Catch Fish with
For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).
New hook trial.
There is no doubt that fish hooks are dangerous things. They are designed to snag in anything that touches them and that's exactly what they do. If you've done as much lure fishing as me then there's a fair chance that you've stuck a hook in yourself at some time. I've had hooks in the calf of my leg, the front of my wrist (nasty) and particularly (more than once) in my fingers. Treble hooks are often tricky to remove from the jaws of fish and can be really difficult to extract from any part of your own anatomy (human skin is pretty tough stuff). Of course you can make it easier to get hooks out (and in) by reducing or flattening the barbs a bit and I usually do this as a matter of course. In years gone by I often took silly risks by picking bass from the water and holding them in my left hand while I removed the hooks with my right. As a rule I got away with it but I shudder to think about the many near squeaks that I had as fish kicked out of my grasp.
Anyway, what I'm getting at is the fact that it is foolish to hazard a fishing trip by careless fish handling. You don't want to spend time in A&E when you could be hauling out those monster bass. Equally, the last thing I want to do is needlessly damage my catch. Modern soft plastics, weedless baits and shads, Redgills and the like, are generally armed with a large single hook which makes it much safer to pick up your catch and reduces the likelihood of transferring chemically-sharpened points to your own anatomy. Plugs, on the other hand, are generally adorned with a couple of trebles and, these days, there seems to be a fashion for hard lures bearing three trebles - nine needle sharp points in all. This is certainly a lethal combination when associated with a wildly gyrating schoolie (little bass are much harder to handle than big ones).
There have always been ways and means of fitting single hooks to plugs but there is no doubt it is a bit fiddly. Years ago, on my first trip to Lake Nasser in Egypt, I actually modified some plug baits by either adding an extra split ring so an in-line single hook could be fitted or by replacing the belly treble with a bigger size and then cutting off the two points nearest the body (effectively turning it into a single. In this case I was simply trying to make the hooks more suited to catching in the 'Teflon-coated' mouths of tigerfish. Anyway, I knew that single-hooked plugs were a possibility. The other day I was talking to my pal Steve Pitts and he mentioned that he was trying out some new style single hooks on his plugs. Now I know that Steve has always been keen to reduce damage to fish and fisherman by minimising the number of hooks on his lures. For years he has tended to remove the 'belly treble' from smaller plugs and reckons it hasn't caused problems with missed or lost fish. So it was well worth listening to what he said. The 'new' hooks were Decoy 'Pluggin' singles and have a large eye set in line with the point and barb instead of at right angles like a normal hook. Also the eye is oversized so that it will swing freely on a split ring.
The upshot of all this was that, on my next early morning, bassing trip, in my lure box was a Fakebait plug with the two treble hooks replaced by size 1 singles. I'd have preferred something a bit bigger (perhaps 1/0s) but in the short term it was worth a try. Of course confidence is the problem when you embark on some new venture, so when Nigel and I began to fish the lure on the end of my line was the old faithful, 18cm, Pearl Evo Redgill - always reliable.
It was still pretty dark when we started to fish. We flogged away for about ten minutes then I had a light knock which I missed. I called to Nige that I'd had a bite and cast again, knowing that the most likely time to get a bite is when you've just had one. Almost at once I had a second, stronger pull, which again was missed. I assumed that the reason for the missed attacks was that the bass were not all that big. Anyway, when the next bite came (on the following cast) it was firmly hooked. As expected, the fish was only a couple of pounds but it fought well, bending the rod and even taking a little bit of line against the clutch. Excellent! I took a picture, unhooked the fish and slipped it back into the sea, suggesting to my pal that he tried the spot where I'd been fishing. He moved along and switched his lure to a Redgill and almost at once had a bass similar to the one that I'd caught.
Meanwhile I'd remembered my modified plug. Now there's no better time to try out something different than when you are catching fish so I clipped on the Fakebait and turned back to the sea for another go. On perhaps the tenth cast with the plug I felt a sharp double knock and I was in. It would be nice to report that I'd hooked a ten pounder but the bass was exactly like the other two that we'd caught. Anyway, it was well hooked on the mid body single and the hook was easy to remove after the fish was slid ashore. I expect that I shall be switching the hooks on more of my plugs for singles in the near future.
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