Have you ever bought a brand new plug and had the hooks fall off when you took it out of the package? Are you tired of losing quality fish to straightened hooks? Or, maybe you are just looking to replace your plugs’ rusty and dull hooks? Here is a quick and easy way to change out your current hooks to extra strong VMC or other solid ring treble hooks without using split rings.
Quite a few years ago, I started experimenting with different manufacturers’ treble hooks to replace the standard hooks that came on most of my plugs. In some cases I was looking for a bigger, stronger hook. I also wanted a better quality hook that would last longer before needing to be changed. Since I hate spending time sharpening hooks, I wanted hooks that came “chemically sharpened” right out of the box. After some experimenting with several different brands, I settled on VMC 4X treble hooks. More recently, VMC began producing 6X strong trebles which I use on some of my bigger plugs.
VMCs have been the popular choice of casters who focus their efforts on big stripers dating back to the “Block Island years,” when straightened hooks were the norm with plugs fished right out of the box. But, these extra strong and sharp hooks pose a problem as they are only available in a closed eye model. While the obvious solution would be going to a split ring, as a plugmaker I know that the additional weight and drag of the lower hanging hook can sometimes affect the way a lure swims. A split ring is also another piece of hardware that could become the weak link between you and that fish of a lifetime.
I started cutting the solid ringed hooks, bending the ring open and attaching it to the lure. I originally cut them using a pair of Manley pliers with side cutters, but after destroying two pairs, it became evident that I needed something a little tougher to cut through the thick ring. A friend, who is an auto mechanic, showed me a pair of compound diagonal cutters made by Snap-on. They did a great job cutting and have held up well, but were expensive. I have since found a less costly pair at a nearby Home Depot that I keep in my truck.
To hold the hook while cutting and bending I use a pair of vise grip locking pliers. Once the hook is locked in place with the vise grip, there is little chance of the hook flying loose while cutting or bending, and the hook is not released until the whole process is finished and the hook is attached to the plug.
The last tool I use is a pair of Manley or electrician’s pliers to bend the eye of the hook open and closed after it has been cut. I like the electrician’s pliers because the long handles give you better leverage and a strong grip on the hook.
The whole process takes under a minute, there is no sharpening involved and the hook stays in the vise grip throughout the process. For safety reasons, I’d recommend you wear goggles or safety glasses whenever cutting or bending hooks.