Our Outdoors: Honing in on Hooks
By Nick Simonson
In midwinter, when bites come a bit slower and non-outdoors time is best spent in the basement at the lure-making desk or going through tackle for the coming spring, the point of much of my work is making sure that my gear is ready to go. When it comes down to it, a lot of my focus is on just that – the point of each hook. Whether on an ice lure such as a spoon for walleyes or a small jig for crappies, or the big bass hooks in the clear pouch of my plastic bait binder, reviewing the condition of hooks as tackle is sorted, restock plans are written down, and creations come to be at the tying desk are a big part of ensuring the business end of each offering I make will better connect with fish.
Often, a number of hooks, jigs and other lures I cast out during a season are cut from the line and stashed back in the tackle box or bag and not reviewed until this time of the year as I prepare for open water. It’s now that I have the time to look them over in detail and see if they’re capable of enduring another deployment, or need a quick fix or, with some regret, a toss into the trash. Rust on a hook is the first warning sign that it likely can’t be rehabilitated. It also suggests that other hooks may be impacted by the corrosion caused by even slight amounts of water that have reacted with the metal and spread through the tacklebox.
Additionally, blunted hook points are a prime candidate for review. Any turn, bend or dulling of a hook point often results in removal of the jig from the box or the replacement of a treble on a lure such as a crankbait. These dings occur as a result of striking rocks or other structure, and even the slightest shift in the sharpness of a hook point can result in missed fish on the next trip on the ice or the first trip in spring. If they can’t be honed with a hook sharpener, it’s best to discard the hook.
Finally, hooks that have become bent out of shape – such as a jig shank that has gone from a “J” to a “U” in form after being pulled loose from a snag and rebent – are likely compromised and have lost some of their strength. These hooks are also candidates for replacement.
At the Ready
Keep in mind too that fishing hooks fresh out of the box might not be at their sharpest. Have a hook hone in your tacklebox for those crankbaits, jigs, and wide-gap worm hooks that have gone from the tackle aisle to your pack. That way, before they hit the water you can ensure they’re at their sharpest and ready to connect with the next walleye or largemouth. Making such a tool part of the normal spread of implements such as needle-nose pliers, mouth spreaders, split ring pliers and metal snips ensures that it is readily available on the water if a hook gets blunted, or those fresh models could use a little sharpening.
Before deploying any lure, check its hook points to make sure they are sharp. By dragging the point across a fingernail, it’s easy to tell whether or not it will be effective on your next outing. If it leaves a white trail, the hook is sharp and will get the job done. If it doesn’t, consider honing it to a fine point or replacing the hook or jig altogether.
With midwinter bites a bit fewer and farther between, and those exciting spring outings just a couple pages out on the calendar, having sharp hooks at hand can make all the difference between a missed strike and firm connection with a fish. Hone the hooks for your next outing now in some evening downtime and get next season’s models ready for deployment and better results…in our outdoors.