May 09, 2011
Of all tools ever invented, Forbes Magazine lists the fish hook among the 20 most important. The oldest fish hook unearthed is 23,000 years old. Thousands of refinements occurred before any of us were born, but they now happen at a dizzying rate. More refinements have occurred in the past 30 years than in the preceding 8,970 combined.
Hook design has undeniable impact on your success as a fisherman. Degree of bend, shaft length, wire thickness, and the attitude of the eye can be tweaked to create a hook for a specific technique, particular lure or knot. How important is it to have hooks designed for specific techniques? Pros know the proof is in the details.
Flippin' cover requires stout line and stout hooks. In the past that meant thicker wire that couldn't penetrate with the force produced by lighter lines. But advances in tempering and tapering steel may actually unclutter our tackle boxes, by allowing more hooks to perform double duty.
Technology that produces surgical needles was used to develop Trokar Hooks. Each Trokar design has a different point and ground, and are tapered to match specific tackle and techniques. Shaw Grigsby, host of "One More Cast" for the past 15 years, helped design the TK130 Flippin' Hook.
"Trokar technology led to versatility we never really had before," Grigsby said. "The TK130 allows you to take a heavy hook and use it with lighter line -- it's that sharp. But if you do use heavy braid, you're not going to straighten it out -- it's that strong."
Advances in tempering and blending metals resulted in hooks of incredible strength, Grigsby said. "Trokar hooks are rigid, with no flex on the set. You can penetrate with very little force, yet I've never had one snap. I use the TK130 to rig almost any kind of plastic. It's versatile enough to simplify things to that extreme, even on a tournament level," he said.
"The biggest bass of my life -- a 13.60-pounder -- came in with a TK130 arrowed through its jaw."
Gary Yamamoto helped design the Owner TwistLOCK Light, a deadly-thin, standard-gap, offset hook to match specific plastic shapes pitched on lighter tackle. He said design was driven in part by his growing preference for 10-pound braid with long fluorocarbon leaders in tournaments.
"Even light braids are impossible to break," Yamamoto said, "and the lack of stretch delivers more power on light tackle than heavy mono does on casting gear. My particular use for the TwistLOCK Light was the Swimmin' Senko and larger grubs with round bodies. Some baits need a wider gap, allowing the hook to penetrate through thicker plastic. For the Swimmin' Senko, wide gaps offer more hindrance than advantage. I wanted less bend, so it wouldn't interfere or hang up on cover -- a hook you can set with 6-pound test line."
Yamamoto said round-bodied plastics fit the design of the Owner TwistLOCK Light in many ways.
"I wanted a pin-lock system that would hold onto plastic while allowing the point to drive through easily. The point of the hook is facing slightly toward the eye, and that demands a sweep set. I allow the fish to run before I set the hook and sweep the rod on more of a horizontal plane. Braided line reduces the amount of force required.
"The angle of the point on a TwistLOCK almost creates a circle, but bass will pick up a Senko and hold it. Let them take it, keep tension on and keep reeling before sweeping it home and it won't come out -- and that's the real point."
The business card of TJ Stallings reads "Marketing and Crazy Ideas Guy" for the TTI-Blakemore Fishing Group. He's a walking encyclopedia of bass-hook history, having worked for several major hook companies over a career that spans four decades. He remembers model numbers of obscure hooks out of issue for 30 years.
Stallings admits addiction to swimbaits and flukes. "I can make a Shad Assassin bark at you," he said. "I've tried all the big-bend swimbait hooks on the market. The idea was to put a big bend in the bottom of the hook thinking it would go through plastic better. Irony is, the front of the plastic prevents the hookup. It's geometry -- after the bait gives all it can give, there's no room left to penetrate past the barb. I keep coming back to the Daiichi CopperHead, because, after compression, more hook finds more flesh. With the Hitchhiker system up front, you can work baits really hard without the plastic slipping, making it the most efficient design for both triggering and hooking bass with flukes and swimbaits."
Some treble hooks bite easier and hold onto bass better than others. Many pros won't admit it in public, but they often replace factory-installed hooks with one of the new "wide-gap" trebles, designed specifically for bass. The three points actually bend back slightly, toward the eye, actually reducing the gap -- something most of us would considered counterintuitive. But pulling force and points are perfectly in line, and the wider bend acts like a lock, wrapping the point back into the jaw after penetration.
Changing trebles wins tournaments, according to legendary pro Paul Elias. "I change out all my crankbait hooks to Gamakatsu EWG Trebles," he said. "That hook was designed for bass and the wider gap really penetrates perfectly. In-the-boat percentage is measurable over time, and it's highest when cranking with the EWG. When bass nip at a crank the EWG tends to stick 'em a little better. They've saved me several fish during tournaments I felt I would have lost with standard trebles."