Let’s Talk Hooks

Going back to 1985 and my first Bassmasters Classic, the reason I mentioned being the first Wal-Mart FLW Champion is that we looked at our hooks a lot differently back then we do today. The most important thing on our lures and jigs is the hook. Years ago we had bronze hooks with big barbs and points that we had to sharpen with a mill file. With the hooks that are out today, there is no need to sharpen and the barbs are a lot smaller.

Going back in time when we used old bronze hooks and we didn’t have the lines we have today, Stren and Berkley monofilament lines were the biggest product lines on the market which made choosing hooks and lines a lot simpler. One observation I have is back in the day when we used hooks with big barbs and we had to set the hook with as much power as we could muster because our lines had a lot of stretch and I would lose very few fish. If you set the hook like we did years ago with the new hooks with their small barbs and using lines such as braid with no stretch it is no wonder you hear all the stories about the bass that got away. Back when I started my fishing career, when I got a bite on my home made jigs with the old style hooks the last thing I would think about was losing the fish. They almost never came off the hook. I know a great angler that has won many Lake Okeechobee Tournaments say the same thing and to this day still uses the old style brute true-turn with that big barb when fishing punch baits because when he tried the new and improved hooks with laser sharp points and small barbs he started losing bass in the mats. But he did say you need to put the file on those old hooks. The only way you will ever know what works for you is to try everything, including maybe a new hook set, different lines, but the most important thing I can say is every time you catch a bass, see where it is hooked and how well it is hooked and when you decide what hook works best for you, you will fish with more confidence. Losing a fish should be the last thing on your mind while reeling in that trophy Big ‘O’ bass.

We learn a lot from our mistakes, again going back in time, I was competing in the US Open on Lake Mead in Nevada back in the early 80’s and was fishing a 4-inch worm on 6lb. mono that stretched like a rubber band. Lake Mead is a lake where you can see the bottom in sixty feet of water, by far the clearest water I had ever seen. Deb would be fishing off the back of my boat and would say many times, you missed one when she would see them swimming behind me. Fishing forty feet deep with air temps in the 100’s, August in the desert, they called this technique shake and bake. Shaking a 4-inch worm that deep with the only hooks that fit were a No.1 Mustad that had a big barb. After my practice trips and starting the event the next day, I went to a good friend and expert on the shake and bake technique, Gary Cline, with the problem I was having keeping fish on my hook. Half of the bass I would hook would jump and come off that old hook. Gary told me to take my pliers and mash the barb down, he said the barb was not penetrating because of all the line stretch. To get the bite you had to use that line and that Mustad hook was the only one on the market at the time that would work. To make a long story short, I never lost a bass in four tournament days and nearly won the event by simply working on that hook. Things are a lot different today, I guess that is why there are so many hooks available for all the new techniques developed by these pros that have learned from their mistakes and other pros finding solutions that fix problems. I can’t imagine what is going on in a person’s head that is just starting to fish for bass when they go to a Bass Pro Shop and look at all the hooks hanging on the hook isle, it makes my head hurt, so I can feel for them. With all the new technology thrown at developing new and better hooks, I can’t help but wonder that maybe going back in time is not a bad thing. When I started writing this article I thought how can I come up with enough information on something as simple as a hook, but the more I thought about it, it’s the most important thing we use while trying to catch a fish so I think I can talk about this for hours mainly because there are no rights or wrongs, only what works for you. Next time I will get into treble hooks, you think this is complicated just wait, you haven’t seen anything yet.