You spent months haggling with the dealer before purchasing that new skiff, and you pored over options for weeks before deciding which rod and reel to buy. You checked tide tables and weather forecasts for days before carefully selecting where to fish this morning, and upon reaching the perfect spot, it took several minutes to choose which lure to use. But before you make the first cast, tell me this: How much thought did you give the treble hooks dangling from that plug?
Trebles come in a variety of shapes, strengths and finishes, and many anglers overlook the importance of selecting the proper hook for a particular situation. "I read all the letters sent to Mustad regarding quality control and complaints," says Jeff Pierce, sales manager for Mustad & Son USA. "The main reason people lose fish - and blame us -is that they chose the wrong hook for the job."
Bend Me, Shape Me
Hook shape ranks as one of the more obvious attributes of trebles. "Daiichi makes round-bend trebles, and the wide gap results in better hookup rates compared to O'Shaughnessy-style trebles," says TJ Stallings, marketing director for Daiichi Hooks. "Our customers often find they can step down from a size 4 to a 6, for example. Although the hooks are smaller, the gap remains wide enough to consistently catch in a fish's mouth."
Pierce agrees that a wider bite increases the hook's ability to find purchase in a fish's mouth. "Round-bend trebles have become very popular for use on topwater baits," he says. "The wider gap promotes better hookup ratios with these hard-to-hit lures. Anglers also use round-bend trebles as rear hooks on stick baits and crank baits for the same reason: better chances of hooking fish."
After the strike, however, round-bend trebles may have trouble holding fish in a lip lock. "The smooth bend can back out of a jumping fish's mouth. I believe fish can throw a round-bend treble more easily than other hook shapes," Pierce says.
Leverage also figures into the fish-holding equation. Manufacturing processes dictate that trebles usually have thinner-diameter wire, shorter shanks and shorter points than do single hooks of the same size. "Strong fish can gain leverage against the relatively short points of trebles and bend hooks out," says Paul Michele, Gamakatsu's Eastern regional sales manager.
Round-bend hooks also demonstrate a tendency to pivot as a fish thrashes its head during the fight. "Should the hook rotate in such a way that the fish exerts pressure on the point - outward pressure, perpendicular to the shank - there's more chance of the hook opening," explains Cyrille Mathieu, vice president of sales and marketing for VMC. As points bend outward, fish flop off.
Rather than a uniform, smooth bend, O'Shaughnessy hooks feature a steeper curve near the shank and a point that leans slightly inward. "They represent Mustad's most popular overall style of trebles," Pierce says of O'Shaughnessy models. "The slightly narrower gap may miss a few more hookups compared to round-bend trebles, but once they penetrate, O'Shaughnessy trebles seem to hold onto fish better."
The O'Shaughnessy's tighter bend helps hold fish because it's less likely to rotate and back out of a fish's mouth during the fight. Taking the concept one step further, manufacturers such as Mustad, VMC, Gamakatsu and Eagle Claw offer distinctive treble shapes that reduce chances of losing hooked fish. Mustad's Triple Grip treble follows a deeper bend that turns the point in sharply toward the shank. "The Triple Grip's radical design features a wide gap and angled-in point that gives a very good hookup ratio and helps anglers keep fish on the line," Pierce says. "Once hooked, fish can jump and jump, but these hooks will hold." Eagle Claw's Kahle treble and Gamakatsu's Extra Wide Gap treble employ similar wide-gap, turned-in-point designs that very effectively hook and hold fish.
VMC calls its out-of-the-ordinary treble the Barbarian. This hook features a rather sharp angle in the bend, near the shank. "Once the hook penetrates, it slides in and holds at that breaking angle in the bend," Mathieu explains. "We designed the Barbarian's shape to deliver the highest mechanical resistance to opening. All force transmitted by the fish focuses on that particular spot. There's little risk of the hook rotating and allowing a fish to create leverage that could bend out the point."
Standard-strength trebles usually prove too weak to hold up against hard-charging saltwater species. Savvy anglers examine the hardware on new lures and immediately switch out standard trebles for stronger versions. "Gamakatsu's largest treble market in the inshore-fishing segment comes from anglers buying replacement hooks for lures - mostly 2X trebles for snook and redfish plugs," says Michele. Manufacturers identify beefed-up models with labels such as 2X
Strong, with 2X, 3X and 4X the most common extra-strength ratings for trebles.
The most obvious way to fortify hooks calls for simply making trebles from thicker wire. "We make trebles 2X- or 4X-strong by using heavier-gauge wire, but hook design also affects strength," Michele explains. "Our 2X model has a round bend, while the 4X has a narrower gap, which increases strength by making it more difficult for fish to get leverage and bend out the hook."
