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In the Game Part 18
  |  First Published: June 2007



Continuing on with our series on rigging skirted lures, this month we will look at hook positions in the rigs, hook offsets and ways to improve the hook-up potential and the swimming action of your lures.

GET THE POINT

When choosing a hook size for a particular lure, the basic rule is that the hook should be at least the same width or wider than the width of the lure head. This will mean that if a fish bites down on the lure head there is enough hook point proud to initialise penetration as the lure slides out of the fish’s mouth.

If the width of the hook is narrower than the head of the lure, then the entire lure and rig can be pulled from the fish’s mouth without any chance of the hook point finding its mark. Often when putting a single-hook rig in a lure, the hook is one size larger than it would have been if you were putting a twin-hook rig in the lure. This is to increase the chance of a positive hook-up. The only stipulation in this regard is that the larger hook doesn’t hinder the action of the lure.

I know I have mentioned this before and I will again as I can’t stress how important it is. Make sure every hook point is razor sharp each time it is put in the water. There are differing views about how hooks should be sharpened.

Some anglers like a long hook point with a razor sharp triangular point, believing that it will cut its own passage into the mouth. On the opposite side of the argument, some anglers believe that this hook is more likely to fall out during a prolonged fight as it will move around and continue to cut and widen the area it has penetrated.

Many anglers prefer a short cone-cut point as the hook has less distance to penetrate before the barb comes into play to reduce the chances of the hook falling out. Once penetrated, cone-cut points will not continue to cut a hole and therefore the hook is less likely to be thrown. Small barbs on your hook will allow the hook to penetrate more easily but large barbs are much more likely to prevent the hook from falling out.

Like most aspects of our sport, all these factors should be given your consideration before making up your mind about which hook, hook point and barb configuration you will use. Some of the new age Teflon-coated and thinner diameter stainless hooks are very fine and therefore the points and barbs cannot be altered without weakening the hook point.

FRIGGING WITH THE RIGGING

There are a lot of different skirted lures available and each has its own unique action, so luckily there are also a lot of rigging options available to anglers. Having any hook rig in a skirted lure will give you a reasonable chance of hooking up. Customizing your hook rig to suit a particular lure will give you an even better chance of enticing and hooking fish.

A good hook rig must not hinder the lure’s performance or action. Some anglers take hook rigs and their potential to hook fish quite seriously. They will even rig individual lures to swim on a certain side of the boat, with the rear hook in the rig facing outwards and the leading hook upwards. It is most likely that a fish will approach from the open side of the lure spread instead of bypassing three or four other lures and attacking from the inside of the lure spread. It all boils down to a law of averages and percentages.

As expressed previously, having your own rigging equipment allows you to customize the rigs that you put in each lure. This can maximize the lure’s swimming potential as well as the hook-up potential when the strike happens.

Different lures often require different rigs to the generic varieties available at tackle stores to maintain or promote their swimming potential. For example, a skirted lure with a vibrant head action and a thick skirt designed to hold air bubbles (smoke trail) after the lure surfaces (breathes) is often best rigged with a single hook rig instead of a double hook rig. This is to eliminate the possibility of the leading hook tangling with the skirt, which in turn will impart the lure’s natural action, reducing the possibility of both a strike and a hook-up. The hook point should be level with, or slightly longer than, the bottom of the skirt to prevent tangling. Personally, I would stiff rig the hook to the wire but allow flexibility where the wire attaches to the shackle, or the point of connection with the leader if a shackle was not being used. Slant-faced lures would definitely be a candidate for this type of rigging.

Lures with less prominent actions, especially straight runners, are often rigged with a twin-hook rig. Many anglers have long held the belief that two hooks have more chance of hooking up than a single hook but over recent years opinions have changed amongst some anglers. Often it is a case of trying different rigs in different lures until you can come to some conclusion about the effectiveness of each.

The basic rule is to put loose (flexible) rigs in lures with a lesser action and stiffer rigs in lures with prominent actions, although there are many other factors to take into consideration also. You are best to experiment a bit with different rigs in different lures.

