Flashy new swimbaits cover the front pages of bass magazines. Pros show off their shiny new rods, and it seems that even fishing line has seized the attention of fishermen. We, as bass fishermen, love new baits, new boats, and new rods and reels, but our hooks, integral yet often overlooked parts of our gear, are ignored. We, as fishermen, spend hours looking at YouTube videos on crankbaits and jigs, and read review after review on frogs, but hooks? We buy them last when we go shopping, and often as an afterthought. We pay so little attention to them that many fishermen even forget to buy them. Devoting so little attention to such important parts of our arsenal is a huge mistake.
Above: Low quality hooks (top) often bend when you are fighting a fish; in the process, the fish can easily unhook themselves. Many of them even break. High quality hooks (bottom) stay strong and straight catch after catch.
The first and most critical flaw of low quality hooks are their poor strength. You want your hooks to be strong, yet with many low quality hooks, the shank bends or even snaps when you are trying to reel in a fish. The fish escapes as a result. I have lost many fish due to having a bad hook bend, and it's really frustrating to see that 5 lber swim off after a close fight. High quality hooks, in contrast, stay straight for repeated catches. It pays off in the long run, because you will have to shell out less to buy new hooks as the old ones last longer.
The second flaw is sharpness: bass, unlike crappie and some other fishes, have very hard mouths. Remember, the main diet of bass consists of crawfish and sunfish. Both have spines and the crawfish even has sharp pincers. To penetrate a mouth that can withstand such punishment, you need a sharp hook. High quality hooks are sharp, low quality hooks usually aren't. Even if these low quality hooks look sharp at first, then often quickly dull, and you'll find yourself replacing them quite often as the old ones dull. Again, it pays off in the long run, because you will have to shell out less to buy new hooks as the old ones last longer.
Above: Paint chipping usually isn't a problem. Fish don't notice it much to make a difference.
Last, but certainly not least is the problem of rusting. Rusting not only destroys the hook that it is affecting, it also spreads to other hooks in the area, like a disease. It can destroy your jigs, your trebles, anything metal in your tackle box. I cannot tell you how many hooks I've lost only because one or two hooks were first affected, then spread to the rest. High quality hooks have a coat that protects against rusting, but low quality hooks don't.
Should I buy Chinese soft baits?
If you fish a lot, or just are plain bad at casting (make sure to read my articles on accurate casting), you'll find that the cost of buying baits adds up. Soft plastic lures naturally get torn by aggressive fish, sharp objects, or the fish just pull them off the hook. It's inevitable.
As fishermen, we sooner or later go look at cheap Chinese knock-offs of more expensive American and Japanese soft baits. They usually are cheaper than their American counterparts, and feature more baits per bag, too. There is usually a free but 30-day long ePacket delivery. You can usually find such listings on Amazon and eBay.
Above: Here's a 50pk bag of 4" soft jerkbaits that I managed to snag for $2.50.
The biggest question surrounding these soft baits, however, is their performance. Many baits you find by Chinese manufacturers often are extremely stiff, and don't have much action underwater. That translates to bad catches. The baits are often very ambiguous to rig and fish; you aren't sure how to effective use your bait. Some baits even are shriveled up or are made of non-plastic components. I have also heard about packages not arriving, or in very subpar condition. The seller wasn't very open to communication in those cases. However, there are some ways to tell if a bait is worthwhile or not.
Above: Many baits lack instructions on use, or hook slots for rigging. You pretty much have to figure out how to fish them yourself.
The first thing to do is to look at the reviews. If a bait is well made, it should have a lot of good reviews. However, keep in mind that on some sites, such as Alibaba, the reviews are often fabricated. eBay and Amazon reviews are pretty trustworthy. Look for detailed and well written reviews when looking at a bait.
The next thing to check out are the descriptions. Look to see if the bait's description is well written and detailed, and if the seller looks like he knows what he's doing. For example, look for the material of the soft bait. You want plastic, not silicone. Many of the less-desirable baits are made of silicone.
The third thing that I like to do is to find out whether or not the bait is unique to the seller. Many, if not most, Chinese listings are of the same bait, only by different sellers. The sellers are basically middlemen; they buy mass produced bait from a certain factory and then sell them online. These mass produced baits are usually of subpar quality. Look for baits that only one seller has for sale. Those baits are usually better designed and made.
Above: Kinked tails are often found on Chinese soft baits.
