Inshore: Staying Hooked Up - The Fisherman

Inshore: Staying Hooked Up

Berkley Fusion 19 hooks are ideal for plastic grubs due to their ideal gap and bait- holding pin.

Choosing the right hook for your soft plastic fluke offerings.

It had to be at least 25 years ago. I was fishing a snaggy piece offshore in pursuit of a doormat fluke. On that day, I had broken away from my standard live baits and tried the reasonably new Berkley Gulp products that were slowly gaining acclaim and prominence in the dockside community. And to my amazement and satisfaction, the baits were working well on small keepers and throwbacks. Although the outing was going well, I had no large “kicker” fish when I received the best thump of the day. As I brought the summer flounder toward the surface, the fish’s fight and my experience told me that it was going to be of substantial size. Just about halfway up, and after a dozen head shakes, the line went limp, and just like that, the potential mat was gone. When I brought the rig to the surface, it became clear that the Gulp grub had been relocated to the shank of the hook, clearly having been forced out of position by the big fish. It was then that I began intensely analyzing what type of hooks, bucktails, and jigs I’d be using for days when sending Gulp products to the bottom.

One of the most popular rigs for fluke fishing comes in a stacked formation. A jig or bucktail provides the ballast to get down to the bottom, while a teaser hook extended by a dropper loop supplies an additional presentation 12 to 14 inches above. Therefore, anglers have two offerings to coax fluke strikes when a jigging action is put into play by the angler. Although most fishermen are content with their bucktail and jig choices, many are uncertain of the most optimal hooks to use on the dropper.

For those utilizing a soft plastic option such as Gulp, FIshbites or Z-Man, the hook choice is critical. The hook must maintain the location of an offering, such as a grub, while a heavy fluke attempts to pull the bait in the opposite direction. A grub yanked to the hook bend is almost a certainty for a lost fish. It’s happened to every angler at some point. Mustad has come out with its Alpha Point line of hooks that specifically address this issue and successfully prevent lost fish in this manner. The company continues to study and innovate hooks that will work for fluke and flounder on the East Coast. The Alpha Point has a longer hook point from the barb to the actual hook point than most products on the market. The needle line point works for quicker penetration into the fish’s mouth. The hook gap is sufficient and capable too, which is an imperative piece of the puzzle, so a thrashing fluke remains on the line. Hooked fluke then are less likely to shake free as they come to the surface. Berkley Fusion19 hooks work similarly to the Mustad Alpha Point selections and provide an excellent gap and sharp hook point for rip-roaring hook sets. Both the Mustad and Berkley have a large enough eye that a doubled-over dropper loop line can be attached appropriately if desired. Furthermore, both hooks have a baitholder feature that stops the bait from being slid to the bottom of the shank. Anglers might get away with not having this component until they don’t! There’s nothing worse than losing a doormat due to soft plastic slippage.

Another hook model that has gained confidence among fluke nation is the baitholder. Plastic offerings feather onto the hook nicely, and the presentation acts as intended. The Jigging World Zblade selection allows a 6-inch grub to display a streamlined look with plenty of hook “bite” for a hungry fluke to get pinned and stay that way.

When utilizing a small ribbon of fish belly, anglers can downsize their hooks as needed so the hook doesn’t appear more cumbersome which could cause a fluke to hesitate in striking. I prefer narrow gage hooks over wider options. A hook that is really beefy can be a deterrent depending on how ravenous the bite is.

It’s worth noting that some anglers have moved away from using naked hooks altogether and instead choose a mini-bucktail, if you will, in which to feather on a plastic or piece of meat. Since being introduced to them, I’ve been a fan of Backwater Baits Poisontails that provide a perfect gap and a nice, sharp point. They are specifically designed to be the top offering on a stacked rig. They also feature a collar that keeps the bait where it belongs, preventing slippage. They have become so popular that other manufacturers have followed suit in designing similar products. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, indeed.

Modern tackle design leaves fishermen with plenty of options in which to investigate and experiment. But learning through other angler’s experiences works equally as well sometimes.


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