Strengths of hooks and split rings.
by Chris Tan S.G.

You have waited for months, planning this big trip down to the last detail, lures, baits, rods and reels. Moreover, you have spent hours travelling to this hot spot! When the big strike happens, you are ready. Or are you?

Hook strength
Many anglers often neglect to make sure their terminal tackle is up to handling the big brutes! Starting with the hooks - the hook strength must be balanced with the tackle used. For example, if 14cm bibbed minnows are used for trolling with a 50lb outfit, it is pointless using standard size 2/0 or 3/0 treble hooks found on the lures . The amount of pull that can be exerted by a heavy outfit can easily straighten these hooks.

By the term "straighten", it does not mean the hook opens up to a straight line, but rather the hook opens up 10 to 30 degrees. This is sufficient to change the holding angle of pull on the point of the hook, allowing the fish hooked up to lever the hook free from its jaws as it twists and turns.

Resolving the weakness
This problem can be offset by using suitable hooks or changing the standard hooks on the lures. Both live bait and treble hooks can be obtained in stronger patterns for the same size. . The stronger hooks are normally rated with a 3X. The 4X or 5X hooks are even stronger. A 3X hook is normally made with the same wire used to make standard hooks three sizes larger. On the other hand hooks can be made stronger by using different metals and tempering processes.

A hook of the same diameter can easily be stronger due to the quality of metal and temper used. There are various grades of steel, therefore hooks made of good steel normally cost more. Temper is heat treatment of the hook to make it stronger and harder. Too hard and it will be brittle and snap; too soft and it will bend open easily. The quality hooks by the reputable manufacturers like Mustad, VMC, Daichi, Gamakatsu, Owner and Eagle Claw generally have good steel and tempering processes. Therefore it is best to stick to the reliable brands.

Rings that split
Some lures also require the split rings to be upgraded to heavy duty ones. Not only can hooks be opened up but split rings can be so mangled and twisted or just pulled open, so as to allow the hook to separate from the lure. The really large lures used to catch fish above one hundred pounds often have the split rings welded closed to prevent them from opening up, but generally our local conditions do not require such measures. Having a pair of split ring pliers to assist in changing the hooks and split rings on lures, eases this important task.

Like hooks, split rings are made of different quality steels or metals. Metals like brass, carbon steel or stainless steel are used for manufacturing split rings. For use in saltwater, stainless steel split rings should be used as they have the most resistance to corrosion. When in doubt, change the split rings to one of known quality. I personally prefer to use quality brands like Rosco who have published the strengths of their different sizes of split rings. Do not use these charts of split ring size/strength for other brands of split rings. It is really difficult to tell how strong a split ring is by looks, as the quality of the stainless steel used in split rings differs with each manufacturer. The quality of the stainless steel and temper could be considerably below that used by that particular manufacturer, thus very much weaker in comparison although it is similar in size and looks.

The choices
The type of game fish targeted for makes a big difference in the choice of hooks and split rings used. Generally the slim long game fish like spanish mackerel and barracuda do not pose problems with the standard terminal tackle, unless heavy tackle with heavy drag settings are used. It is the bruisers like giant trevallys with their powerful lunges, head shakes and body twisting that pull open hooks and twist open split rings.

One can often tell that there is a giant trevally hooked up when the solid thumping on the end of the line is felt after the reel screeching first run! If the terminal tackle has not been changed, the chances are that a farewell to the hooked up fish would be appropriate! The giant trevally with its broad body can generate great force to lever the hook open. It also uses the body of the lure to help with the leverage.

Words of the wise?
A friend of mine once was educating a novice on the finer points of gamefishing. He told the novice that the treble hooks should always be changed to heavy duty ones. Good advice. Shortly thereafter he had a strike. He set the hook and a nice run! Then the fish got away! Reeling in the line and upon inspection of his lure, it was discovered to have the middle treble hook opened up! (This lure had three treble hooks on it). On closer examination of the hooks, it was found that the middle hook was the standard treble hook, unlike the heavy duty front and rear hooks! The "resident expert" explained to the novice that normally the middle treble hook never hooked up a fish! Needless to say that the "resident expert" was given a good ribbing about not practising what he preached!

Going overboard
However, using stronger and thicker hooks does not necessarily make the lure a better one! As the hook gets thicker, more force is required to penetrate the mouth of the game fish. The strength of the main line has to be considered. For example, I would say using a 5X - 3/0 treble hook is much too thick for a 30lb line. A very forceful hook set is required to set the thick 5X hook and the stretch factor of the 30lb mono line would make setting the thick hooks more difficult. The thicker point might not be able to penetrate through the flesh past the barb. A partial penetration would allow the fish to easily dislodge the hook. Using 50lb line for such thick hooks is more practical. But we could go on and on increasing the strength of our hooks and line, why not use 130lb line and massive 10/0 hooks. Why do we fish? For sport of course, so if the fish targeted normally do not exceed 50-100lbs, stick to line classes of 30lbs or thereabouts. Fishing with exceptionally heavy tackle in comparison of the quarry sought is what I call "meat hunting", not sportfishing.

Furthermore, heavier hooks also affect the swimming action of the lure. The lure action tends to be dampened, therefore making it less effective as the swimming action of the lure has changed, normally for the worse. If the change to heavier hooks noticeably dampens the action of the lure, use hooks of lesser strength instead or else accept the probability of less strikes.

Split rings that are too large for the lure would have the same effect as hooks that are too heavy. So, overall the terminal hardware used to upgrade the lure still needs to balance with the size of the lure, or else the lure will lose its fish attracting qualities.