Choosing the Right Hook…. It’s All About the Size of Your Bait
You need to replenish your hooks for bass rigs. So you either make a pilgrimage to your favorite tackle shop, or you let your fingers do the tapping on-line. Either way, the task- and the choices- can be intimidating:
What manufacture? Owner, Gamakatsu, Daiichi, TroKar, Mustad, VMC? What shape? Circle, Offset, Baitholder, Down Eye, Two Slices, Wide Gap, Non-Offset, Ringed Eye, O’Shaughnessy, Straight eye, Semi-dropped point, etc., not to mention the different sizes. It is enough to overwhelm even the most seasoned angler. So, as with most complex decisions, sometimes you need to simplify. I have found that for bass fishing, you can break down the decision process into five basic types of hooks: Octopus, Wacky, Straight shank, Offset, and Wide Gap. Each has a very specific purpose.
Octopus hooks are the “go to” for drop shotting. Drop shotting is a minimalist, finesse approach and the octopus hook has the required compact profile. Most drop shotting is done by nose-hooking soft plastics. When you are rigging like this, you want your line tie and hook point to be as close as possible to each other to avoid hook failure. In addition, the compact profile is less likely to spook suspicious bass. Another finesse style hook is the Wacky hook, consider it to be
an octopus hook with a wider gap. Used for hooking relatively thick stick worms- like the senko- wacky style in the middle- wacky hooks have a larger “bite” than octopus hooks to increase hookups. Similar to the octopus hook, the wacky’s line ties and hook points of are located close to the bait for maximum hook penetration. The third type is the Straight Shank hook.These hooks are ideal for flipping and pitching soft plastic baits into heavy cover. As the name implies, these hooks have a perfectly straight shank, allowing you to achieve a direct line pull on the hook itself. This proves essential when quickly pulling big bass from ultra-thick cover. Think of the Straight Shank as the pitbull of hooks. Straight shanks can also be used for casting into grassy areas, as they’re fairly resistant to thick, submerged vegetation.
The Offset hook style is simply a straight shank hook with an elbow beneath the line tie. This notch comes in handy if you’re seeking a streamlined profile with “straight” plastics without
much bulk. Without the elbow, smaller soft plastics tend to become crimped at their midsections, which adversely affects the profile and presentation. I use these hooks for a variety of presentations, including weightless techniques such as soft jerkbaits, finesse worms and stick baits. Wide Gap hooks have a wider, more aggressive bend than your standard Offset hook, making them ideal for bulkier soft plastic baits. The extra space between the shank and hook point allows bigger baits to collapse easier when rigged weedless, which increases the hook penetration. If you’re getting a lot of bites with other hooks but having trouble hooking up with thicker plastics, this style of hook will more than likely remedy the problem.
The Wide Gap is effective for both flipping and casting, so their real use is for big, “meaty” soft plastic creature baits.
Pairing these hook types with the right rig when fishing soft plastic baits is a choice that can dramatically impact your lure’s action and your hooking percentage. Based on the size of the fish, the hook set style, and how heavy or light your rods and line are, there is a hook that will maximize your landing percentage for each rig and bait combo. For Texas rigs, weightless Texas rigs, and Carolina rigs, there are a few basic guidelines that I follow. For these traditional rigs consider three hook styles: The Straight Shank, the Offset, and the Wide gap. Straight Shank hooks were the dominant worm hook for years, until the introduction of the Slug-Go created the demand for the Offset hook. As flipping tubes became popular in the 90s, the use of Wide Gap hooks became widespread. As a result, more bass fishermen are using Wide Gap hooks with soft plastic lures than any other hook type.
The real decision centers around where you are fishing and the geometry of the rig you want to present. Straight shank hooks still handle about about 80% of the situations, Offset hooks 15%, and Wide Gap hooks about 5%. Wide gap hooks have the hook point directly in line with the eye of the hook, or slightly above the line eye on “wide gap plus” hooks. When you set the hook, the sinker and the front of the lure clear a path for the hook point to escape a bass’ mouth without imbedding. On the other hand, on straight shank hooks, the point rides substantially above the eye of the hook and aims for the roof of the bass’ mouth, resulting in more hook-ups. The wide gap hooks do an excellent job of holding fish if you manage to set the hook into the bass’ mouth on the hook set. However, there are plenty of times when a bass completely takes a bait, and even on a short pitch with braided line to a bedding fish, the hook flies cleanly out of the bass’ mouth on the hook set. Missing an extra fish every once in a while doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if that fish is the one you need to get a check in a tournament or the lunker of a lifetime, losing it is a huge deal.
So, generally, the rules of thumb are: For rigging worms, creature baits, craw worms, french fry, or similar baits. use straight shank hooks. For weightless soft plastic jerk baits like Magic Shads or Zig Zags, an offset hook works better. These baits have thick bodies that seem to deliver the best action and hook-ups when rigged Texas with offset hooks. Offset hooks have the hook above the eye, similar to straight shank hooks, and produce much higher hook up percentages for me than wide gap hooks, while still delivering good action. For baits that are extremely bulky, baits that you swim, and tubes, use extra wide gap hooks. For Fork Frogs and Live Magic Shads, wide gap hooks act as a keel to keep the lures running true, while having enough gap to get through the thick bodies. And for Texas rigging hollow bodied tubes like Lake Fork Tackle Craw Tubes, wide gap hooks are the only ones that will rig them properly.
The biggest drawback to straight shank hooks is the head of the bait sliding down the shank instead of staying on the eye of the hook. This is even a problem with offset and wide gap hooks when fishing soft plastics around heavy brush or grass. While there are a number of novel ideas and new hook designs to combat this problem, the simplest solution is to use the end of a
toothpick. Simply break off the end of a round toothpick and push it through the head of your lure, continuing through the eye of the hook, and out the other side of the head of the lure. Trim the toothpick so it is flush with the both sides of your bait and it’ll be locked in place at the eye on any style of hook.
Once you’ve determined the hook style, you need to figure out what size is best. In the past, I would have used the largest hook possible, figuring that larger hooks were stronger and would land more fish. Now I prefer using the smallest hook I can get away with. While it is true that larger hooks often have heavier hooks, when two hooks of similar gauge wire are compared, the larger hook will straighten out easier. The larger the hook and the wider the gap, the more leverage fish have to bend out the hook. For that reason, I’ve switched to mostly 2/0 and 3/0 hooks for most Texas rig and Carolina rig applications instead of the 4/0 and 5/0 hooks of the past. Furthermore, smaller hooks have smaller points, making them easier to penetrate the bass’ mouth. Of great import in selecting a hook size is the bulk of a soft plastic lure to be used. The bulkier the lure, the bigger the hook gap need, so you’ll need to use a larger sized hook. Concerning the gauge of hook wire, in general I use light wire hooks when I’m using line test of 10 lbs or less and go to the extra strong 3X or “Superline” hooks when I’m using line that is 20 lb test or more I hope these tips will help you hook up for more hook ups. Tight Lines and Live the Passion.