‘Forgotten’ Bass Gear: Your Ticket To More Fishing Success

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

They’re not ‘sexy’ or eye-catching. Yet stocking the right selection of hooks, weights and other terminal tackle—and knowing when to use it with help from your ScoutLook Fishing app—will put more bass in your boat this season.

glenn_bass_swimbaitPage through most any fishing retailer’s catalog, or stroll through an aisle in your local tackle shop. What catches your eye is predictable: Row after row of colorful new crankbaits and other gaudy (or eerily lifelike) hard- and soft-plastic lures—in most every size, color, and shape imaginable. The latest and greatest. These are also the lures that anglers—both amateur and pro—credit when they have a great day on the water.

Often lost in the shuffle are less-glamorous terminal tackle items, the “forgotten” gear smart anglers everywhere depend on during each and every fishing trip. Small, unassuming terminal tackle components are often the “real” keys to a successful fishing day; anglers who stock the right stuff, and know how to use it, are typically those “lucky” few who consistently manage to catch the largest percentage of fish.

Hooks are some obvious terminal tackle items. When sharp and strong and well-matched to their application, they’ll put more bass in your boat. When they’re poorly matched to the task, or worse yet, dull and weak, they can cause immeasurable heartache and ruined fishing memories. Having a wide selection of the “good stuff” will put you miles ahead this year.

Selecting the right hook for the situation is especially important when fishing soft-plastic baits, as the right hook will aid in the action of the bait, and even more importantly, increase your percentage of solid bass hookups.

WalkerWideGap 600Fishing soft plastics requires matching the hook to the bait; the author carries versatile extra-wide-gap hooks like those shown here in sizes 1/0 to 5/0, allowing for a perfect match to most any size bait, which delivers a more-natural swimming action and more-consistent hookups.
Avid bass anglers looking for one of the most-versatile hook styles to always have on hand in their tackle box, the extra-wide-gap style is a smart choice. I stock these versatile hooks in sizes from 1/0 all the way up to 5/0; this allows me to perfectly complement the size of most any soft-plastic bait. For example, I’ll use a Lazer TroKar 5/0 Extra Wide Gap hook when fishing a fairly large Zoom Super Fluke, but when Carolina-Rigging a more-compact Baby Brush Hog or Zoom Lizard, I’ll use a slightly more-svelte 3/0 hook. Common sense rules.

As a rule, you want to use a hook that will not impede or alter the bait’s action in any way, while ensuring that your hook choice still allows plenty of space for the soft plastic to move when the hook is set, so a solid hookup is accomplished. This also means choosing wisely when considering a standard-wire (EWG) or heavy-wire (Magnum) hook; it might be obvious but Magnum worm hooks are heavier and will make your plastic bait sink faster, which could be helpful, or detrimental. Standard EWG hooks are a great choice when making long casts with lighter line, as their needle-like points make it easier to achieve solid hooksets.

Walker4Hooks 600There’s no doubt that a smart selection of specialized hooks will help you boat more bass. Shown here, from left: Tube hook, Flippin’ hook, Magnum Weighted Swimbait hook, and Octopus-style hook for Carolina rigging.
Most bass anglers do a lot of fishing with soft plastics, and would be wise to expand their hook selections to include specialty-style hooks, to cover some unique situations that can really save the day. Some smart specialty hook options include:

Flipping Hooks: When making short flips or pitches to heavy cover, this hook has a small piece of plastic, like the TroKar Barb, near the hook eye to keep the soft plastic in place as it falls through the dense cover. For this situation I like to use a 4/0 Lazer TroKar TK130 hook.

Tube Hooks: This hook has a very large gap, so bulky tube-style baits have room to move during the strike, and deliver a solid hookup.

Drop Shot Hooks: These relatively small, “octopus-style” hooks allow soft-plastic baits to stand straight out when drop-shotting, delivering a more-lifelike presentation and also offering a better angle for a solid hookset.

Walker Lure Box 600Like many serious anglers the author prefers to replace the factory treble hooks on crankbaits and topwater baits; Walker typically waits until he knows he will be using a specific lure before making the change to premium trebles, to ensure the hooks are as deadly sharp as possible.
Crankbait Upgrades: Many crankbaits now come with high-quality treble hooks right out of the package, but many anglers still replace the stock treble hooks with premium treble hooks. Typically, I will hold off attaching a fresh pair of premium Lazer TroKar trebles, until I know that the crankbait or topwater plug I’m rigging up will hit the water; this will help keep those new hooks as sticky-sharp as possible.

