I‘m a liberal leaning outdoorsman attempting to open the minds of right wingers to the idea that libs fish too. Anglers come from all walks of life, left, right, and center. Not everyone who fishes for bass is a redneck fond of Nascar, country music, and religiosity. Expect posts about largemouth bass fishing, techniques, reviews of lures and other products, but not any condemnable conservative rants. I hope to inspire the online angler community to dial down rhetoric which will do more harm than good to our sport.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

• Swapping Out Trebles

For many anglers, prespawn is almost here. Many will have crankbaits rigged and ready to go. Whether you're a fan of the rattle bait reaction bite or the wide wobbling cranks with the square lips, there is one thing these baits have in common.

Treble hooks.

But not all treble hooks are created equal. Some have long shanks and others short. Some hook points end in a wide gap fashion, not a round bend. Other hooks, like the VMC Sure Set, have a third hook that is larger than the other two. All that aside, what really matters to me is that the hook will not bend or break.

That leads me into the question I want to ask in this post.

What brand treble hook do you like to swap in?

Seeing as how Kevin VanDam's recent win at the BassMaster Classic, in part, involved swapping out treble hooks, the question is definitely worthy of some attention.

My Bandit crankbaits, while very productive baits, have one serious flaw in my experience. The treble hooks are not very strong. One of the first bites on my Bandit 100 series was a three pounder. That fish zig-zagged and bent one of the hooks out of line. When I attempted to bend it back, the darn thing snapped off. Bending like that often weakens the overall structure of a hook, but also serves as a safety risk, so be sure to have on protective eyewear. No telling where a hook point under pressure might fly when it breaks. I would rather avoid bending hook points altogether. What I'm trying to say is that I swap out treble hooks on many baits, including Bandit cranks. I love the lure, but not the hooks.

In the past, Rat-L-Traps had a notorious reputation for losing fish. Why? Something was flawed with the treble hooks they shipped with. While the company came out and stated they remedied the problem, some anglers were still not convinced. They will continue to swap out the hooks for something they have more confidence in, myself included. Again, I love the lure, but I do not trust the stock hooks.

A few hiccups exist when swapping out treble hooks, so here are the rules I follow. Any change to the original design may alter the action and effectiveness of a lure. Adding a different treble hook to the mix changes the weight, the water displacement, and the balance. In addition, when deciding between a short shank and long shank hook, pay close attention to whether or not the hooks will tangle up with each other. Tangled hooks equate to a wasted cast and will also hinder the desired action of the bait. Shorter shanks also allow anglers to add larger hooks for improved hook ups. Treble hooks with wider gaps often serve the same purpose. My reading suggests EWG trebles have improved hookup ratios, better penetration, and more leverage. Whether you like red, black nickel, brown, or silver is a completely subjective decision. I prefer using black nickel hooks if at all possible, but I'm not opposed to matching red hooks with reddish-colored lures.

The available choices out there are endless and once I step into the aisle where the hooks reside, I am bombarded by a wall of very tempting options. Not every store carries an extensive selection of treble hooks, though. I generally stick to the more commonly known brands like Mustad, Gamakatsu, VMC, Owner, and Eagle Claw. Within each brand, various designs also exist.

Have a look at the TackleWarehouse page for treble hooks and you will see what I mean. http://www.tacklewarehouse.com/catpage-TTTH.html

My purchase decisions often rely heavily on getting the best unit price. That all changed when I started browsing treble hooks. Paying a premium appears to make a difference. Most hooks I need to replace are 4/0 or 6/0 in size, so finding what I need is usually an easy chore. Finding some that will stand up to a twisting and turning fish is a much more difficult task, as most, if not all brands make similar claims with regard to strength. My preference with regard to hooks in general leans towards Gamakatsu products, so the Gamakatsu EWG trebles always get first dibs when I swap. The Gamakatsu EWG trebles (top photo) seem to be more ideal for my lipped crankbaits, so that is what I put on all of my Bandits. Eagle Claw typically has bulk packs for a relatively inexpensive price. For lures where I need a no nonsense round bend hook with some backbone to it, the 3X Lazer Sharp series (bottom photo) has my vote. Rattle baits, with the exception of the Strike King Red Eye Shad whose treble hooks are fine as is, typically get an Eagle Claw makeover.

