Hooking Soft Plastics - The Fisherman

Hooking Soft Plastics

Hooking Soft Plastics
Mustad’s new O’Shaughnessy 3400-BN Rigging Hook with a down-turned eye for snelling and baitholder barbs along the shank is perfectly designed for fishing soft plastic baits and Gulp!.

If you fish soft plastic and biodegradable tails, like Berkley Gulp! for fluke, you’ve probably experienced this problem; a fluke taps the bait, you gently lift the rod to set the hook, but miss the short-striking fish. When you reel up to check the bait you find it’s slid down the hook shank to the bend and the plastic bait looks like a weirdly twisted pretzel. At last year’s ICAST trade show, Mustad’s Steve Tagami showed me a new hook that will help solve part of this problem. While it won’t guarantee that near misses from short-striking fish will never happen again, it does eliminate the problem of soft baits and Gulp! from sliding down the hook shank – and that’s a big deal.

Called the O’Shaughnessy Rig Hook, it has the strength and versatile design of Mustad’s original, and very popular, 3407 O’Shaughnessy. This was an old-time favorite of dedicated flukers drifting strip baits like squid and belly flaps cut from spot, sea robin and snapper blues, however, with the major switch in recent years by so many readers of The Fisherman to soft plastics and Gulp! baits, the traditional hook needed a technological tweak. Mustad’s O’Shaughnessy Rigging Hook 3400-BN is the next step forward on the evolutionary ladder and is fitted with a down-turned eye and baitholder barbs along the shank.

The modifications are a natural update to meet the ever growing popularity in baiting rigs with soft plastic and biodegradable baits. The down-turned eye is an important design feature because it’s ideal for snelling the hook to the leader. The hook point has no offset and is in-line with the hook shank in combination with the down-turned hook eye; they help to ensure that baits can be rigged as straight as possible for the most natural presentation. Hooks with an offset that aims the hook point at an angle away from the shank may cause dramatic spinning, which kills the appeal of a soft bait.

When snelling the leader to the 3400-BN hook, pass the leader tag end through the down-turned eye then complete the snell wraps. When the snell is finished, the leader rides through the eye and keeps the hook shank in a perfect straight line with the leader and the main fishing line. There’s no chance for the hook to get cock-eyed or twisted at an angle causing the bait to spin erratically and ruin its appeal.

There are two barbs on the 3400-BN; one on top of the shank and the other on the bottom, and they provide two locking points that firmly grip a soft-plastic tail, worm, shad tail or jerk bait; or a Gulp! bait. My own experience with these hooks since last summer confirms that it takes a substantial pull to make the bait slip from its anchored position, and for this reason, many readers will find the 3400-BN to be a great choice for fluke fishing. For extra holding power, add a drop of any CA glue to the shank.

The hook is not just for fluke fishing, and can also be used for making surf teaser rigs, cod teaser rigs, and sea bass rigs. On the grass flats, along marsh sedges and long deep channels it’s an excellent hook to use with a hi-low rig drifting for weakfish, or as a combo rig for weaks and fluke. It’s available in sizes from 1/0 to 8/0 and in the larger sizes, the 3400-BN can be used to rig soft plastic tails for surface-crashing albies, or in deep water as a teaser hook above a diamond jig for striped bass.

A cool rig for vertical jigging in relatively shallow water near bridges, bulkheads, marina docks and channel edges can be made with a heavy leadhead dressed with a D.O.A. jerk bait or shad tail and another, unweighted, tail tied in about 24 inches above the leadhead and tied on a short leader armed with a 3400-BN. One morning while drifting past a fuel dock at a marina, I nailed four bass in quick succession with this rig, and each fish ate the teaser on the top hook. It’s also been a good rig for fluke when fishing deep holes and deep channel edges .

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