And lastly, I would like to see whether or not the bait is well packaged. The packaging speaks a lot on the seller's expertise in the fishing industry, and how well the bait is made. Look for clam packaging or baits neatly arranged, in custom bags, as opposed to being jumbled up in a generic ziplock bag.
While some Chinese baits may be poorly made, make sure you give some of them a try. They can be really nice low cost options for weekend fishing.
Note: This is part two of a three part series on casting accuracy.
The use for casting accurately is something that I, in the last article, explained, as well as the fundamentals of flipping, a technique that is good for accurate short-range casting. Flipping is stealthy, and I prefer to flip when I need to cast in distances under 20 feet. But if you need make an accurate cast 10-30 feet away? That's when I pitch. BTW, both flipping and pitching require at least medium power rods, preferably stouter, that are at least 6' 6" in length.
First, assemble your materials and rig your rod like explained in Pt.1. If you have a bait caster, you need to set your spool tension to low settings, and you must know how to prevent backlashes by controlling the spool with your thumb. Pitching isn't for beginner bait cast users.
Above: You can often pitch smaller lures, and sometimes catch big panfish.
Then, face the target 20 feet away. Let out two or three yards of line. Grab the lure in your free hand, and put the line taut, lowering the rod tip towards the water at the same time. Next, you swing the rod tip forward and upwards in the general direction of your target, in a fast motion, releasing your hold over the lure. Flick your wrist to do this. As the lure lies forward, continue releasing your line and raising the rod tip. You can use your rod to guide your bait to the target area. The lure should be slightly above the water's surface, but not too close. Put your thumb on the spool just before the bait hits the water to prevent a backlash and to guarantee a smooth and quiet entry, so you won't spook the fish.
Practice your pitching skills on each of the targets mentioned in Pt. 1. Move on from each target after you hit it five times in a row. If you have a big and empty basement, you can practice close range pitching in there.
To be continued...
Note: This is part one of a three part series on casting accuracy.
As fishermen, casting is an integral part of our activity. Before every bite there is a cast. By casting, we send the bait to where we want it to go; in the location that best entices the fish. Casting acurracy determines whether or not we catch fish, as well as how many fish we catch. It also determines whether or not we lose a $20 crankbait, and whether or not we spend more time climbing trees than by the water. Casting accuracy is truly an integral part of fishing.
In the past, before I started to understand the importance of accurate casting, I cast pretty much everywhere. Over fishless open water, into snags, and of course, into trees. I had spent many trips trying to salvage my lures from fallen logs and submerged rocks, and because I cast my bait towards area that didn't hold fish, I often didn't catch any fish. But after I understood and started practicing, everything improved. I caught a lot more fish, and saved many of my lures. If you are to be good at fishing, we must be good at casting accurately
Above: YFS members learning how to accurately cast a fly rod over open fields.
The first step to developing accuracy is to find an open space. I prefer an open field with low grass. The next thing to do is to assemble 7 targets (I like old boards), that are flat, and are about 12" by 12" in size. Place the first target 10 yards from you, the next one 20 yards, and the next 30 yards the last 40 yards. Make sure these targets are a visible color. Place the last three targets about 4 or 5 yards from you. Make sure to spread them apart.
After you set up your targets, get your rod out and tie an old spinnerbait or jig (or an unusable jerkbait or crankbait, just remove the trebles), and put a piece of cork on the hook, so it doesn't snag the ground.
Flipping is a stealth technique that tourney anglers use to do short pinpoint casts to cover. It works very well when there is cover by the bank, or when the fish are easil spooked, as fillping has a quite apporach to the water, unlike conviental casting. It is great for placing jigs, worms, and tubes by where you want them to go. I use it at lot in the thick grass mats by the shore (very common in many lakes and slow moving rivers in the summer) to place baits in pockets that hold bass. Flipping is a great technique to learn, and you will find youself using it a lot. It's absolutely essential if you want to take your fishing to the high school or college level.
Above: Flipping works well in the spring, when you want to place baits on the spawning beds of bass, which are near the shore, to irritate the bass and provoke them into biting.
First, let out abut 10 feet of line. You may need more depending on the distance you want to cast, or less. With your free hand, grasp the line between the reel and the first guide on your rod. There should now be less line portuding from the last guide. Next, raise the rod so the lure swings towards you to gain momentum, and then sharply lower the rod tip to make the lure swing forward, using just your wrist to roll your rod. Continue raising the rod to get your bait further out, and lower the low to stop the bait as it spproaches the target area. Release the line from your fingers and place it on the spool to stop the line from moving further, away from your target.
To be continued..
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.