LITTLE things make big differences.
When I’m lure fishing, regardless of whether trolling for marlin or catching flathead in the river, I find that attention paid to terminals, hooks and rigging makes a big difference while out on the water. Hooking fish is a percentage game, and the better the hook the more fish you’ll pin on it. Considering the amount of time we all spend on the water and the investment we put in, it amazes me how few anglers invest in chemically sharpened trebles.
My son works in a large tackle shop on the Gold Coast. That shop, in the lead up to the recent Flathead Classic, sold hundreds of small hard-bodied lures. Now, some of these lures come with good hooks, some with average hooks and some with a pretty piss poor imitation of a hook. I watched the racks of lures go out the door in big numbers, but the boxes of deadly fine chemically sharpened trebles all just hung on the pegs.
Only a few were sold in the weeks leading up to the event. It’s apparent from this and other observations that most anglers just can’t be bothered changing trebles and use what the lure comes with.
In the small hard-body lure game, nothing catches more fish than quality chemically sharpened trebles. These expensive but sticky sharp hooks are deadly.
When a fish hits, the point either slips or grips, and a hook can’t set unless that point sticks. This is a game where microns make a difference, and the aim is to have as sharp and as strong a point as is possible, especially in a tournament where every fish counts. I use super fine Owner trebles on hard-bodied lures chasing flathead, and while the big flathead may slightly bend these fine hooks, we don’t miss many bites. They are a very hard hook to spit out! Over quite a few years of using these hooks I think they improve the flathead catch rate by about 15 to 20 per cent over non-chemically sharpened hooks. Over time, that’s a lot of fish. For a $2 investment, you improve the lure’s performance significantly.
Bigger fish require larger and heavier hooks, but the same principles apply. Barramundi are quite a unique species in this regard. Despite having no teeth and a relatively innocent looking mouth, barras destroy hooks like no other fish I’ve encountered. This relates to the way their mouth works, which is one of the truly amazing adaptations of the fish world. Barras are an implosion feeder, and the mouth opens so fast it generates a tremendous force that creates a big negative pressure that sucks in a large volume of water. This gives a feeding barra the characteristic “boof” noise that you can clearly hear from across a wide river.
This exploding mouth also acts to tear trebles apart as the fish attempts to reject the lure. If hooked by two trebles, one is pulled against the other and bent trebles are extremely common. To counter this, you need strong hooks or single hooks or simply use a lure with only one treble. As most effective barra hard-bodies come with two or three trebles, it is important to use as strong a hook as possible.
We have experimented with trebles for many years on barras. The Owner ST-66 used to be our favourite hook, but in recent years we bent a lot of these hooks on barra, which didn’t happen in the first two years we used them. I’m not sure if the hook construction has changed or that barra have gotten tougher … The Shogun Stinger trebles, marketed under the River2Sea brand, have been a significant improvement as far as barra trebles go. The number of hooks bent by barra has significantly reduced since we started using these trebles. The Shoguns are a good investment for anyone contemplating a trip chasing barras.
While not an overly fine treble, the smooth surface aids penetration and I’ve been very happy with their performance, particularly the No.2 sizes we use on most barra lures. While it doesn’t seem possible to totally eliminate bent hooks when it comes to barra, careful preparation and using the best hooks available makes a big difference. On robust big barra lures, double or even triple split rings can also improve your hook up rate and also reduce the torsional forces on the hook as it can twist more easily in the fish’s mouth.
Few fish are harder to hook and hold on a lure than marlin. A marlin’s mouth is hard with few soft spots. Hooks with a wider gape often get around the bone to get a better grip. On light tackle the Gamakatsu saltwater fly hook, the SL12 in 10/0, works well. While quite a fine hook, it sets well, is sharp and penetrates easily. With heavy tackle, it’s important to be meticulous in your sharpening. Fine small cutting edges and a needle sharp tip can take up to half an hour’s sharpening on big hooks. But when you invest a lot of dollars and time to chase marlin, it’s a good investment. Marlin tend to hit lures with their bills, and a wide gape sharp hook will slide down the bill and get a lock in the corner of the mouth. If you achieve a 70 per cent hook-up rate on billfish on lures, you’re doing extremely well.
The bottom line is that investing in the best hooks for your lures is a simple and effective way to increase the number of fish you catch. There aren’t many commercial lures on the market where I don’t change the hooks. While the best hooks cost a bit more, you don’t need all your lures rigged to go. Carrying a box of the best hooks you can afford and putting them on as you need them is a more affordable option than blinging up your entire lure collection. There’s no doubt, however, that retro-fitting ultra sharp hooks is one of the simplest ways to catch more fish. So maybe you should try it …