Now I know that many people still catch fish without paying too much attention to the finer points, but I personally believe that if there is some aspect to rigging that might catch one more or reduce the chances of missing a fish, then I’m going to take those steps. There are still plenty of reasons beyond my control that help a fish get away, but I’m going to eliminate the ones that I can.
The corners you cut will invariably cost you the big one or the tournament winner or the only fish on a slow day.
Sharp hooks are the first step in a rigging checklist for me. Now many high end hooks come pretty darn sharp out of the package, but many other hooks do not, though they are still good hooks. The same applies to the hooks on lures. Even some good lures cut a corner on the hooks they dangle, so often we replace the hooks to match the pressures we will use and then we sharpen them.
Sharp Hooks Are Key
I like to use a flat file or a beveled hook file to put that final point on a hook. I preach that all hook sharpening should be done at home and not out on the boat for several reasons. First, basic rigging should already be done before the trip, because rigging on the boat keeps you from being efficient with your spread. It also means your head is down and you could miss that subtle splash, floating object or mark on your sounder. Second, a steel file is darn near impossible to keep from rusting on a boat. The salt air is enough to turn it to rust in short order, which enhances reason number three. The rust particles from filing steel hooks over your boat will cause damage as the rust “seeds” into the finish and is very hard to remove. Acids are the only way to eat away the stain and these are hard on finishes too. I do keep a small stone on a boat for touching up a hook if needed during use. The stone does not rust and if used over the water and downwind, can touch up a burr on a hook point.
I like to form the point of the hook with four sides to the point. Picture a pyramid with its four flat sides. Make strokes with the file at a shallow angle so that the point is long and tapered, not short and fat. Now don’t go crazy and get the point too thin. Thin points feel sharp, but the tip can fold over instead of piercing bone. I file on top on the left and right and then from below on either side. Check you progress both visually and by testing the hook on the back of a fingernail. It should feel sticky and not want to slide off your nail.
Now many hooks have a coating over the raw steel, and filing them will remove this coating on the point, causing rust to form quicker there, than the rest of the hook. We slow this down by coating the hook with a permanent marker. This paints the bare metal and slows the rust, while color-coding what hooks are sharp. The ink does wear off with use, so you will know which hooks are used and need checking and or touching back up and recoating. There is no need to coat the tips of bronze hooks as the entire hook rusts once exposed to salt. Think of them as disposable and use a fresh hook on later trips.
Keep your tackle organized and don’t put all of your sharp hooks out in the elements as the air and wet fingers will rust them faster than you can use them. Organization is a key element to being a consistent producer.
One of my favorite quotes from one of my previous boat owners is the true statement that
“Hard work makes Good Luck!”
So to be one of those “lucky fishermen” you need to do some hard work. You might even find that getting ready becomes half of the fun.