There are commonly two types of treble hooks on the market: An extra-wide-gap model and a round-bend model.  Anglers will commonly develop a personal preference for one style, or they may like to employ a certain style for certain baits. Personally, I like to use the TroKar 300 Round-Bend Trebles on my lipless crankbaits, as I believe they help keep bass “buttoned-up” better.

Keeping your hooks dry is an absolute must, as any moisture will quickly begin the “rusting over” process, transforming your hooks into non-usable wire. I like to put all of my hooks in a small Ziploc bag with a piece of the original package in it, and then I write the size on the outside of the bag. This allows me to quickly identify the style and size of the hook. I then put all of these bags in a Plano Waterproof Stowaway; this way I know they will be protected in a dependably dry box no matter how challenging the conditions.

WalkerWeights600You want to carry enough weights to match a wide variety of techniques and conditions, without overdoing it. Keeping a “bare minimum” weight selection on hand will ensure your tackle box doesn’t get too heavy for quick and easy transport.
For many years, the only options for weights used in Texas or Carolina rigs was lead. Then came metals such as brass and tin, as they emitted more fish-attracting noise in the water, and were also better for the environment. Currently, tungsten—which is extra heavy and also environmentally sound—is the predominant “weight of choice” for bass anglers.

Besides being better for the environment, tungsten allows anglers to use a heavier weight, while still maintaining a low profile. For example, a ½-oz. Lazer Sharp Tungsten worm weight is about the size of an “old-school” 3/8-oz. lead worm weight. This might not seem like a big difference, but it is.

A good selection of tungsten worm weights, ranging from 1/16-oz. all the way up to 1 or 1 ¼ ounces, should be on hand in every bass angler’s tackle box. Common sizes for shallow-water applications, and casting to specific targets, include ¼-, 3/8- and ½ oz., while the larger ¾- and 1-oz. sizes are my “go to” choices when it comes to punching through heavy vegetation.

When Carolina rigging, I’ll fluctuate between brass and tungsten weights, as I feel each makes a unique sound beneath the water, and so I routinely pay attention to what the bass seem to favor on any given day. Commonly used weight sizes for Carolina rigging include 3/8-, ½-, and ¾-oz.

WindSpeed 600The author always checks his ScoutLook Fishing app before a trip, not only for accurate weather forecasts, but also for wind forecasts, which he considers critical to “pre-rigging” his gear. When he knows the wind speed (seen to the right on the ScoutLook Fishing app “weather” screen above) it allows him to rig the correct-sized weights for Carolina, Texas rigs and more. Walker’s goal in pre-rigging his rods is to use the lightest weights possible to maintain bottom contact, and wind/wave action is a crticial component.

As I’m rigging up rods the night before a fishing trip or tournament, I’ll pay close attention to my ScoutLook Fishing Appand it’s not just to see if it will be sunny or rainy, or what temperature to expect. Primarily, I’m looking to see the forecasted wind speed, and how the wind might change throughout the day, as it typically does. Why check the wind? Well, as I’m selecting a tungsten weight for my Texas, Carolina, or Drop Shot rigs, I want to use the smallest weight possible that will allow me to maintain contact with the bottom; typically, this is dictated by the strength of the winds, and wave action.

WalkerSmallI 600Don’t overlook smaller terminal gear that includes beads, swivels, snaps, split rings and bobber stops. All of these can be critical components when the bite is tough, and the hunt is on for the day’s “hot” presentation.
Are your terminal tackle needs complete with hooks and weights? Not by a long shot. Here are some of the smaller, but no less handy, terminal tackle items that belong in every bass fisherman’s tackle box:

Beads:  These are used primarily for Carolina-rigging, to protect knots from sinker contact, prevent weights from jamming into swivels, and create a bit of fish-attracting sound; some anglers also like to use one on their Texas rigs, between their weight and hook.

Swivels: Another key Carolina-rig component. Using a premium ball bearing swivel eliminates line twist and keeps that link strong and reliable when battling trophy bass.

Split Rings: I like to retrofit extra-strong, premium split rings on my crankbaits and topwater plugs. Most lures come with rather flimsy split rings that can bend open quite easily; not a good situation when attempting to land heavy fish in thick cover.

Bobber Stops: These small pieces of plastic are commonly found in a tackle shop’s terminal tackle aisle, next to the bobbers. I use them to keep my weight pegged in front of a Texas rig when fishing heavy cover; pegging the weight allows the rig to remain more compact, and slide more easily through cover. I like to use Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Pro Rigging Stops, which are low-profile black.

When stocking your tackle box for the fishing season it’s wise to include a wide selection of premium terminal tackle. The right mix will offer smart anglers more versatility, and help deliver better, more-natural presentations. And in the end, it means you’ll boat more fish.



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