Of course, I can't leave out that KVD swapped the hooks on his Red Eye Shad for the Mustad Elite Triple Grip No. 2 treble hooks which bear his name. With a wide gap and short shank, these hooks are not much different than those Gammy trebles I just mentioned. The shank is shorter and the bend angles inward more than an EWG hook, but either brand should provide similar results. The Mustad hooks offer one thing many other companies do not. With a short shank, anglers can swap in larger hooks and not worry about getting tangled up when installed on smaller baits. The larger hook should also offer better hook ups and fewer missed strikes. The No. 2 Triple Grip hooks are on my list, but I haven't pulled the trigger on any yet.

I will not discuss the brand new SpinTech rotating treble hooks. I have not used them nor have I read enough about them to make any kind of informed statement about them. The concept is certainly interesting. Not sure if I'd spring for a pack. Luckily, TackleTour just released their review of SpinTech treble hooks.

Topwater baits require a different approach. Remember, topwater lures float. If you replace the stock hooks with trebles that are on the heavy side, you get strong hooks, but you also weigh down the lure. I have yet to really investigate treble hook options for topwater lures, but some reading has led me to believe Owner Stinger hooks are light and ideal for this situation. While a big fish may straighten a light Owner treble out, they will not drag your lure down. I'm not a fan of feathered trebles, so I won't cover any of that. What I will say is that topwater lures often benefit from such an addition.

Among treble hooks, another option stands out. The VMC Sure Set hooks have a very unique design. Two hook points are normal size and have round bends, but the third is much larger. I have already posted a review of these hooks, so I won't talk about them in depth. I'll only say that I swap out the front treble on Rapala DT's and some Rat-L-Traps with a Sure Set hook of equal size. Sometimes they do tangle up in the rear hook, but they also improve my hookup ratio, especially when cranking for fast hitting crappie and white bass. I do not like changing out the hook at the rear for a Sure Set because they end up foul-hooking and injuring an already hooked fish.

There are many other tricks of the trade when it comes to working with treble hooks. This post is more about changing hooks and not so much making modifications. Some anglers will add extra split rings for leverage. Oval split rings are another option. I have even seen people remove one treble hook from the front or back and leave the other. Many of my other blog entries cover these kinds of modifications, each mod specific to each lure, so I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that info appeals to you.

At first glance, the decision to swap out trebles may seem like a challenge, but given the choices on store shelves these days, I don't think anyone can make a truly bad decision. Apply the concepts I described above, considering hook bends, shank length, and size, and pick something. Some hooks are admittedly better than others, but if the stock hooks are not satisfactory, you have no choice but to make a change. It could mean the difference between landing a fish and missing the strike altogether.


MNAngler said...

Great post. I've never changed out treble hooks because I've never had a problem with them. But then, I don't regularly get into a fight with a 3-lb bass either.

One step at a time...

Basspastor said...

I pay attention to hooks on suspending jerkbaits because of the float/sink factor.

I have switched out trebles on other cranks, but I'm not religious about it and have no set preferences.

I do believe in feathered trebles for topwater.

MDTolic said...

I don't routinely change out trebles either; but I'm not much of a cranker. I sharpen though.

Like Basspastor, I have added VMC feathered trebles to top-waters and the occasional jerk bait. I've stumbled on Sure Sets on sale too and put those on a few cranks. I do like the concept, haven't really used them enough to see a difference.

JD said...

Good post. My replacement hooks of choice are Eagle Claw. Like you said, you can usually get a good price and the overall quality is solid.

I completely agree about Rat-L-Trap and Bandit...hooks out of the package are no good. I also always change to the VMC (front only) on Spooks. Started landing over 80% of smallies once I made that change!

Jody White said...

Good post. I change out almost all my trebles to VMC outbarbs, I just have a ton of confidence in them. One thing of note for topwaters: I disagree about float being important. Normally I swap the trebles out for a couple of sizes larger because I find (at least for smallmouth) that I lose a lot of fish with smaller hooks so, there is a little trade off between perfect action and landing the fish. for me.

James said...

I change out the hooks on most of the crankbaits that I buy. I fish lipless crankbaits quite a bit in the spring and early summer.

I like the Mustad Triple grip hooks. I find with the way they are shaped I rarely lose a bass once hooked and they are very sharp.

Also there is no substitute for a good pair of split ring pliers.