Seeing Red: 2 Ways to Increase Bass Catching Success on Treble-Hook Hard Baits
How do angling pros like Brent Chapman maximize their bass-hookup rates and ability to get a fish into the boat? By paying attention to small details, things as seemingly innocent enough as switching out a set of treble hooks and by adding an extra split
What's the difference between a BASS Angler of the Year and a weekend warrior on the local lake?
Paying attention to the smallest of details, that's what.
At least that's the conclusion I came to while talking fish-catching strategy with Bassmaster Elite Series pro and Major League Fishing veteran Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kansas.
One of those little details is putting a red treble hook on the front end of each one of his various crankbaits, jerkbaits and topwater lures.
In other words, if a bait in Chapman's boat has a couple of sets of treble hooks on it, at least one of those will be the color red.
He reluctantly discussed the topic during the Livingston LIVE session when an online fan actually asked Chapman about a few baits the winner of four BASS events had held up for the camera to see.
"Red hooks?" said Chapman with a sheepish grin. "Well, that's a tournament-ready bait of Brent Chapman, that's what that is."
"For me, when red hooks came out about 10 or 15 years ago, some guys were skeptical (but I'm not)," he said.
That certainly became true after an angling experience that Chapman had while fishing in the northeastern U.S. a number of years ago.
"I was at Lake Champlain one time and the fish were in a negative mood," said Chapman, the winner of $1.7 million in career earnings on the BASS tournament trails.
"They were kind of hitting jerkbaits but you had to reel them really, really fast to even occasionally get a bite," he added.
"I had a lot of follows and an occasional hookup, but even then, a lot of times, you'd lose them."
If you've ever fished for bass with baits featuring treble hooks, then you know all about such half-hearted takes by the fish and the difficulty of getting them into the boat.
And that's where the red hooks enter the picture in Chapman's mind.
"I was fishing with a buddy and he said 'Put red hooks on your lure,'" said the Major League Fishing Cup-level pro. "The next two bites he had, the smallmouths ate it hard.
"So I did that (to my bait) and quickly caught some (aggressive) fish like that and it made me a believer."
If that was the beginning of Chapman's experimentation with red treble hooks, it certainly hasn't stopped in the years that have followed.
"The way I look at it, a set of red treble hooks certainly doesn't hurt me," he said. "And there's no doubt in my mind that they help me catch another fish or two throughout the year (that I would not have caught otherwise)."
A key fish or two can be the difference in winning a BASS Angler of the Year title and losing it.
See the 2012 AOY trophy on Chapman's mantle if you have any questions here.
Why does the Kansas pro think a set of red treble hooks can make a difference?
"I think it's the red flash (they provide as a bait is coming through the water)," said Chapman, a 13-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier.
"I think that red flash provides something that the fish sees as either blood coming from a baitfish or some sort of weakness. Either way, it causes them to react a little bit differently."
Chapman said when he first tried the red treble hooks years ago on Champlain, the smallmouth he caught after changing hooks ate the bait differently than the others had.
"They actually ate the red hook on the front of the bait," he said.
Since then, Chapman has made it a standard practice of changing out the factory treble hooks on the front end of a bait and in replacing them with a set of red treble hooks.
"That's something that I've done for years now because I prefer to have the fish eat more of the bait (and to do so more aggressively)," said the BASS and MLF pro.
"Sometimes on a jerkbait, I'll put red treble hooks on all three (sets of hooks). But in general, I put them on the front because I like to give them (the fish) a focal point more at the front of the bait, something for them to target (when they strike)."
So committed to the practice is Chapman that even his primary lure sponsor – Livingston Lures – has sat up and taken notice.
"Putting a red treble hook on the front of a bait, that's something that they may eventually do for all of their lures," said Chapman.
If putting a set of red treble hooks on the front of a bait is one way Chapman increases his hookup rate with bass, there's also another tweak he has in his bag of bait modifying tricks.
"Something else that I (have learned to) do is when I use a topwater bait with a feathered treble hook, I use two split rings (on the back end)," he said.
Why such a modification?
Because a lot of times with a feathered treble hook, bass will short strike the back end of the bait.
And when they do so, they may only get hooked by the rear set of treble hooks.
Which can bring heartbreak as an angler tries to work a good fish back to the boat before they can find a way to throw the hook.
"If your bait only has one split ring on the back, there is only so far that it can twist before something has to give," said Chapman.
And that something is usually the fish gaining enough leverage to free the hooks.
But according to Chapman, if an angler adds a second split ring, it allows the rear feathered hook to twist around even farther before a fish gains enough leverage to come unbuttoned.
"It's (a little) something else that I do (to my baits)," said Chapman. "(And like the red hooks, I'm convinced that it) helps me catch a few more fish each year."
Fish that can end up being the difference in winning or losing a tournament or even a career-defining title.
Or giving a weekend warrior like yours truly his best fish of the year and some serious bragging rights back at the boat ramp.
All because he was willing to do what Chapman does and that's pay attention to a couple of little details.
Small things that sometimes can make the biggest difference in an angler's world.