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Crank baits, Swimbaits and really large fish !!

by: Bernie Keefe 6/15/2013
Crankbaits, Swimbaits, Single Hooks and Really Big Fish

The sun had just began to send its rays through the peaks on the continental divide and a small chop from the morning breeze kept slapping the boat. I had the Crestliner a long cast from shore. Steve had a Sebile Magic Swimmer and cast it towards the bank. About 5 or 6 cranks of the handle it stopped for a brief second Steve wondered if it was a snag then felt the head throb of a large fish. After a brief battle the 34” lake trout surrendered to my net. 

I have been chasing trophy lake trout for over 20 years.  I keep innovating and this year’s big “ah-ha” moment came this spring when I was fishing with a friend of mine, Steve Penley.  Steve has been using a single hook on crankbaits for at least 4 years now and this lure setup actually increases hooking percentage while also decreasing the impact to the fish.

Single hooks on plugs are common in the Northwestern United States as well as Canada and Alaska. In some places treble hooks are illegal. I am convinced that everyone should be using this setup for all major predators, but Pike and Lake Trout especially.  

I took off the treble hooks from the J13 Rapalas and the Sebile Magic Swimmers and checked out the hooks.  I looked through my stash of TroKar hooks to find a suitable single-hook replacement.  I found that the TK10 TroKar in a5/0 size matched my lures.  The TK440 will also work.  I attach this hook to the rear split ring of the lure letting the hook ride point-up if possible.  I use TroKar because when removing six to nine hooks from a lure you better have the sharpest possible hook left.    

I quickly noticed that single hooks have a much larger gap than trebles and that the single hook has a much greater range-of-motion around the back of the lure.  On paper this seems very helpful but I have to admit the lure looked a little naked.    

In three weeks of using this setup I have hooked 30 fish above 27-inches.  All of them have safely arrived at my net, were released easily, and swam away with minimal hook damage.  I do not expect to remain perfect on this setup but it convinced me that I am on the right track.  

Let’s walk through this again.  One hook in the fish’s mouth keeps him buttoned up a lot better then 3 working against each other…AWESOME!. Trebles caught in the net… SUCK! Trebles in my hand while trying not unhook a fish…SUCK! Trebles getting stuck in the fish…. SUCK! When we hook a fish and want to release him in the water we can reach down and pop the hook out with out even touching the fish…  PRICELESS

This has proven it self to me time and time again.  While I have not had the opportunity to try single hooks on my smaller cranks I do encourage you to try them. The benefits outweigh the risks by far.   Thanks Bernie Keefe