Happy Hookers

Hooks attach you to the fish. Every wonder why some use a $500 outfit with some 6-for-$.59 snelled hooks? Ever consider that sharp hooks work better than dull, and that hook selection is absolutely basic to results. In some cases, where it's single barbless hooks only, it can keep you out of jail.

Let's start with a look at treble hooks. Frankly, trebles are defective. Even when a fish is hooked with one or two barbs, the third barb can simply snag on something solid, like a log, and the fish is off. Then too, multiple barbs are harder to sink into a fish jaw than singles. Multiple hooks hang up more when you fish, and make getting fish out of a net a knitter's problem. Worst of all, multiple hooks injure fish. So why trebles? American anglers, like American bird hunters who use too much shot, think "more is better." Such isn't the case.

Consider barbs. Frankly, they don't help much. Against the tension of line it's just about impossible for a fish to "throw" a hook. You know this if you've ever caught a finger or more delicate portion of your body. Barbs simply take more pressure to set, and do more damage on removal if you release fish. I've not used a barb for ten years and notice no worse results. I just mash barbs down or snap them off and I'm set. Such is also the case with plugs and lures. I replace most trebles with single barbless Siwash hooks -- these are relatively short shanked with a round bend and a long point. They work fine.

Now consider hook size. Check the fish you usually catch. A one-inch mouth won't do much with a two-inch hook. As a rule smaller hooks work better and, as they are made from lighter wire, sink more into the fish. I also find that, for example, where the typical salmon egg hook is a 12, I catch more fish with a 14 or 16. Smaller hooks affect bait action less.

Salmon egg hooks, with an upturned eye to maximize their gap and minimal shank length so they spin into eggs easily, are but one example of the hundreds of hooks on the market. Other useful hook types include those with in-line eyes for trolling, eye-less hooks on snells -- leaders -- used for threading baits on and specialized hooks with 3X to 4X shanks that are, naturally, three or four times longer than usual. These let you thread on worms and other baits or enjoy a longer tie on streamers. Some hooks come with special bends to match baits -- nymph hooks are one example. Other hooks come in "no rust" finishes for saltwater. Hooks come in colors too.

Do consider hook to line strength. If you go with a 12 to 15 pound test line set with a 6 to 7 pound drag you can, if you use a light wire hook that will pull straight, avoid loss of most terminal tackle even when you snag. Just make sure you have the rod tip inline with the snag so that when you haul the hook straight you don't break your rod's tip!

So what's the way to go here? If you baitfish with live baits drop your bait into a glass of water to see what it does. Add a minimal-size hook and see if you get the same result. Don't for example, "gog" worms onto a short shank hook when you can thread them onto a long shank that will present them better.

Fortunately, you can buy hooks just about anywhere. I prefer light wire "fly type" hooks for most of my fishing and buy hooks "unsnelled" or loose so I can tie them on to the expensive line I use. Tying our own snells also means you opt for new knots as you go along.