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January 14, 2008

Making the Assist

Make your own assist hooks for metal jigs


Keep it Legal
Anglers who fish with an eye on the record books must rig jigs carefully to avoid disqualifying any catches. According to International Game Fish Association rules - meant to prevent intentional foul-hooking - the distance between the rear of the lure and the trailing hook's eye cannot exceed the hook's length.
By this standard, a metal jig's legal status depends on the lure's length, the length of the assist-hook leader (measured from end loop to hook bend) and where it attaches to the lure. For example, if a jig measures 6 inches and the assist-hook leader measures 7, it would only be legal if attached to the front of the lure. Attaching the assist hook to the back of the jig would place the trailing hook's eye much more than one hook length behind the lure and violate IGFA rules.

Using Split-Ring Pliers
Capt. Marcos Malucelli changes jigs frequently on the water and finds it quicker to use the split ring on the assist hook's swivel instead of cutting the leader and tying on a whole new assembly. Rather than keeping both fishing pliers and split-ring pliers handy, he uses a Dremel rotary tool to cut a diagonal slot in the lower jaw of his fishing pliers. This cut creates a tooth in one corner of the jaw to grip and open split rings.
"Slot depth is critical," Malucelli says. "If it's too deep, the pliers won't prevent the split ring from slipping as you try to turn it to remove a jig. I'm right-handed, so I cut the slot from upper right to lower left. This puts the tooth on the inside when I hold the pliers with my right hand, where it's most convenient to grip and turn the split ring."

Double Up for Success
Some anglers, including Malucelli, feel that using two assist hooks doubles their chances of capitalizing on strikes and holding fish. Others maintain that one hook proves plenty effective.
Capt. Antonio Amaral employs single assist hooks. "My experience with double hooks shows that one catches the fish in the mouth and the other embeds in the side of the head or body," he says. "The fight lasts much longer and takes more effort because you're pulling the fish sideways. It takes forever to bring a fish hooked that way up from the depths."
Another jigging fiend who favors single assist hooks, Sport Fishing contributor Nicola Zingarelli, points out that a second, free-swinging hook can cause severe injury to a fish's eyes or gills. "Use   single hooks if you plan to release your catch,"  he says. "Many anglers believe double hooks provide better hookup ratios. The choice between single or double assists depends on personal preference and experience."

Making it Easy...
Don't have time to make your own? No worries. You can find assist hooks when visiting tackle shops or browsing on the Internet. The companies listed below offer a selection of hook sizes rigged on looped leaders of various strengths, including wire.

Demon Jigs
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Costa Mesa, California
Tacoma, Washington
North Palm Beach, Florida
Brielle, New Jersey
Minnetonka, Minnesota
Auburn, New York