Circle Hooks for Soft Plastics
anglers have been asking about circle hooks. The
reason for angler interest is that circle hooks are safer for
fish due to the fact that the circle hooks very often slide into
the jaw corner before penetrating the fish's mouth. There is less
chance to deeply hook a fish. Conservation-minded
catch-and-release anglers like that! So far, circle hooks are
becoming well-accepted for live bait applications. Why? Fish help
hook themselves as they try to swim away with a bait, the hook is
hard for a fish to throw during the fight, plus fish can be
released with less damage to its mouth tissue. All very good!
However, artificial lure fishermen are still wondering - can
circle hooks be used with lures such as soft plastic baits?
The answer is a partial YES. I
have used a circle style hook - the Yamamoto Crooked hook - with
soft stickbaits, floating worms, tubes, and grubs. At least for
these baits fished in the manners described below, the Yamamoto
Crooked hook does work as desired - hooking fish in the corner of
the jaw with only line pressure as they swim away with the bait!
Mind you, these are mostly OPEN WATER or LIGHT COVER applications
on a slack or semi-slack line where there is either no weight
used or else the bait is separated from the weight by a short
trace of leader line. I believe that the circle style Split Shot
hooks excel in such situations.
In weeds, moderate to heavy cover, or for
"dragging" bottom on Carolina rigs, I
caution you against using circle style hooks. You are likely to
pick up too many weeds or get snagged with exposed circle style
hooks. In weedy or snaggy environs, you may want to stick with an
offset shank rigging hook hidden in the bait when fishing weeds,
snags, and for "dragging" bottom. But in this article,
let's keep talking about these incredible little circle style
Yamamoto Crooked hooks. These are a special kind
of rounded, short shank hook made exclusively for Gary by
Gamakatsu. Very strong steel. In size and shape, Split Shot hooks
closely approximate what's more commonly known as a circle hook.
However, the bend of the Split Shot hook is much better designed
for seating soft plastic baits properly on the bend of the hook.
Why is the bend better? Because it is what I can only describe as
"squarer" that a true circle hook bend. This allows the
bait to poise much more comfortably nestled in the crook of the
Split Shot hook as compared to a true circle hook.
Actually, "Split Shot" is a poor name
for this hook because it does much more than just
splitshotting. It is also a good hook for "wacky
worming" and for nose-hooking trick worms, floating worms
and soft plastic stickbaits, plus single tail grubs and other
soft plastics. Let me tell you how I've used it...so far!
Yamamoto Ika (solid-bodied tube bait
1) Weightless Near Surface. You just insert
the Split Shot hook crossways through the nose of the Ika, cast
it out and start twitching it under the surface. Let it fall dead
too. When a fish takes, you let the fish go down and swim away
from you with the Ika. Don't worry, they won't let go. Just start
reeling in line and the steady, gentle pressure of a slow
sideways sweep of the rod tip causes the circle-style hook to
catch in the corner of the jaw, hooking the fish without actually
"setting" the hook!
2) Splitshot - Suspended. This is simply
adding a light splitshot a few feet up the line from the
weightless Ika with the Split Shot circle-style hook. You let it
drift down through suspended fish - or engage the reel, thereby
holding the bait at the depth that the fish are found. You can
deadstick it or shake it. Click here for more
information on the Ika.
Yamamoto Senko (soft subsurface stickbait)
1) Wacky Rig. Gary Yamamoto's
exclusively-made Gamakatsu "Split Shot" hook excels for
this. In shallow water (0 to 6' deep) you can rig it
"wacky" with the little Split Shot hook in the middle
and unweighted. If you want to get deeper than this, stick a
small piece of solder or nail weight right in the middle where
you put the hook. Keep in mind that all Yamamoto baits are made
of denser plastic which is slightly heavier and sinks faster than
other plastics. With or without an embedded weight, just let it
settle down to the bottom and shake the rod tip slightly from
time to time during its descent. Hooked and weighted properly in
the middle, the Senko should sort of flutter back and forth as it
2) Split Shot Rig. You can stick the Split
Shot hook straight through the nose about 3-4 ribs back, then
pinch a few split shot two feet up the line to sink it quickly
about 10 to 20 feet deep...then just deadstick it or start
twitching it back through mid-water where your electronics mark
suspended fish. Click here for more
information on the Senko.
