Single Hooks on Hardbaits
I've been wanting to write something on using single hooks on hardbaits for sometime now but decided to wait until I could gain some experience first. I have been using single hooks on all my lures now for more than two years and so I would like to share with you what I have learned.
First though I would like to clarify what I mean by hardbaits. Folks tend to use different names for the same thing depending on where they live or come from. Brits generally refers to hardbaits as plugs or hardlures, our American cousins have all sorts of subdivisions - stickbaits, jerkbaits, twitchbaits, slashbaits, wakebaits, minnows, shads - the list seems endless. I will lump them all together, including poppers and walk-the-dog lures, as simply referring to them as hardbaits or the more generic term: lures.
The idea behind replacing treble hooks with single ones stems from two main concerns: one is making the lure less likely to snag and the other is causing the least amount of damage to the fish. 'Catch and Release' is gaining popularity and so it makes sense to return the fish in as a healthy condition as possible. How many times have you hooked a fish and the second (or third) treble has embedded itself in the fish's body, head or even its eye?
Fish are not the only ones to suffer injuries from treble hooks - how many times have you heard stories from fellow anglers about a struggling fish and the extra treble hooking them? Another frustrating situation is using a landing net to lift the fish out of the water then trying to remove the hooks both from the fish and the landing net - you manage to get the hook out of the fish and then the one out from the landing net only to have the free treble get caught in the net!
Treble in My Finger
I have lost quite a few lures to the rocks and reefs. Shore fishing here in Israel is mostly over very rough shallow ground and even shallow runners like the Tackle House Feed Shallow get snagged. It is no fun loosing expensive lures! Single lures go a long way in helping to keep your lure from getting snagged. I regularly fish with my friend Omer who still uses trebles and he manages to snag his lures at least a couple of times every session. He is quite intrepid and not afraid to wade out over the submerged reefs to try, mostly successfully, to unsnag his lure. I, on the other hand, very rarely get my lures snagged.
A Selection of Lures that I have Replaced their Treble Hooks with Single Hooks
My favorite hooks are the 'Decoy Pluggin' Single 27' they make them in a wide range of sizes and are definitely good quality hooks. Ones to avoid are the 'Gamakatsu Saltwater Plugging 53 Salt'; they come with something they call 'Hyper Shield' but I have only had bad experience with them. Although they are marketed specifically for saltwater the majority that I have used turn black on their first session and rust very quickly. However the 'Gamakatsu Seabass 56' withstands saltwater just fine and I haven't as yet noticed any signs of rust at all.
Some of the Available Single Hooks for Lures
Rusty Gamakatsu 53 Salt Hooks (the one on the right is a new unused one)
I do have a few lures with VMC Siwash Saltwater hooks (open eyed hooks that you close with pliers) replacing the tail treble. I did try them as belly hooks but they don't have the free movement that regular single lure hooks have which are mounted using the original split ring (you can't really mount a siwash with a split ring as they will point to the side rather in a vertical orientation).
I ought to point out here that single lure hooks have a larger eyes to fit over the lure's split rings and are offset so that it will hang straight rather to the left or right. Siwash hooks on the other hand have the eye as a regular hook does since you don't need to use a split ring.
I've been using single hooks on all my lures, hardbaits, spoons and casting jigs for a couple of years now and although I haven't caught tons of fish I have caught enough to be able to say that single hooks, for me anyway, are a much better choice than trebles - both for me and for the fish.
As a rule of thumb the tail hook should always be mounted facing upwards. It just makes sense that way; the belly hook[s] are a bit of a different story however as how you mount them will depend on what you want. If you have more confidence that you will get more hookups having the hooks facing downwards then by all means mount them that way; if however you are fishing over rough ground, where you are afraid that your lure will get snagged, then mount them facing upwards - you will still catch fish on them.
Worth noting is that for some reason the VMC siwash hook sizes seem to have a size rating of their very own. I have, as you can see from the photo below, a packet of #1 VMC Siwash Saltwater Hooks; however if I put them next to a comparative sized Decoy hook then it is actually a size #2/0 rather than the stated size #1 - go figure!
With regards to which hook size to use as a replacement for the original trebles, a good starting place is to check the size of the single hook against the original treble hook. You can do this by simply placing the single hook over the treble hook and check that the distance between the hook point and the shank of the single hook is the same as the overall width of the treble hook; although most times a size smaller is preferred.
After mounting the single hooks check that the can't get hung up on each other not that they can swing up and get stuck on the top (back) of the lure. Sometimes lures, especially 'saltwater' versions, come with larger treble hooks than their freshwater counterparts, and using the above method for checking which single hook size will result in a size, or even two, too big. Don't be afraid to downsize - especially on the belly hook. You can keep the larger single hook on the tail if you want to; just make sure that the hooks won't get hung up on each other. At the end of this post there is a chart listing several popular hardbaits with their suggested single hook sizes.
