Anglers looking through a fishing catalog will appreciate the amazing variety of hooks available these days. Some are specialized for a specific lure or bait, or even made for one target species. Among the huge array of choices, you’ll see a type known as wide-gap hooks from many manufacturers. These are our favorites for several reasons.
Wide-gap hooks are primarily intended for rigging soft plastic baits in a weedless style, and are used in both fresh water and the saltier stuff. Kayakers exploring the shallow grassflats in this area are familiar with the vegetation situation that can immediately ruin the action of a lure or bait.
Grass blades or macroalgae will hang up on treble hook lures and even on the nose of some jigheads when you’re fishing soft plastics. There is nothing like a hunk of grass trailing from your presentation to let predators know this is not a real meal swimming by, so using a bait that can slide through without snagging anything green is a major advantage.
In addition to the weedless benefit wide-gap hooks offer, they’re also great for getting a solid hookup that will not shake loose or be easily thrown during a prolonged battle with larger fish.
Not all “weedless” lures use wide gap hooks. Many of the hollow frog lures on the market utilize a double hook with the sharp ends above the frog. This rigging helps keep the frog weedless, so it won’t hook up on emergent vegetation when the angler pulls the frog across it.
The problem we have had with most frog lures is with the hook itself. There is simply not enough gap to secure a good hook up. We also believe that a double hook rigging allows the hooks to pry each other out of the hooked area. When purchasing any weedless lure, check out the gap and make sure it is wide enough to allow a solid and secure hookup.
These same considerations apply to weedless saltwater lures. Without a wide gap, a fragile hookset may pull free or dislodge during the excitement of landing a good fish. Using a large wide-gap hook in the 5/0 range also makes it harder for a fish to swallow the lure, making for an easier release.
One other function of a wide-gap hook is that it acts as a ballast and a keel, helping to keep your presentation upright. When you combine all these factors and add in the weedless part, the choice of a wide-gap hook becomes obvious. Weighted wide-gap hooks are popular for saltwater lures designed to work deeper.
However, not all wide-gap hooks are created equal. Every manufacturer produces a slightly different shape they think is best. One quality we look for is a laser-sharp point. In a kayak, where a hookset is challenging due to the mobility of the boat, sharpness really counts.
It’s not enough to jerk hard to set the hook. The “rip their lips off” strike is not effective in a kayak because the kayak moves toward the fish as you pull on the line. A laser-sharp hook combined with non-stretch braided line will penetrate even bony mouths with very little pressure, most of which is supplied by the fish as they depart with the lure. Some guides recommend their clients avoid setting the hook and just start reeling. The hook will do the rest.
One special wide-gap hook deserves a mention here. VMC makes a wide-gap hook with a long shank that allows the hook to ride further back in the lure. These are particularly good for plastic worms or any lure that benefits from having the hook further towards the tail end of the lure. These are also good for the artificial eels used in salt water.
Note that most manufacturers make both a standard and an extra-strong version of the same hook. The heavier models are better for large saltwater fish that might bend out the thinner wire of the lighter hooks. However, we like the lighter hooks when frog fishing for bass. The heavier hooks will cause any surface lure to sink faster, and that added weight makes it hard to “tickle” the frog across emergent vegetation along the shore.
Kayak anglers will enjoy the security of a good hookset needed to get that quality fish to the boat. Kayak anglers cannot put much pressure on a fish during the battle since the kayak moves towards the fish as easily as the fish moves towards the kayak.
A laser-sharp wide-gap hook will stay engaged even if a little slack enters the system as both the kayak and the fish move and change directions during the battle. Give them a try and see if they don’t make it a bit easier for you to not only hook fish but also stay connected long enough to bring them to hand.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing Southwest Florida” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area, AnglerPocketGuides.com, or Amazon as a download or hard copy.