Trick Worms, Floating Worms (soft topwater stickbaits)
1) Nose-piercing. I like to use big, buoyant
floater worms about 7" long. I am sure many vendors make
good worms to use... Zoom, Gambler Worms...many others. Simply
pierce them through the nose! When nose-piercing, you can use an
incredibly small size of Split Shot hook! Such a small size lets
the worm float better and it avoids weeds/snags better.
2) Cuckoo Bird. To make this rig, simply pass
the Split Shot hook through the bait - about 1/4 to 1/3 the body
length back from the bait's nose. I use a larger size hook than
when nose-piercing. Cast this quivering Cuckoo Bird weightless in
open patches around cover for topwater twitching action. Rig it
with a light splitshot 2 feet up the line - let it sink to the
bottom in shallow water - and twitch it as it sinks, suspends and
darts like crazy. My friend Eto invented this rigging as far as I
know. Try it, you'll like it!
Single Tail Grubs
If possible, I always prefer to rig 4" and 5" single
tail grubs on an open hook jig whenever possible. Rig with the
tail pointing down. But when weeds or underwater obstructions get
a little bothersome, I may instead rig with a few splitshots
pinched on two feet above Yamamoto's specially-made Gamakatsu
"Split Shot" hooks. Just stick the split shot hook
through the nose of the grub about 4 "ribs" back. You
MUST make sure the hook point comes out on the same side as the
grub's curly tail is pointing "up". If that gets hung
up too much, I go to a fiberguard jig head for moderately heavy
cover, and ultimately to Texas-rigged grubs for the worst
possible cover. Click here for more
information on single tail grubs.
Mister Twister Exude Fry (zipper style bait)
Have I saved the best bait for last? I think so, buddy. This
one rules on a Split Shot hook! Use ANY method described above.
The head is wide. Hook in the bottom, out the top so it lays
flat. It has a central core spine along its length to get Wacky
and do the Cuckoo Bird...and some of the biggest, softest
protruding ribs of all zipper-style lures hang off this spine.
The bigger ribs cause it to drop slowly and erratically. The
bait's ridiculously soft. As if that's not enough, the plastic
exudes molded-in salt, scent and flavors that create a slippery
coat of fish-attracting slime when wet. Just add water! The bass
will do the rest. Remember - use a soft-tipped rod and do NOT set
the hook! Click here for more
information on zipper worms.
Swivels. In the types of rigging
described above, you may very often desire to use a small swivel
and trace of leader line to prevent line twist. Personally, I
prefer the light, streamlined and smooth-turning Super Crane
swivels that are available from Barlow's Tackle Shop. Please note that the
line twist is NOT caused by the circle hooks or by the specific
brands of baits mentioned above. Line twist is a common
occurrence with ALL hook styles and soft plastic bait models used
with weightless, twitchy, slack line presentations. So, swivels
Lots of room to experiment here! A
Circle Hook (or the Yamamoto Split Shot hook) is an OPEN HOOK. It
works best in OPEN WATER that's relatively weed-free and
snag-free. If you keep that in mind, you should have no problem
using them with many brands/models of floating worms, zipper
style baits, and soft plastic stickbaits.
With any bait, you will need to
test FOUR different ways to find which one presents your bait
with the best action and the least line twist: 1) in bottom/out
top, 2) in top/out bottom, 3) in right/out left, 4) in left/out
right. That is all piecing the nose of the bait. In addition, you
may want to explore for the best hooking spot to get
"wacky" and to do the "cuckoo bird" rigging
Just remember, IN COVER, you cannot easily use a circle style
hook. You will need to use an offset hook rigged tex-posed for
thin cover, tex-skin for moderate cover, and good ole' style
Texas rigged for the heaviest cover.