When and Why To Change Hooks

Some of the best lures in the world still get feedback about one thing – the hooks and split rings “are too weak”. 

Anglers all over the world are concerned about not only hooking the fish and landing them. They are mostly concerned about two things – if the stock hooks of the lures will hold the fish and if they last long.

As a matter of practice, change your hooks and split rings to suit your style and environment – it will save you from disappointment and frustration.

Although often not discussed, spoken or written about by manufacturers, there are a few key things, you as a consumer, need to understand before you use lures.

Stock hooks… 
1.)    Balance the lure perfectly – it is after all part of the design and concept process.
2.)    Are designed to last long and hold the fish for the fishery and or specific fish they are made for.

1.)    Some lures are designed for specific fish and or fisheries but these lures have proven effective for not only the fish and localities they’re designed for, but also for other fish in other places that have the same or similar baitfish profiles.
2.)    As a matter of practice, knowledgeable anglers always replace the stock hooks to adapt to the conditions they fish in. 
3.)    Some lures don’t come with hooks and split rings and often leave it to the angler to decide according to their preferences

Developing a lure is no easy task – this is why you often see a lot of copies of successful lures in the market. It is easier to copy than to create. When a lure is conceptualized, there are a lot of things being considered. Factors such as the target fish, swimming motion, connection points and a whole lot more – engineers are involved for the materials and hydrodynamics. Months if not years of adjusting the most minute detail to get everything just right – this includes the weight, placement and balance of the lure in relation to the weight of the hooks and split rings.

However, before any of this has started – there needs to be a request made according to a demand of a specific fishery. It could be that the company or someone has seen a gap in the market for a lure that casts far for fish that feed on long baitfish like sand eels, although a strong fish that can make long runs, they are not as strong or as powerful as some fish like tuna, and this lure is in demand for shore fishermen, specifically in Europe – which is the largest segment of anglers looking for a lure like this.

Consistently catching big fish starts with preparing tackle that could handle them – this means lures need to be well armed for the tussle – hooks and split rings especially.

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So the request comes in, and the designers juggle around a few ideas and come up with a long slim lure that has a weight shift system. The concept is a lure that is relatively light, but has the potential to cast a long way because the weight shifts to the back when you cast, the weight goes back to the mid section to balance the lure out nicely to aid with the swimming motion after the cast.

Since these lures are not going to be used for tuna and other very strong fish, the addition of light but strong hooks and split rings that can take the largest of the target fish that would bite in coastal areas are added.

When the lure is tested, it proves to attract more types of fish than originally designed, but – the largest intended market for it as was requested are sea bass – which the request was for in the first place. The lure is released to the world, and all the sea bass anglers rejoice.

The stock hooks are intended to hold sea bass and will do exactly that – and last a long time. However, over the course of time, some anglers realize that this particular lure is not only a good imitation of a sand eel, but also any slim baitfish found around the world – fish like a needlefish and ballyhoo.

Some fisheries only allow the use of barbless hooks, some only single hooks, others require single barbless hooks – this is to make as little damage to the fish, and an easier release – protecting the long term viability of the fishery and the fish in it.

It is then natural for some anglers to gravitate towards using the lure for fish like king mackerel and other fish that are stronger, meaner and pull harder. And unlike sea bass anglers who use relatively light tackle, these bigger meaner fish need tackle that are a bit more on the stout side. This is quite far from what the lure was designed for – naturally, things are only as strong as its weakest link and it is the hook and/or the split rings that are the weakest links in this case.

Having the right tool matters a lot – split ring pliers come in different shapes and sizes – use one that's too big and it will bend or weaken your split ring – either the hooks will roll out of them or they weaken and bend out quicker.

This is the time when anglers that do their homework and understand the lures consistently, catch the fish while others are stuck in the beach or on the rocks howling and cursing the hooks for bending out or the split rings opening up. They blame the hook, they blame the split rings and blame the company that made the lure.

This happens quite often, avoid this; some manufacturers sell the lures without split rings and hooks so the angler can then decide what to put on – they only make a recommendation of what hooks to purchase and it is already up to the angler to decide according to this recommendation.

Although this might be a good idea for people that know what they are doing, the majority of anglers, especially those that are just starting out, don’t understand this and more often than not, end up not buying the lure because it doesn’t have hooks.

Here’s a very good example of a lure doing exactly what its designed from my experience: Rapala CountDown® Magnum®, particularly the CDMAG14 and CDMAG18.

In all my years of fishing, I have only replaced the hooks on those because they were so rusty, same case with the split rings. I mostly fish them right out of the packet, and this has been done for years.

The design of those things is for heavy use with heavy tackle for the biggest meanest fish that swim. Naturally, every component that has been attached stock, does the work and is expected to work exactly like that. This is not happenstance; this is exactly by design and fully intentional.

Meticulous anglers are very particular with the hook size, hook weight and lure balance – often going great lengths to get things just right to suit their style – often times, it gives them confidence and results.

Rapala MaxRap® is a very versatile lure that can catch a lot of species, provided you make it adapt to the environment you fish it in. For me, it is a very good imitation of needlefish and most importantly, ballyhoo. But I need to change the split rings and hooks to be able to make the hooks and split rings last longer with species such as barracuda and narrow barred mackerel. The stock hooks and split rings will work – just that they wont last long and there is always a potential for them to bend out especially when fishing with larger tests of braid. There are a multitude of lures out there that work great in different conditions and for different fish that they were originally designed for.

Now, the burning question – is it possible to catch big fish with the lures without changing your hooks and split rings? Absolutely!

The trend of stock hooks and split rings opening up rapidly rose as the popularity of braid being the fishing line of choice. Braid doesn’t have that much stretch and people started to use higher drag settings as well – the components that suffer are the hooks and split rings that have for some time, been quite okay before the advent of braid. If by chance you didn’t have time to change your hooks and split rings and hook into something big, back off the drag.

Here’s the biggest point: if you think there is a chance of something big hitting your lure, don’t even wait for that to happen. Change the hooks and split rings to stronger ones, even if the chance of that happening is small – in most cases you only have one shot at the fish of your lifetime – don’t let it slip off your hands.

Rapala is very good at creating lures that anglers of all ages and skill levels can use effectively. Their lures are more than just specific species lures and it really is up to us as consumers to understand more and think about what is appropriate to change when we fish in different environments than what these lures were originally made for.