September 21, 2022
Soft plastics are remarkably effective for bass in a wide variety of situations, but since they're mostly fished on single hooks, choosing just the right hook is critical for success. Sizing the hook correctly means not only selecting the right numeric size, but also the right gauge of steel. Bass hooks range in size from 1 to 7/0, from the very heavy wire designs used in flipping hooks to the very light—but very quick to penetrate—designs used for wacky rigs, Ned rigs and drop-shotting.
A hook that's too big or too heavy kills the action of a soft plastic, while one that's too small and too short won’t hook fish. That said, the right shape or style of hook is probably the most important factor of all. Here’s a basic primer on which designs work best for various rigs.
Most hooks shaped for fishing a conventional plastic worm have an offset or "dog-leg"—a straight shank and a round bend—just below the eye. This allows a worm rigged on one to run straight, with the point of the hook just under the “skin” of the worm on the upper side, rendering the lure amazingly weedless.
Thread the worm on them correctly and you totally bury the eye and the knot inside the plastic of the head while the worm lies straight from head to tail. Offset hooks shine for keeping the worm on the hook even when a Texas rig is fished in the thickest cover. One of many good ones is the Berkley Fusion19, which is dead sharp out of the package, has a "SlickSet" coating for easier penetration and a stamped bend for the added strength you want after the hook is set.
For bulky baits like bluegill and shad imitations, frogs and other swimbaits, extra-wide-gap (EWG) hooks provide the bigger bite that’s needed to punch through the wider-profiled baits and into the fish’s jaw. Traditional round-bend soft plastics hooks need not apply for these wide-bodied baits, as their bend profile is simply too narrow to work well. The “wide gap” means extra leverage on the bend, so most quality wide-gap hooks, like Owner's Wide Gap Plus, are made from extra-strong steel. VMC’s Heavy Duty Wide Gap has a bead of resin sealing the eye, making doubly sure that thin braid can’t slip out. And Berkley’s Fusion19 Weighted Swimbait hook includes a spiral spring keeper on the eye and comes in sizes to 7/0 to handle even the largest swimbaits.
NEKO AND WACKY RIGS
Finesse hooks suitable for Neko and wacky rigging are all made of fine wire like drop shot hooks and designed to be fished on lighter lines and lighter action/power rods. The light-gauge wire hooks have sharp points and penetrate better than heavier gauge hooks. This is a must when fishing morsel-sized finesse baits.
Sizes range from 1 to 2/0, with the smaller hooks being best suited for the smallest of finesse baits and for a slower fall. Larger hooks are used for larger baits and a faster fall. Gamakatsu's Cover Neko is a wide-gap that includes a 90-degree keeper wire and a swivel to prevent line twist. The wider gap design gives a better shot at penetration as a fish grabs the sinking bait. The short shank makes a more compact and less obvious attachment than a standard longer-shank hook of similar size. And the Mustad KVD Weedless Wacky has a wire weedguard to allow fishing through most brush and weedy cover.
FLIPPING and PUNCHING
Specialty hooks made exclusively for flipping and punching, like Hayabusa's FPP HD and the Berkley Fusion19 Heavy Cover, are usually straight-shank and made of much heavier, heat-treated wire than standard bass hooks (up to three times stronger). These hooks are for close-quarter battles with big fish and must be super stout. The straight shank provides a more mechanically strong hook design than extra-wide-gap flipping hook designs.
These hooks must withstand the pressure of jerking fish and weeds straight upward with a broomstick-stiff, 8-foot rod and a short length of 65-pound-test braid. They typically have a composite bait holder near the eye to keep lures in place, and a closed eye to keep the braid secure.
Most major brands now offer chemically sharpened hooks as part of their lineup.
Most hooks are made of drawn high-carbon wire that’s shaped and then heat-treated to around 1,200 degrees before being quenched in an oil bath. This process drops the temperature almost instantly and creates a very "stiff" steel that is resistant to bending. Hooks are then mechanically honed to sharpen the steel. But many of the preferred hooks these days get one final step—chemical sharpening.
After conventional honing, the hooks are briefly placed in a corrosive solution that eats away at the metal. Since the point has the least amount of metal, removal of a few bits here makes the hook even sharper.