All about hooks

One of my favourite lines to use when I’m speaking with outdoor writers or other anglers who are serious about their fishing is “I’m picky about my hooks”. The actual hook, considering the strength of the wire, the sharpness of the point and the shape. Regardless of the species that I’m after, I always want to match the best hook to the job so I take all of these properties of the hook into consideration.

Fish hooks come in all shapes and sizes, with new designs improving every year. As a competitive bass angler, the hook is my link to the fish and every lost fish can cost you a shot at winning money. I consider every single jig and hook that I tie on my line, as well as the treble hooks that are on my hard baits to try and give myself the best chance every time I have a bait in the water.

The new Bassmaster season starts down in Florida in February. The fishing down there is predominately shallow, around heavy cover and the bass can grow large. I’m going to be using heavy rods, line and the heaviest hooks that I’ll use all year while I’m down there. By heavy hook, I’m talking heavier gauge wire that won’t open up if I have to pull hard to keep a bass out of the weeds. The heavier fishing rod is needed to penetrate these heavier hooks.
When I’m fishing deeper water for smallmouth and walleye back in Sunset Country this summer, I want to use lighter wire hooks that I can penetrate into a fish’s mouth, with a softer action spinning rod. Hopefully this is making some sense.

For most recreational anglers, the stock hooks that come on our baits will do the job. That being said, there are times when you can do yourself a favour and upgrade your hooks, especially if you find that you’re losing more fish than you should after you hook them.

For my tournament fishing, I want to be landing 80 – 90% of the fish that I’m hooking. If I’m not doing that, it’s a bad day. There are many examples of when I’ve upgraded my hooks to improve my landing percentage. When I’m fishing topwater baits at Rainy Lake in July, I’m often fishing around shallow reeds and weed clumps. A four pound smallmouth will pull and fight a lot harder than you think and they’ll try to run into the weed cover, so I’ll often change out the treble hooks on my baits to heavier versions, but keep them the same size.

Sometimes upsizing the hooks for your worms or jigs will improve your landing rate as well. As a general rule, I like to use the biggest size hook that I can, without impairing the action of my bait. Sometimes if you change to larger treble hooks, you can disrupt the action of your baits because they are actually heavier in weight, so you have to watch that.

The thickness of the wire should also be matched up with the fishing rod that you’re using. If you’re using a light wire jig for walleye fishing, you don’t want to use a heavy rod because you’ll open up the wire when you fight with a big fish. A softer action rod offers more absorption for fighting fish and preventing the hooks from tearing out.  

Finally, keep an eye on the point of the hook, especially if you’ve been snagged or you’ve simply caught a bunch of fish. The points can bend or dull and then greatly reduce your chances of a good hook-up. I always carry a hook file in the boat with me for quick touch-ups if I need to do them. The best way to tell if your hook is sharp enough is to run it along your finger nail lightly. If it scratches it, you’re good, if it doesn’t, it’s dull and you need to either sharpen it or find a new one.

Jeff Gustafson changes out the stock treble hooks on his ice fishing spoons for better quality Gamakasu hooks to increase his fish landing percentage.