Below are some photos of a Rapala Saltwater X-Rap 10 with its original size #3 trebles (the freshwater version uses a #4 & and a #5) and #3/0 singles - which are obviously too big. The correct size replacement single hooks for the X-Rap 10 are in actual fact two #2/0's but you can even use #1/0's if you are targeting smaller species.
Measuring Replacement Single Hooks
Single Hooks that are too Big
Correct Sized Single Hooks
There is a misconception that a treble hook will give a better hookset than a single hook simply by the fact that a treble has three hook points whereas a single hook, by its very nature of only have the one point, has a lesser chance of hooking the fish.
Actually the physics tell a different story. By way of an illustration let's suppose that you have a piece of wood in which you have slightly embedded (to stop them falling over) three nails close enough to each other so that a single hammer blow would strike all three at the same time. Then let's suppose that there is a single nail also slightly embedded in the same piece of wood. Which would take the least amount of effort to drive into the wood - the three nails or the single nail? Of course the answer is the single nail. The same is true for hooks - a single hook will penetrate a fish's mouth (especially a hard bony mouth - think of most mid-water predators) easier than a treble of the same overall size.
Another misconception is that a treble, when embedded in a fish's mouth, will give a more secure hookup than a comparatively sized single.
Have a look at the photo below, which shows a saltwater X-Rap 10, its original treble and the replacement singles, and it is pretty obvious that the single has a wider gape and is constructed from heavier gauge wire than the original treble. This means that the single will have a better, stronger hold on a fighting, thrashing fish than the weaker treble which, I'm sure you have heard from other, if not from personal experience, can even straighten out with the resulting loss of a fish of a lifetime.
The Jokers in the Pack
It might not be so obvious but switching to single hooks will affect the buoyancy of your suspending lures and they will probably need some of those Storm Suspendots™ to restore the lure's ability to suspend. Do remember though that to successfully get a lure to suspend at any given depth will depend upon at least two important factors: the salinity and temperature of the water.
Lures That Don't Like Single Hooks
Another point worth mentioning, and it is something that I have only recently become aware of, and that is that not all lures will swim properly with single hooks.
First of all, for the record, out of all the lures that I have (more than my wife knows) - minnows, poppers, walk-the-dogs etc. I have only come across one that will just not swim properly without its original treble hooks and that is the Tackle House Feed Shallow 105. Its older sibling, the 128 swims just fine with singles but the 105 won't! It turns on its side, wallows and just plain simply looks like a piece of towed drift wood. Put its original trebles back on (which presumably imparts enough drag to give it its swimming characteristics) and it transforms immediately into a bass killer!
Since one of my reasons for using single hooks is out of concern for the welfare of the fish that I catch I have crimped the barbs on the treble hooks of the Feed Shallow 105 since I can't use single on this particular lure.
Feed Shallow 105 with crimped treble hooks
Actually, crimping the barbs on hooks, whether single or treble, is a good idea; it is better for the fish but it is also good for you - if you do manage to fishhook yourself it is easy to remove the hook; it is also easy to remove hooks that have got themselves caught up in a landing net after having successfully landed your fish.
Crimping the Barbs on Treble Hooks
|Manufacturer's Name||Code Name||Size & Number of Hooks|
|The above are suggestions only and can be varied depending on circumstances|
|Daiwa||Saltiga Minnow SAM14||#1 x 3|
|Daiwa||Saltiga Minnow SAM12||#1/0 x 2|
|Halco||Roosta Popper 80||#1/0 x 2|
|Ima||Hound 125F Glide||#1 x 3|
|Ima||Hound 100F Sonic||#1/0 x 2|
|Ima||Nabarone||#1 x 3|
|Ima||Salt Skimmer||#1 x 2|
|Ima||Sasuke SF-95||#2 x 2|
|Lucky Craft||Gunfish 95||#1 x 2|
|Lucky Craft||Gunfish 65||#6 x 2|
|Megabass||X-140SW||#2 x 3|
|Megabass||X-120SW||#2 x 3|
|Rapala||MaxRap 17||#1/0 x 3|
|Rapala||MaxRap 15||#1 x 3|
|Rapala||MaxRap 13||#1 x 3|
|Rapala||MaxRap 11||#2 x 2|
|Rapala||X-Rap 10||#2/0 x 2|
|Storm||Chug Bug 11||#3/0 x 2||Storm||Chug Bug 08||#2 x 2|
|Sebile||Splasher 90||#2/0 x 2|
|Shimano||Exsense Silent Assassin 129||#1 x 3|
|Tackle House||Feed Shallow 128||#1 x 3|
|Xorus||Patchinko II||#2/0 x 2|
|Xorus||Patchinko 100||#4 x 2|