Along with wire thickness and hook shape, fine-tuned manufacturing processes can bolster treble strength. "No industrywide standards exist for measuring and labeling hook strengths, but there is consistency within brands," says Pierce. "Basically, a 2X hook will indeed be twice as strong as a standard hook from the same manufacturer. But the wire will not always be twice as thick. For instance, Mustad adjusts the tempering process to vary hook strength."
Anglers in need of a superheavyweight treble should consider the 6X-strong model from VMC. "We originally designed the 6X for Australians who pursue barramundi, an incredibly powerful inshore fish that can flatten 4X hooks," Mathieu says. "Then the hook found favor among Americans who went peacock-bass fishing in Brazil. Now the 6X also sees use on large plugs for tarpon and offshore species."
Like single hooks, trebles come in a wide variety of colors and finishes. Bronze, the natural color of uncoated hooks, offers little protection against corrosion.Therefore, most anglers avoid using bronze trebles on saltwater lures because the hooks don't last long. On the other hand, bronze trebles serve well as stinger hooks for kingfish rigs because these rigs often get tossed after a single use - and if a hooked fish breaks off, the treble dissolves rather quickly.
Nickel plating, whether black or silver, offers a reasonable degree of corrosion resistance. "Most of our customers prefer to put black trebles on plugs because they don't want extra shine from silver hooks," Gamakatsu's Michele says. "But silver hooks work well in situations where you want flash, such as when rigging a ribbonfish."
Anglers who need trebles with long-lasting corrosion resistance usually opt for tin-plated versions or any of the proprietary coatings designed to combat the effects of saltwater. Options include Eagle Claw's Sea Guard, Mustad's Duratin and VMC's Permasteel finishes.
Daiichi helped kick off a red-hook trend by introducing its Bleeding Bait concept about four years ago. "Red trebles on a lure imitate gill flash as well as blood from injured baitfish - and both trigger a strike response from predators," Stallings says. "Fish often target the red treble."
Stallings backs up his claim by citing an experiment in which two anglers fished side by side, using identical lures for smallmouth bass. One lure had a Bleeding Bait treble on the front and a standard treble on the back; the other lure had a
Bleeding Bait treble on the back and a standard on the front. Both anglers caught about the same number of fish, with a total of 30 - and 29 fish had struck the red trebles.
Anglers must make their own choices. "Think about your target species and the tackle you use, then select the proper hook for the job," Pierce advises. "Different hooks cover different conditions. That's why we make so darn many styles!"
|Daiichi D93Q Death Trap||Round Bend||Black Nickel||8-1/20|
|Daiichi D99Q Bleeding Bait||Round Bend||Red Tin||8-2|
|Daiichi D97Q Bleeding Bait 4X Strong||Round Bend||Red Tin||6-2|
|Eagle Claw L375 2X Strong||O'Shaughnessy||Nickel||14-5/0|
|Eagle Claw L677 3X Strong||O'Shaughnessy||Sea Guard||1-2/0|
|Eagle Claw L774BK 4X Strong||O'Shaughnessy||Platinum Black, Sea Guard||1-2/0|
|Eagle Claw L949 2X Strong||Kahle||Platinum Black||8-2|
|Eagle Claw L955 3X Strong||Round Bend||Nickel||6-2|
|Gamakatsu Red||Round Bend||Red||6-2|
|Gamakatsu 2X Strong||Round Bend||Black||6-1/0|
|Gamakatsu 4X Strong|| |
|Bronze, Black, Tin||4-5/0|
|Gamakatsu EWG||Extra Wide Grip||Bronze, Black, Tin||6-2|
|Mustad 3549AD 1X Strong|| |
|Mustad 36102||Round Bend||Red, Black, Nickel, Bronze, Duratin||8-2|
|Mustad 36244CT 2X Strong||Triple Grip||Special Tin||4-1|
|Mustad 36245CT 3X Strong||Triple Grip||Special Tin||1/0-3/0|
|Owner Stinger-36||Round Bend||Black Chrome, Red||18-2/0|
|Owner Stinger-41 2X Strong||Round Bend||Black Chrome||6-2/0|
|Owner Stinger-66 4X Strong||O'Shaughnessy||Tin||4-5/0|
|VMC 8572 3X Strong Barbarian||Barbarian||Black Nickel, Permasteel||6-2|
|VMC 9626 PS 4X Strong||O'Shaughnessy||Bronze, Permasteel, Red Tin||8-5/0|
|VMC 8527 6X Strong||O'Shaughnessy||Permasteel, Red, Red Tin|| |