Choosing the Right Hook to Catch Bass
What is more important than choosing the right hook? Anglers sure love visiting their favorite tackle shops. Short stops often end up lasting a couple of hours, and a couple of items often turn into hundreds of dollars. But I’m willing to bet not many anglers hop up and down over the purchase of hooks. Let’s face it: they’re boring.
Still, what purchase is more important? They are what holds the fish. They do all of the hooking, and without hooking, there is no catching.
Major League Fishing angler Grae Buck owes his professional career to proper hook selection. “I qualified for the FLW Tour through the Northern Costa Series in 2016,” he explained. “The first event that season was on the Potomac River in Maryland, and I nearly blew the whole season on the first day. I was hooking quality fish on a Senko with an octopus hook, but I lost more than I caught.”
He weighed a 10-05 pound limit on Day 1 and was in 98th place. “For Day 2, I made the switch to a Hayabusa WMR 962 hook and jacked them!” He weighed 18-04 pounds and leaped 81 spots to 17th place. “Without that jump on Day 2, I do not qualify for the FLW Tour in 2017. My career is not where it is now without those hooks.”
Buck recognizes there are several quality hook companies on the market today, “Anglers now have an array of options to suit any situation and lure,” but he almost exclusively uses Hayabusa hooks. “They come from Japan and were made after years of research. They were one of the first to put a fluoride covering on their hooks. This makes them a bit slipperier and tremendously improves hook ups.”
Choosing the Right Hook for Soft Plastic Baits
“To get the most out of your bait, you got to choose the right size of hook,” he attests. “Too big of a hook will limit the action of the bait, but too small will cause missed strikes. The best rule of thumb is to select a hook that is about ½-inch shorter than the length of the lure’s body. Longer than that and the action of the tentacles and/or appendages may be hindered. The goal is to cover as much of the body as possible without impacting the action.”
Grae Buck's top choices for soft plastic lures
Carolina Rig – A wide gap hook gets the nod. “The Carolina rig is problematic because the leader limits contact with the hook, so it’s common to miss fish. The wide gap improves hook penetration into the fish’s mouth.” He uses a Hayabusa WRN 956 hook.
Texas Rig – “If I’m casting and working a bait back to the boat, I use the exact same hook as I do a Carolina Rig for the same reason, but if I’m flipping or punching, where I’m using a stop to keep the weight in place, I use a straight shank hook.” The Hayabusa FPP Straight Worm Hook also has a keeper by the eyelet to keep the bait in place.
Wacky Rig – The aforementioned Hayabusa WRM 962 Power Wacky Hook helped launch Buck’s professional career. “I use it exclusively for wacky rig fishing, but my favorite model has a weed guard. On top of the guard, it is light, so it goes through weeds.
Neko Rig – “I’ll use a Neko verses a wacky when I’m fishing deeper water,” Buck explains. “Usually, I am throwing it around submerged grass, so I need more strength. Therefore I use the FPP Straight Shank hook.” This is the same hook he uses for flipping and punching.
Drop Shot Rig – Buck cut his teeth chasing giant smallmouth from the Great Lakes and learned one lesson the hard way: “Big smallmouth break weak hooks.” Because of its strength, anytime he nose hooks the bait, he uses the Hayabusa DSR 132HD Drop Shot Hook. “If I’m fishing open water with minimal structure, I nose hook the bait, because it maximizes its action.”
However, around a heavy structure, such as brush piles on Table Rock Lake, he will Texas Rigs the bait. Once again, the FPP Straight Shank Hook gets the call, “Almost exclusively, I use a 1/0 size.”
Ned Rig – Water depth determines which hook he uses. In water less than 10 feet, he uses the 1/13-ounce Hayabusa Brush Easy Jig Head with a #1 hook. In deeper water, he uses a ⅕-ounce Z-Man Finesse Shroomz Jig Head.
Choosing the Right Hook for Hard Baits
Buck admits, “Anytime money is on the line, I replace the factory hooks off my crankbaits.” He will not change hook size, “but hook selection is actually determined by how well they are biting.”
“When the fish are eating well, I use Triple Grip hooks. By eating well, they are getting most of the bait in their mouths, and these hooks have the best penetration inside their mouths.” However, he will switch hooks if the bite is more subtle.
“The Hayabusa TBL 930 treble hook is actually less visible and sharper than most hooks.” He asserts, “So anytime they are just slapping at the bait, these hooks will get more hookups on the sides of their mouths.”
He applies these principles to rattle traps, crankbaits of all sizes, square bills, and topwater.
“Never throw a spinnerbait or buzzbait without a trailer hook,” advises Buck. “The best trailer is able to swing, and the Hayabusa WRN 929 Trailer Hook is the best I’ve ever used! The beads hold it in place, yet it can still swivel 360-degrees. Fish can’t shake it.”
Purchasing hooks may not be the most exciting investment, but they are what hold the fish in place until they get in the net. A little investment will help you land more and bigger fish this year, or it may even jumpstart your career!