A look at some common bait fishing scenarios and the hooks best-suited for each application.
A hook is a hook, right? Well, kind of, but not so much. Certain applications call for different types, shapes and sizes of hooks when bait fishing for stripers in the surf. Plenty of options exist to maximize the effectiveness of your holding capability and hookset power while using various types of baits. Here’s a look at a few methods and the hooks used for maximum efficiency. Keep in mind that some states now require circle hooks when fishing with bait for striped bass, so be sure to consult your local regulations before hitting the surf.
Whether chunking with bunker, herring or mackerel, hooks should have a wide gap to ensure the chunk bait is pierced through fully with the point exiting the other side. Gamakatsu octopus hooks in size 8/0 to 10/0 or Big River hooks in size 10/0 to 11/0 accomplish that feat as the wide gap fits perfectly around thick chunk baits; not too snug to prevent piercing through the other side and not too loose to have it flailing around.
Sandworms, bloodworms, and tapeworms; these long, stringy baits are gold for stripers along the sod banks, bridges and around jetty rocks. Ideally you need enough of a long shank to thread the worm on and have enough gap in the hook to ball up a few more on the point. Size 2/0 to 3/0 Mustad Sproat or O’Shaughnessy hooks can hold a few threaded worms on the shank for a fluttering presentation.
As fresh clams can fall apart pretty quickly on a hook, it’s best to use a hook with ‘stickiness’ and holding power in its design. Go with 3/0 to 5/0 Mustad #92641 baitholder hooks with small barbs on the shank to hold the clam tight on the hook. If you are losing clams quickly to crabs, you can also opt to utilize elastic tie-downs for clams, wrapping the thread over the clams and on the shank of the hook.
When live bunker are within casting range from the surf, set up with a weighted 10/0 treble snag hook to rip through bunker schools and implement the ol’ snag-n-drop tactic. If you are able to get a few live baits back on the snag hook, quickly re-rig them onto the line and cast them out on a size 8/0 Gamakatsu Live Bait hook through the lips or through the back dorsal fin if fishing off a jetty tip.
Eels are slippery, slimy baits, but a size 3/0 Owner beak hook seems to keep them from tangling and also has the wide enough gap to allow for a surefire hookset in the jaw of a bass. Hook eels by piercing under the bottom jaw and then up through the top jaw or out one of the eyes.
A technique not used by many modern anglers, fishing with calico crabs is still a hot commodity in the suds, especially at the start of the summer. Old-schoolers used to wrap a crab with elastic thread four or five times around the back swimmers, then slide a size 5/0 baitholder hook underneath the elastic wraps. These hook style recommendations are not written in stone but give you a solid jumping-off point to plan your outing when bait fishing for stripers in the surf. Mix it up a bit as certain conditions, terrains and currents could all alter the types of hooks you may use in your region.