
HOOK 2: Gamakatsu Super Line Extra Wide Gap (EWG) Hook
How I Use It: This is my choice for all 5-inch Senko applications around shallow cover, where I cast and flip the bait on 16- to 20-pound fluorocarbon. That hook holds the Senko, I believe, straighter than any other hook. It allows the bait to line up perfectly straight on the hook.
That bait falls the best without any hook in it – without anything to hinder it. By design, the bait wiggles when it falls. With any hook, if the bait is tweaked a little bit and not perfectly straight, I don’t think it falls as naturally as it’s designed to fall because you’re limiting the amount of action it has.
Depending on depth, I’ll fish the Senko on a weighted Texas rig with a 4/0 hook or a weightless Texas rig with a 3/0. With the weightless rig, the 3/0 size is better because there’s less hook and I don’t overpower the Senko and mar the action. With a standard Texas rig, weight is less of an issue.
Hook Pointer: Not only does that hook keep it perfectly straight; it allows you to Tex-pose that hook point. So you don’t have to pierce the Senko completely like you would with a standard Texas-rigged setup where the barb and the point are buried inside the bait.
Well, a Senko is a big-body bait with a lot of salt and a lot of bulk. Anytime you have to pierce that bait, your odds of catching that fish decrease.
With that EWG hook, the bend that it has allows me to run the hook point completely through the bait and then the hook point lays flat on top of that bait. Then all I do is just barely pierce the skin with the point to make it completely weedless. When I set the hook, all I’m doing is tearing through one little piece of plastic.
So this hook helps the bait sit flat without any weird bend to it and it helps with the actual hook-up ratio when you set the hook.
HOOK 3: Gamakatsu Weedless Split Shot/Drop Shot hook
How I Use It: This is my choice for wacky rigging 5-inch Senkos. Wacky rigging maximizes that classic Senko action because there’s only one point of entry, as opposed to the two points of entry that you have with a Texas-rigged bait.
The reason a Senko is so effective at tempting fish is that it has a crawly, wiggly action on the fall. Fishing it on a wacky rig allows the bait to fall as it’s made to.
I like a 1/0-2/0 hook for wacky rigging and I’ll fish this rig in shallow to mid-depths on spinning tackle. I typically use 8-pound fluorocarbon, but these hooks are heavy enough that I can get away with 16-pound line if I’m around heavier cover.
Hook Pointer: Because I’m using spinning tackle and lighter hooks, I have to take it easy on the hook set. If I drop the rod tip and set the hook like I would with a flipping presentation, I might bend the hook. With spinning gear, I’ll reel down and pull into the hook set, instead of the drop-snap method.
Here are a few more points to consider with your hooks:
Knot Choice: For all of the hooks I’ve mentioned, I attach my line with a version of a uni-knot. Essentially, you make a loop through the eye; similar to the Palomar, but then you tie a uni-knot over the main line and the tag end with the loop.
In the past, I’ve had trouble with broke lines with Palomar, but since I’ve been using this knot, I’ve had almost no trouble with knot-related break-offs. A Palomar is a great knot for reaction baits, but for any hook setting baits with lot of shock, I use this modified uni-knot.
Matching Line to Hooks: The one trick is to look at the diameter of the hook as it relates to your line. The lighter the line, the lighter the hook should be. Basically, a light line doesn’t have enough power for a heavy hook; but a heavy line has too much power for a light hook. If you go the wrong way; things will go south in a hurry.
Hook Organization: How you store your hooks can play a key role in your efficiency, particularly your ability to quickly respond to an opportunity on the water.
I keep my hooks in a Plano Utility box with slots for the different sizes. This box also carries my other terminal tackle items. I have back-up items in their original packaging in my truck, but I’ll keep a complete assortment of terminal tackle in this one box in my boat.
Doing it this way, keeps everything I need right in front of me. I don’t have to open up a box for hooks, another box for weights and another box for bobber stops. It’s faster and easier to have something right there.
Sharpening Hooks: There’s nothing wrong with touching up the tip of a hook now and then. I do it if I see the point just has a little bend or tweak in it.
However, if I think a hook’s point has worn down to the point of needing more than a casual touch-up, I’ll replace it. It takes only a few seconds to retie and I’d rather know that I have a hook that won’t let me down.