Surf: Hook Configurations - The Fisherman

Surf: Hook Configurations

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There are many ways to reduce the number of hook points on your plugs while still maintaining its action and effectiveness in the surf.

Alter your hook configurations without affecting the action of your plugs.

We’re at kind of a funny juncture in striped bass fishing; overall, the fishing is pretty good, especially if you don’t mind catching fish that are too big to keep. But recruitment is way down, and recent science points the finger at recreational anglers as the culprit for most of the spawning stock mortality.

There are a million directions I could take this column from here, from release practices, to straight up soap-boxing, but this time around I want to talk about hook configurations and one way we, as surfcasters, can lessen our impact on the species and still get out there and fish as much as possible.

Recent trends suggest that most surfcasters are plug fishermen, and while I will still throw eels from time to time, you can count me among these minions to the plug. It’s a fact that at least 95% of the plugs on the market these days come with hooks attached to at least two spots on the body of the plug. More recently, we have seen some plugs designed to carry just one set of trebles – look at Mike’s Customs or Paiva Lures to name a few.

The nuts and bolts of this, coming at it from a plug builder’s perspective, the hooks are part of the design of most plugs, they serve as more than just a means of fastening a fish to your line. They also act as swinging weights that temper the action of the plug. If you don’t believe me, go take any two-hook swimmer and cast it out there and observe the action, now remove the rear treble and repeat the process; the result will be a much wider (and in some cases wilder) swimming action, sometimes resulting in a plug that spins out of control and is rendered useless. This is because the effects of the hook were factored into the design.

If you have followed my writing career then you may be familiar with what I called “The One Hook Solution” in a column in Surfcasters Journal and a subsequent video on YouTube with my friend and fellow surf fisherman, Jerry Audet. This method uses a thru-wired bullet weight in place of the missing hook to act as a counterbalance, keeping the balance of the plug and its action, in check.

Another method that is often used is to replace the rear treble hook with a dressed siwash hook, the amount of ‘dressing’ (hair) tied to the hook will hopefully create enough drag to compensate for the single hook which is almost certainly lighter than the treble it’s being used to replace. I don’t know how to quantify the required amount of hair tied to a hook, but I can tell you that a 6/0 siwash hook is the usual replacement for a 4/0 treble and their weights are pretty far apart, (and that matters). So you’ll have to use your observation skills to dial in the perfect tuft to right the ship.

In more recent years we have seen the inline single hooks gaining acceptance among striper fishermen. These single hooks feature a wide gap and a surgically-sharp point, but the main difference is that they are made from offshore gauge wire.  This is not to protect the hooks from bending out, but to make them heavy enough to balance the weight of the hooks they’re replacing. The accepted rigging configuration is that the hooks should face opposite directions—the tail facing out and the belly hook facing forward. They do come with two major advantages, those sticky points find purchase easily and the combination of a super wide gap and tuna grade wire mean that once a fish is hooked, they rarely come unbuttoned during the fight.

Whether you want to use my bullet weight solution or the inline single hooks, all you need to dial things in is a good digital scale; something that reads out in grams plus a decimal place will do fine. From there, you only need to get close, if you want to be insanely accurate, you could probably dial things in by using a variety of split ring sizes, but I haven’t found that to be necessary.

The result of making these changes is fewer lost fish, far fewer foul-hooked or ‘eye-hooked’ fish and, I believe, a much better survival rate after release. How can you go wrong?

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