Sarley: The fishing hook you use is actually important

A lot of fishermen take hooks for granted and that is a big mistake. There is one factor about hooks that makes all the difference in fishing success and failure: sharpness.

Head to your favorite tackle shop and you’ll find pegs full of packages of shiny hooks. You’ll find many shapes, endless sizes, a number of colors, and models affixed with the latest doodads such as bait holders. Look past all that, pick the size that fits your purpose and buy the sharpest hook you can afford.

In the pressured waters of Northern Illinois, you’ll get fewer bites than if you were fishing in Canada. In that case, isn’t it better to be able to set the hook firmly and penetrate a fish’s mouth with a sharp hook than to lose a fish due to a dull hook point? I’d certainly say so.

I am a fan of Gamakatsu hooks. They are so sharp that a fumblefingers like me can inflict serious damage to his hands. These hooks are pricey, but I feel they are worth the money. A fairly new brand, Lazer Trokar hooks, are too expensive for my budget. This is what I mean by purchasing the sharpest you can afford.

A good tip is to get your hands on a plastic-handled hook file. If you get in the habit of always sharpening your hooks when you tie them on your line, you’ll save plenty of bucks over time and you’ll always have super-sharp hooks. A lot of lures come equipped with very poor hooks, so I always give my lures a little sharpening before I use them.

Another reason to make sure you are always utilizing sharp hooks is the prevalence of fishing with plastic baits. If you rig your plastics in weedless fashion, your hook will have to punch through the plastic even before it needs to puncture the mouth of the fish. I am a big fan of the octopus-style hooks when fishing wacky-style with Senkos.

What about color? Have you seen the ads for red hooks that say that the fish see the red hook color as blood from the bait it is holding? Have you ever seen the ads for red fishing line that say it is invisible under water? OK, then who is telling the truth and who is fibbing? I’m not sure, but I use red hooks whenever I can. My evidence is merely anecdotal, but I think I get more bites using red hooks.

How about size? When fishing for panfish, I recommend using the smallest hook you can tie on without difficulty. Remember that the hook should match the bait, size-wise. Use a larger hook for skewering nightcrawlers than you would for impaling redworms.

When fishing plastics, I think that I’d rather my hook to be too large than too small. I also make sure that the gap between the point and the shank is large enough. Some hooks come built too narrow for my liking.

Longer shanks are easier to remove when a fish swallows your bait down deep. They give you something to grab with your pliers. Of course, you can’t always use a hook with a long shank.

Speaking about fish swallowing hooks deeply, that is a tough situation and the fish usually dies when released after being disengaged from a hook in its gut. Fish swallow the hooks like this when still-fishing and the fisherman isn’t paying attention. It often occurs when taking kids fishing. One way to alleviate that situation is through the use of circle-style hooks.

The circle hooks roll in the mouth of the fish when it bites the bait. The hook positions itself correctly and the fish almost sets the hook on itself. Circle hooks are a truly nifty invention.

Fishing report:

Northern Illinois – Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “I was able to fish a bass tournament at the Madison Chain of Lakes last Saturday. We found fish in weed pockets and caught them with pegged plastic craws and found some fish in slop and caught them on Spro frogs. These techniques should work for you on any similar waterway. We had 17.60 pounds of bass and that was good for an 8th place finish and a 150.00 check out of a 45 boat field. The pike fishing on Lake Delevan has been great! Use bigger buck tails on the buoy lines and you should have a good day. The Illinois dove season starts September 1.” Call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.

Honest John from C.J. Smith’s resort on Grass Lake says “The striper bite is on. To locate them, watch for the seagulls circling above the lakes, especially Bluff Lake. The huge school of stripers will be right below. Also try working the channel from the mouth of Bluff Lake all the way to the Spring Lake Bridge. Tip a small gold hook or mini-mite jig with a small minnow for some awesome action. Marble Spinners and Rooster Tails are also working well. The hot spot for crappies is Airport bay on Bluff Lake. Also try the south side of Petite Lake under the willow tree. Try a medium Mini-Mite jig with a weighted bobber tipped with a large fathead minnow.

Catfish are biting in the channels. Try the shallow channels around Spring Lake. Nightcrawlers, stink bait, shrimp or large fathead minnows will do the trick.

Largemouth bass are taking nightcrawlers, crankbaits and plastics. Work the lily pads, weedlines and any brush piles along lake, especially in the Spring Lake channels to find them.

Bluegills are in the channels. Work under piers and boats just south of the Spring Lake/Grass Lake Road Bridge. Pieces of nightcrawler, redworms or waxworms on a #8 hook with a small piece of split shot and small bobber work very well

Walleye action is good on the south shore of Petite Lake. East of the willow tree along the steel seawall is a good spot to try. Also try drifting the sandbar in Lake Marie for some nice ones. XL fathead minnows, nightcrawlers or large leeches are all good baits.

Northern pike have been showing up in the southwest bay of Petite Lake. A yellow Mepps Spinner or Flicker Shad (Fire Tiger or Chartreuse are hot colors) have been very successful.

Lake Michigan – "Some Kings have finally started to show up in the Illinois waters of Lake Michigan this past week. Most are being caught early in the morning. Moonshine's Crabface, and a white Hot Spot flasher with a mirage fly tied 24 inches behind, have been two very good baits. Fish were caught from 50 to 210-feet of water. Most were caught in the top 70 feet of the water column. Some lake trout and steelheads added to the catch.” The Lake Michigan Fishing Report is provided by Captain Bob Rossa of Migrator Charters based out of Northpoint Marina -

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