When it comes to picking a hook for soft plastics, there isn’t any single hook size or style that will do the job for all purposes. In fact, whenever I fish with a new style of plastic bait for the first time, it may take a couple of tries with different hooks before I find the right one.
For example, at the 1998 B.A.S.S. Top 150 event at the Mississippi Delta, I was catching quite a few fish with a Texas-rigged, 6-inch lizard. Previous to the event, I had not fished lizards on Texas-rigs very often. My first choice of hook was an Owner offset shank, 1/0 wide gap; a hook that I’ve had tremendous success with when rigging up a 4-inch Berkley Power Craw or 7-inch Power Worm. However, during the course of the tournament, several bass failed to hit the deck of the boat due to hooking problems, costing me a few thousand bucks come payoff time. Since then, I’ve corrected my lizard fishing by simply changing to a 2/0 size instead of the 1/0. I believe that the bulbous head of the lizard interfered with the hook’s gap. A bigger hook has a bigger gap, thus less interference and problem solved.
Look For 90 Percent Hooking Success
With all of the different hooks on the market, how does a fisherman go about narrowing down the choices? With whatever hook is chosen, I’m not happy with one until I feel that 90 percent of the solid bites are hitting the deck of my Ranger. Now I’m talking about solid bites here, not the little, tiny pecks we sometimes feel and never put steel into.
With that general guideline in mind, there are several variables that all affect the final choice. First, I want to choose the smallest hook possible. They require less force to penetrate due to the smaller diameter of the shank. As a result, I can use lighter line if necessary and I don’t need to set the hook as hard, reducing the chance of breaking a knot or the line. Plus smaller hooks least affect the silhouette and action of the plastic bait.
Next, consider the thickness of the plastic bait to be fished. This will determine the size of the gap needed. I’ve learned it’s important to avoid a situation where the plastic occupies too much of the gap. Beginning with small finesse plastics, I’ll use an Owner offset shank hook for most baits having a diameter significantly smaller than a pencil such as a 4-inch lizard or Berkley finesse worm. I usually use either the 1 or 1/0 depending on how small the bait is.
Once I get larger than the finesse style plastics, I opt for wide gap type hooks. These will have a thicker diameter shank, resulting in more rigidity, which helps to better penetrate hard areas of a bass’s mouth. I’ve found that an Owner offset shank, 1/0 widegap, will perform wonderfully with plastics about the width of a pencil (i.e. 7-inch Power Worm, 4-inch Power Craw, 6-inch Creme Scoundrel). The 2/0 I use for 6-inch lizards, while an 8-inch lizard calls for a 3/0. Owner’s 4/0 I may use on a Berkley 10-inch Power Worm or on a Slug-go type bait. I rarely go to the 5/0 hook, but will if I’m using an extremely fat bait.
What About Short, Fat Plastics?
What about short, fat plastics like tubes and Super Flukes? Here the big-bellied (Kahle-style) hooks are superior such as Eagle Claw’s HP hook designed by Shaw Grigsby or Owner’s Rig’n hook or J hook. These hooks are not too long for the baits, but still have a wide enough gap to compensate for the bulk. These style hooks also work well with worms, lizards, and so forth. In fact, if I was limited to just one style, it would be from this category. For size, 2/0 and 3/0 is mostly what I use. The 2/0 HP I like for Walker 4-inch tubes for example, while the 3/0 HP I like for larger tubes and Super Flukes.
Finally, consider the shock and stress the hook will be subject to. For example, flippin’ and pitchin’ techniques deliver a much higher punch to the hook due to the limited amount of line between rod and hook. Plus, you may be dealing with super heavy cover. This may require moving to one size larger (especially if the lake you’re fishing is known to have jumbo bass).
By no means is matching the right hook to a given plastic an exact science. In fact, I’m still learning and experimenting all the time. If you like to fish several different types of plastic, you’ll certainly need a wide variety of hooks. Just remember that you shouldn’t settle for anything less than 90 percent on hookups. Also as a word of caution, beware of those occasions when the bass are taking the bait “funny” and are not getting hooked well. It may not be the hook’s fault at all, but rather it could be a faulty hookset or simply a lure that the bass will take but not eat.
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Jim Moynagh writes a twice-monthly bass fishing column on sportsmansguide.com. He is a B.A.S.S. and FLW touring pro. He is a former Forrest Wood Open Champion with multiple top 10 finishes. His expertise is deep-water structure fishing for large and smallmouth bass. Jim’s sponsors include Vexilar, Lawry’s, Yamaha Outboards, All-Terrain Tackle, Ranger Boats, and Minn Kota trolling motors. You can learn more about Jim at www.moynagh.com.