Generally, lures with longer heads and straight sides will have less action than lures with shorter heads and curved sides. This is why the longer heads are best for running further away from the boat in clean water and for when it is a little rough. They go through the water with the least resistance, which makes them ideal for these circumstances. A double hook, loose rig will usually suit these best.

Shorter, fatter heads, especially those with curved sides and cupped faces, have the most vibrant actions. Single-hook or stiffer double-hook rigs will usually get the best performance out of these lures.

There are also slant faces, flat faces without cups, jet heads and a host of others to try different rigs in. Each different lure requires personal appraisal or recommendations from the maker as to what rig is best for it.

TOOTHPICKING

Increasing the hook-up potential and subsequent swimming potential of a lure can be taken even a step further. Hooks with slightly turned in points will ride point upright in the water throughout the majority of their journey. With this knowledge we can then get the lure to swim with a particular side upright in the water.

To do this we need to ‘toothpick’ the lure. This involves getting a round toothpick (or similar) and jamming it into the leader hole of the lure, like a wedge, so that it prevents the lure turning around on the leader when trolled. As the hook points will run upright most of the time, the side of the lure closest to the hook points will also ride upright for most of the time.

Toothpicking can be done by wedging the toothpick in the leader hole from the front of the lure head or the rear. Lures with slant faces will often not be compatible with this technique, as their preference to swim a certain way cannot be altered.

Some lures on the market have achieved this same result in a much simpler way. Black Bart lures and Bahama Lures have a rubber grommet as an extension at the back of the lure head. The crimp securing the leader loop can be wedged into the hole in this rubber grommet, which achieves the same result as our toothpick method.

Meridian Lures have a depression in the back of the lure head. If you are using a cistern washer or large soft lumo bead as an abrasion protector on the leader, this can be pulled into the depression at the back of the lure head to prevent the lure twisting on the leader.

Some skirted lures have quite different colours on each side. I have a Meridian Saltshaker in the Phoenix colour that is bright orange on one side, and a black oily colour on the other. On a bright sunny day I will toothpick the lure so the orange is facing down and on an overcast day I will have the black oily side facing down. As this lure is run close to the boat in the white water, this approach will see the most productive, silhouetting colours presented to the fish the majority of the time. With twin-hook rigs, it is the leading hook (closest to the lure head) that will usually gain preference in the rig riding upright.

Billfish will often roll lazily over a lure as they attempt to eat it. Having the hook points riding upright will increase the chance of a potential hook-up. The roof of the mouth is also relatively soft on most species and therefore the easiest place for a hook to set. As an attacking pelagic will grab the lure and swim downwards, the hook points riding upright will usually set the hook in the roof of the mouth or jaw hinge, depending on the angle of the attack. Species such as billfish also have a much larger area of upper jaw than lower jaw, so there is heightened potential for the hooks to find their mark when the points are riding upright.

OFFSETS

With twin-hook shackle rigs, there are a few considerations to ponder in relation to offsets. The offset is how far apart, or how many degrees of separation, are between the leading and trailing hook. Options can vary anywhere between inline to 180 degrees. The general preference is for 30-degree to 45-degree offsets, due to the hook-up potential they offer.

Rigs with full 180-degree offsets have been frowned upon from a conservation viewpoint for many years. If a fish is hooked and lost then there is a heightened chance that it may become jaw locked if one hook were to penetrate the upper jaw and the other penetrated the lower jaw. The fish would not be able to feed and would therefore die a slow death.

Single-hook rigs are rapidly gaining acceptance and favour amongst seasoned skippers due to their effectiveness and ease of use. Most anglers have found that the initial hook-up rate is the same as for doubles but the advantage comes in the fact that once set, they rarely come out. This is possibly due to the fact that the fish can’t work one hook against the other as they open and close their mouth in an attempt at dislodge the hooks. They were also a lot safer for the crew once a fish was brought aboard.

CONCLUSION

As you can see, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when choosing a rigging option for your lures. With so many variables in play such as different head shapes and varied lure actions for a range of species on multiple line classes, there is not a definitive lure rig. Each situation will require examination and personal appraisal to make a decision about what rigging option will provide the best results for you. Often trial and error will heighten your learning curve and you will quickly form your own educated opinions. Obviously this just means that you will have to get out and go fishing more.

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