BOB MAINDELLE: Keep your hooks sharp | outdoor sports
I remember a preacher once sermonizing an energetic young lumberjack who showed up new to camp asking for a job.
The foreman told him to prepare and demonstrate his worth. On the first day on the job, the rookie felled 24 trees with his trusty axe. On the second day, his production dropped to just 18 trees, and on the third day, only eight trees were harvested.
The foreman came, put his arm around the young man and said, “You forgot to sharpen your axe.
So it can be with fishermen.
Many things compete for our time and attention. When the time to fish comes, we can be guilty of piling it all up in the trunk, truck bed, or boat and hitting the road.
Little things, which are often less appealing than the fishing itself, if left unaddressed, can hurt our fishing efforts. Dull hooks are one of those little things.
Hooks today are more technologically advanced than ever. Between advancements in metallurgy, chemical sharpening, coating to prevent corrosion and reduce friction, and more, hooks generally never came out of the box as sharp as they do today.
Regardless of the initial quality of a hook, the condition of the hook declines with each cast made and with each hook and snag encountered.
My encouragement to you is to simply ask yourself, “When was the last time I thought about whether my hooks were sharp or not?”
There are basically three options. You can ignore dull hooks, you can sharpen dull hooks, or you can replace dull hooks.
Replacing hooks is faster, but definitely more expensive. The only advice I would give here is to not stray too far from the original hook that came with the lure, especially when dealing with balanced baits like crankbaits and jerkbaits, as the size and Hook weights are part of the manufacturer’s equation when balancing these baits.
Replacing hooks requires only one or two items. The first item is a suitable new hook, and the second item is a pair of split ring pliers (search the internet for a picture using this phrase and you will find it) for hooks attached to bait with a split ring.
I would like to dedicate the remaining lines of this article to telling you how to sharpen your own hooks quickly and easily.
Regardless of the size of the hook, the material it is made of, or the construction of the hook (single, double, treble, etc.), the only tool needed is a small metal file. I use flat and half round files interchangeably and they both do a great job.
The brand of file I use is made by Glardon Vallorbe. The Glardon Vallorbe LA2402-200-2 half-round file and their LA2405-200-2 knife file are both 7 7/8 inches long. These have served me well for years. These are both classified as needle files. There is a similar set of files sold by Harbor Freight and manufactured by Central Forge that currently sell for less than $5.
The process goes like this. First, see if the hook needs to be sharpened. To do this, gently place the tip of the hook on your nail and gently move the hook over your nail. If it catches or scratches the nail, the hook will not need to be sharpened.
However, if the hook slips gently on your nail, it will need to be sharpened.
Now be careful here. I remember the first time I tested a hook for sharpness. I had a big 4/0 plastic hook in my right hand and I placed the tip of the hook on my left thumbnail. Having never done this before (and being around 13) I wasn’t sure how much downward pressure I needed to apply to see if the tip would scratch my nail. Well, after punching through my thumbnail and bloodying the snitch underneath, I realized that was a little too much pressure.
The key word here is softness.
When I begin the sharpening process, my goal is to create three clean, beveled surfaces at the tip of the hook, with two of those surfaces on the top of the tip (the side of the tip closest to the hook eye), and the third of these surfaces on the “bottom” of the point (the side of the point farthest from the hook eye).
Done correctly, just three or four smooth passes to create each of these three bevels should be enough.
Remember that you are only trying to get the bristle-like tip of the hook tip to point forward (because it has most likely been bent or bent from use). You are not trying to reshape the hook and absolutely should not shorten the point as a result of your efforts.
When I do the file strokes, I use a back and forth motion on the top and a one-way motion from bend to point on the bottom side.
After three or four gentle strokes on all three bevels, check the sharpness again to see if it catches or scratches your nail. Otherwise, just do two more strokes on each bevel, this time at a slightly steeper angle.
If you’ve never done this before, pull out a few cheap hooks and practice not to screw up your $20 Lucky Craft Sammy on your first attempt.
I keep my files in my dry box on the leaning post of my center console. While I wait for clients to arrive, I fill time by entering a file and systematically going over every point of every hook on every lure and making sure the point is in excellent condition. Over the course of a year, I feel like this adds dozens more fish to my clients’ counts.
You’ll quickly master the correct pressure and angles as you practice. It’s more of an art than a science.
If nothing else, you can walk away with an appreciation that the price of a new hook is a small price to pay for those of you not inclined to physical labor (or physical coordination!).