For years the traditional hook for tying herring leaders and egg loops has been the revered Octopus style hook.
It’s been the standby hook for as long as I can remember, and many companies offer that style today. Mustad, Owner, VMC, Eagle Claw and Gamakatsu just to name a few. But there is a new sheriff in town. It’s called a Wide Gap Finesse Hook and it’s manufactured by Gamakatsu. If you love to hook and land big chinook salmon on plug-cut baits read on!
Two years ago I received a pack or two of the Wide Gap Finesse Hooks from John Burgi, who is an old friend and also the West Coast sales manager for Gamakatsu Hooks. All his note said was “give these a try on your herring leaders.”
I shook a few of these new fangled hooks out onto my tying table and my first impression of the hook was, “geez. If it ain’t broke…don’t fix it!”
The shank is really short, and the gap is wider, but I was fairly happy with my Octopus style hooks, so why switch?
I tied up a few leaders last year with the Wide Gap Finesse Hook as my top hook and one or two regular style octopus hooks as my trailing hooks. There were two things I noticed immediately using the Wide Gap hooks. First when tying a snell on this short shank it takes a little getting used to. It’s really short, so there is not a lot of shank to hold on to when you are wrapping mono around the shank. The second thing I noticed is when you are running this hook through a bait it feels a little awkward at first. It is definitely a different shape. For one there is a lot less shank to hold onto as you are working the hook through your bait. Also, until you get used to using this hook the point will come out is a spot not exactly where you planned it to. But with a little more of a concentrated effort I got the hook just where I wanted it. And I immediately noticed some things I really liked.
Because the wide gap catches so much meat I can run the hook through the body cavity of the herring a lot more shallow than a traditional octopus hook. This does two critical things. When you set your top hook too deeply into the body cavity of your herring it creates a hinge point, and this causes the herring to roll with a large tail flop. The head is rolling in a 1 to 2” circle, and the tail is rolling in a 4” circle. This tail flopping roll might work in a coho feeding frenzy, but it doesn’t do much for a tough chinook bite in river and bay mouths. Also the short shank reduces the pivot point even more, for an even tighter roll. Literally if you were to put one of my green label herring rolls into a 1 ½” diameter clear tube my herring would not touch the sides. The roll is that fast and tight.
Well I was pretty proud of myself for being so innovative when I had a chance to fish with my old guide buddy Terry Seamster down at Tillamook this June for springers. As was the case Terry was tying up leaders for his plug-cut fishery and all he was using was the Gamakatsu Wide Gap Finesse Hooks. He was tying three hook rigs, which I now use a lot, but all with the newer style hooks. I completely understand the three hooks.
I use the three-hooks, plug-cut leaders for the wizards of tail biting—ocean coho. My hook up ratio has really gone up with three hooks. Many fish come on that trailing hook. But Terry was chasing spring chinook, so my question was why the three wide gap hooks. His explanation was simple. On a good day you’ll have 6 to 12 bites. On a slow day 1 or 2 bites if you are lucky, and you just can’t afford to miss any on them. Not only did the three hooks improve his hook ups, but going to all three of the Wide Gap Finesse Hooks really improved his hook up ratio. His explanation on these hooks “they’re sticky!” Fish get near them and they get hooked and hooked well.
That conversation was a month or so ago and I have switched to all Wide Gap Finesse hooks and I am in love with them.
Yes, they are sticky, the short shank tucks into a herring body really well. They are deadly, and I am convinced the folks at Gamakatsu have a real winner on their hands.
And these hooks are super strong. I was cinching up a few snells on 2/0 Wide Gap hooks on 30-pound leader and after wrapping the mono I put my hook into my scissor finger holes and pull it up tight. I though “ man, these little hooks are strong, so for a test I tied one on 40-pound P line and put on a leather gardening glove and pulled the knot up tight and keep on pulling as hard as I could, and that hook didn’t flex a bit. They are incredibly strong. If you love plug-cut fishing as much as I do I seriously recommend giving these hooks a try. You will get tighter rolls and hook and land more fish.
It’s not uncommon to land fish with all three hooks buried in their mouth and chin.
So whether you chose to tie the traditional 2 hook plug cut leader, or take the time to rig up three hook leaders, you will shortly fall in love with these hooks. Last weekend at Winchester Bay I was fishing with Terry again, and we brought 26 chinook to the boat in three days, all between 18 and 32 pounds, and missed only two bites, and had one fish come off next to the boat. It’s not only tying the three hook leader, it is largely due to the efficiency of this new style of hook. They are available in most tackle stores in the Northwest.
See you on the water.
- Written by Phil Pirone