Missing hits or losing fish? Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters tournament trail fishermen make sure they have the best tools for the job. Having the right hook, getting the maximum number of hits, having a good bite-to-hookup ratio and landing a hooked fish are all critical elements. Without them everything else really doesn't mean much.
A hook is a hook, right? Not really. There are so many different fishing situations along with different hook styles, colors and sizes to consider. However, in the crappie fishing world, the Aberdeen style hook has always dominated. It's long shank, large bend and light wire makes it a great choice for crappie. The light wire allows it to be bent without breaking your line (most of the time).
My age doesn't take me back to the King Tut era but his hardware had not yet tarnished when I was born. Straw hats and overalls were popular. I remember having nothing but cane poles, heavy braided nylon line in black or white, and gold Aberdeen hooks. All items will still catch crappie but only the hooks have withstood the test of time for serious fishermen. Our discussion begins with minnow hooks.
Sizes: Tournament trail fishermen seem to be happy with a #2 or #1 hook. They may downsize to a #4 in clear water while others want a bigger 1/0. However, most fishermen want a #2 or #1 size believing that the hook will catch and land all sizes of crappie with the small gap creating fewer hang-ups.
Types: The gold Aberdeen mentioned earlier still has a place and time but the most popular minnow hook is the Eagle Claw 214 EL. It's bronze color and has a much thinner wire than others. The original Capps & Coleman rig described in articles and a book has been one reason for the hook's popularity. It's advantages begin with the extra-light wire that bends easily without breaking even with small diameter lines. The light weight hook does less damage to minnows and allows the minnow to swim more actively. Whether standard style or the extra-light wire, the Aberdeen style is the most popular crappie hook.
Circle hooks have a following with some of the fishermen on the trail. Their advantage is that they are basically self-hooking. You can't jerk. A little pressure is all it takes to put the hook into the lip. They have another big advantage of few fish hooked deep making it easier to keep tournament fish alive. The complaints on the hook are fewer hooked fish per bite and when the hook does hang up you'll break off every time.
Rotating hooks including the Tru-Turn, are extremely popular with most fishermen. A rotating cam action automatically turns the hook until the point finds skin to penetrate. The primary negative about this hook is twisting in the water when being pulled.
Special hooks. The StandOut hook is designed to be used as the top hook in a double-hook system or as a drop-shot hook. It keeps its position making it good for live or artificial bait.
TJ Stallings, Marketing Specialist with TTI-Blakemore, says, "Our number one selling minnow hook is the Mr. Crappie #2 and #1. Code Red is the number one color with gold coming in a close second. Our overall best selling hook is the Tru-Turn bronze with traditional bluegill and crappie fishermen using these."
Concerning circle hooks, Stalling says, "I've fished the Daiichi Circle Hooks for crappie and love the easy release. The hook always seems to catch in the corner of the mouth. The size number on circle hooks can be misleading with our size '1' having the same gap size as our size '4' Mr. Crappie hooks. So I recommend studying the gap size instead of the size on the package.
Size: Jig hooks are often an overlooked item with a weekend fisherman but not with tournament anglers. For example, a 1/32-ounce jig may have a cheap #8 hook in it and be offered at a good price. It looks good but is too small and the wire is often large diameter and brittle. Serious fishermen want a sharp hook that's the right diameter and overall size.
"We noticed that fishermen preferred bigger hooks in their jigs," says Wade Mansfield of the Grizzly Jig Company. "Many 1/32-ounce jigs come with a #6 hook. We pour our standard 1/32-ounce with a bigger #4 hook and the 1/16- and 1/8-ounce heads with a #2 hook and that seems to better fit what most crappie fishermen prefer. They want a good quality hook that's sized for crappie."
Special: Jigs are often put into cover so some fishermen use a weedguard. It reduces hang-ups but many believe it makes fish harder to hook. Trimming some of the weedguard strands reduces the pressure required to collapse the guard.
The Charlie Brewer Slider head allows solid soft plastic baits to be rigged Texas-style with the hook point remaining in the plastic. This allows the bait to be brought through cover with fewer hang-ups.
Color can make a difference. Look at the Bandit crankbaits in the boats of tournament fishermen and you'll likely see one or both trebles hooks have been switched to red. Most crankbait fishermen believe it makes a difference in the number of hits they get. Also, some say that putting the red hook in front means more hooked fish because the crappie are hitting the bait further toward the front.
Minnow fishermen often prefer gold hooks. A lot has to do with a fisherman's confidence in a particular color. Most fishermen believe that presentation is much more important than the color of a hook.
Not one fishermen I spoke with sharpened their hooks. New hooks are much sharper now than in the past. If a hook gets dull before it broken off during a hang-up, fishermen replace the hook with a new one.
Comments and Tips
Don and Toni Collins from Florida are fishing all of the Crappie Masters tournament this year. "For my minnow fishing I use a #2, red, Tru-Turn hook," says Don. "The cam action puts the hook into the fishes mouth. I think the hook makes a difference because it doesn't take a hard hookset and the point is usually in the upper lip."
"Jig hooks are Road Runners or Wally Marshall Slab Daddys with a #2 hook."
"Concerning sharpness, the Blakemore products are very sharp. If they get dull I change them out."
Coy Sipes says he and his partner use a #1 or #2 Daiichi hook with the baitkeeper (#4331). "The reason we use it is that we can slide a jig body up on it and it holds it. They are the sharpest we've found and I like the black color. The color may not make a difference but it works for me."
Sipes says that jig hook size is important. He uses a #2 hook on small jigs, a #1 hook on 1/8-ounce and 1/0 on a 1/4-ounce. "Most of our jigheads are Road Runners with a minnow hook head meaning no barbed lead to hold plastic. We are backwards because we use plastic on the minnow hooks and with the jigheads we just use a minnow. Our jig hooks are red. We never do any modifications to our hooks and we change them when they get dull."
Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman are six-time national champs and winners of the 2010 Reelfoot tournament. They are known for their Capps & Coleman double-hook minnow rig produced by BnM along with being tied by fishermen all across the country. "We basically do things like we've always done them," says Ronnie. "We have made a few modifications but we still use the 214EL hook. An exception would be when we are in really bad brush with big fish like last year at Grenada and we switched to the standard 214."