One thing you can do to improve your hook-ups with soft plastics is to use straight shank hooks. Lots of guys use them for punching thick matted vegetation, but using them for any Texas-rigs applications is equally effective. Using a snell knot will improve the hooksets further. Today’s straight shanks are so good that it doesn’t take a monster swing to set the hook solidly. You’ll find with a straight shank hook, the pull on the hookpoint is more direct. This results in deeper penetration on the hookset and less fish coming off on the fight. Larry Nixon has long been an advocate of straight shank hooks for his worm fishing.
One draw back has always been that the plastics tend to slip off. This is easily remedied two ways. One you can add an angled piece of heat shrink wrap. Several manufacturers like Gambler and Reaction Innovationssell pre-cut heat shrink wraps but you can find this at most hardware stores. Cut it at an angle so it makes a point on one end. then slide it on so the point is facing toward the eyelet of the hook. Heat the shrink wrap with a lighter and it will conform to the shank. Then just bend the point down a little so it curls. When it hardens it will form a great plastic keeper.
Another easy trick is to simply run the hook all the way through and use the angle of your snell knot to hold the hook eye against the plastic. Surprisingly the bait stays straight and can't slide. The line will cut the plastic on the hookset though. An alternative that works as well, is to take a hitchhiker and hook it to the eye of the hook and then spiral it around the hook shank. You can thread the plastic on the hook and then spiral it around the spring to lock it to the hook shank. It takes some practice but the plastic won't move then.
Another key to the rig comes from the fulcrum created by a proper snell. When you set the hook, it actually kicks out and makes it stick hard into the fish's mouth. It's amazing how well the hook penetrates the hardest parts of a bass's mouth. It will certainly open your eyes to the power of straight shanks and snells.Tying a snell can be a daunting task, but it’s really not that hard. The trick is to always pass through the eye on the hook point side first. Then make a loop and pinch it at the eyelet with the tag end running down the shank of the hook towards the bend. The key to tying a good snell knot is to give yourself plenty of line to loop around the hook easily and having some finger dexterity to keep your coils tight and together so they don’t overlap as you tie the knot.
Simply wrap the loop around 5 or 6 times while keeping your original loop pinched at the eyelet. When done hold your pinched loop tight and pull the tag end slowly until the knot tightens. Wet the knot before cinching the final pull.
As an alternative you can use the uni-knot system and make a loop and wrap the tag end around the shank and one side of the loop passing under the other side of the loop. Practice both until you figure out which one you can tie faster. There are several good online resources for learning the snell knot. We've listed some we found below.
Some good options for straight shanks were covered in this article. The new VMC Fastgripstraight shank hooks offer a smaller gap on straight plastics. The triple barb cuts easily on the hookset and pins the fish nicely with three barbs. Use wider gap hooks like the Lazer Trokar hooks for bulkier plastics and the narrower straight shanks with straight worms and other narrow plastics. Trokar’s cutting edge is awesome on bulky plastic baits.
There are a lot of great straight shank hooks on the market. Buy from a reputable company and practice tying the snell quickly to make your fishing more efficient.
One additional trick is to slide a bobber stop between your hook and your sinker. Slide the bobber stop into the hook eye and you’ll have added protection for the pull point on your hook. Companies like Reaction Innovations offer hooks with welded eyes so there isn’t a space that the line can sneak into. But you can overcome this problem with a simple bobber stop if it concerns you.
Give straight shank hooks and snell knots a try on your soft plastics. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the hooking power. Let us know how it works for you.