THE LOWLY FISH HOOK
By Jim Porter
The reel holds the line and supplies retrieval torque; the rod gives us control; the line provides the link; and, the hook is our physical contact with the bass. Now, which is the most important?
It sure is an interesting question and could stimulate a lot of good discussion, if we were in a round table group. I don't think we have a 'school solution', since each component of our fishing tackle has its own merits. We hope you answered that they are all of equal importance because, if you did, you are a part of the fishing majority. However, it's a reasonable bet that many readers, like that majority, really don't apply that answer in their fishing.
We questioned an even dozen experienced anglers on the subject and all but one gave us the 'of equal importance' reply. However, when we took the question into more detail, it was found that few (two of the 12, to be exact) pay much attention to their hooks. In fact, the majority of ten indicated that they used single hooks right out of the package and discarded them only when damage or rust was apparent. With plugs, most stated that they rarely checked them and only changed if the damage or rust factors were present.
I KNOW we all are fully conscience of the condition of our line at all times. So, why not the hooks? If they fail to connect us solidly to the fish, the effort applied to everything else is surely wasted.
Comparatively speaking, hooks are our cheapest financial investment in fishing. Yet, they are of utmost importance, in they are the one item of our equipment that is in DIRECT contact with the fish. Their selection and care merit a reasonable amount of attention.
By far, the sharpest hooks on the market today appear to be those which have been specially prepared using a laser sharpening system. However, they appear to have one draw-back, in that they do not seem to re-sharpen well. Possibly, this is due to the hardness of the materials used in their manufacture. If damaged or if the hook point is blunted, we suggest you simply discard them.
Blue steel and bronze hooks have excellent sharpness and can be easily restored to such with the quick touch of a fine grit diamond dust file. They have a bit less strength than chrome, stainless steel and the laser hooks, but that is not a major factor. For crank plugs, the needle-point bronze varieties are tops.
Selecting a hook involves a few factors other than sharpness. Alone. For example, if the application were to be as a spinnerbait trailer hook, we would look for a large eye (to provide ease of fit over the main hook barb) and a strong shank (to assure it does not bend under stress). Those stainless steel and chrome plated hooks in a 3/0 size work well.
Worm hook styles are many and varied. Each has its own devoted following in anglers. I have tested about all of them and have not really noted too much advantage, one over the other, in hooking abilities. Most work well if the fish is allowed to move with the lure a bit before setting the hook. When bass moves with a worm, it is usually away from whatever resistance he has felt and that is, then, away from the angler. That means we are pulling the hook back INTO the fish, rather than away from his mouth. Nearly all hooks work well in that situation. Given that hooking capabilities are about equal, the ability to conveniently hold the worm in place is a 'plus' for me. Accordingly, I have come to prefer what is called a 'southern sproat ' style worm hook (sometimes also referred to as a 'J-bend' hook); it has two 90 bends just below the eye and these hold the head of the worm in place quite well.
Nearly all hooks are subject to rust, which pits them and greatly reduces their strength and sharpness. A small speck of rust on the tip of the hook point IMMEDIATELY dulls the hook. Rust is oxidized metal. If it is on the tip and the rust chips off, you can be sure the point went with it. Even plated ones, when that plating is chipped or penetrated, will rust. Rust on a hook shank can pit it and make the shank surface rough. Rough surfaces nick and cut lines. Always discard any hook with rust damage. They cannot be repaired.
Rust problems can be avoided in a number of ways:
- Allow hooks, particularly those on plugs, to dry well before storage. Wet hooks in a closed tackle box may rust rapidly.
- Be sure the inside of the tackle box is dry before storing hooks away.
- Individual hooks should be stored in an airtight container, such as a small, heavy-duty zip-lock freezer bag. In that bag, place a small amount of uncooked rice to retard rust. The use of rice follows the same principle for which it is used in salt shakers. Rice is slightly hydroscopic; that is, it will naturally absorb moisture. If rice is not available, a bit of mineral oil or liquid lure scent can also be used, in that both have a petroleum base which impedes rust.
Pay attention to your hooks, for they are what actually grab that trophy for you.
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