Hooks are one piece of fishing equipment that probably don’t get the love and attention they deserve. A considerable amount of thought and effort go into the lures we use or the areas we target as bass anglers, but hooks are often somewhat overlooked. When in fact these small pieces of high-carbon steel are crucial to every single fish we catch and memory we make.
Experienced anglers know this fact and pay extremely close attention to the integrity and types of hooks they trust. Major League Fishing pro Kevin VanDam and Bassmaster Elite Series angler Brandon Lester are two such accomplished fishermen who are hyperconscious about the hooks they employ. They put their heads together to give us a list of the top 5 hooks they rely on for summer bass fishing.
Texas rig hook
Whether you’re pitching to shallow cover or slowly dragging around offshore ledges and brushpiles, a Texas-rigged worm should be in your summer fishing arsenal. Both Lester and VanDam agree the Mustad Grip-Pin Big Bite Soft Plastics Hook is the best hook for a Texas Rig application they have ever used.
“It’s simple, but it flat out works,” VanDam said. “The Grip-Pin really helps to keep your lure locked in place. It’s a strong, sturdy hook and comes in sizes that’ll fit whatever size worm you are throwing. I alternate between a 4/0 if I am fishing a smaller bait around docks or lily pads, and a 5/0 if I am dragging a big worm offshore.”
When employing a Texas rig in deep brush piles and other off-the-bank structure, VanDam opts for a 3/4-ounce tungsten weight and an 8-inch Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Bullworm. VanDam wants to maintain bottom contact at all times when fishing a Texas rig offshore and a heavy weight allows him to work his presentation a little faster while keeping touch with the bottom.
Upgraded treble hooks
Deep-diving crankbaits are an excellent way to intercept bass as they migrate offshore to ledges, points, humps, or shell bars during the summer months. When it comes to deep cranking, few people on this planet know more than Kevin VanDam. Much of VanDam’s over $6 million in career earnings have come employing his fine-tuned cranking system, which includes swapping stock hooks for Mustad KVD Triple Grips.
“For deep crankbaits I use the KVD 1x strong 2x short Triple Grip trebles specifically,” VanDam explained. “The shorter shank allows me to upsize my hooks, which adds a little weight to my baits and makes them almost suspend when I pause my retrieve. If I’m fishing a Strike King 5XD I use the No. 1 size, and swap out big 1/0 trebles on a 6XD. The upsized hooks help snag fish that slap at the lure, and most importantly, I just don’t lose many fish with these hooks.”
VanDam is extremely detailed oriented when it comes to crankbait fishing and legitimately won’t throw a plug before swapping out treble hooks. Thousands of anglers have picked up on this on this trick, including many current professionals. Lester was quick to admit he follows VanDam’s process and uses the exact same hooks for his deep diving plugs.
If your local fishery features a lot of grass, especially matted vegetation, then a punching setup is a great choice in the summertime. It’s true many fish migrate to offshore haunts during the heat of the summer, but some bass will stay shallow and seek refuge around thick vegetation. In this scenario, Lester opts for a 1-ounce tungsten sinker and a 5/0 Mustad Denny Brauer Grip-pin Max Flippin’ Hook.
“Punching is a great way to catch big bass in the summer,” Lester said. “Not only is targeting shallow grass effective throughout summer, a lot of times you can have this pattern much to yourself as most anglers are out offshore. That flippin’ hook is strong as can be and the oversized keeper ensures your lure doesn’t move no matter the type of cover you are punching through. Denny Brauer is one of the best flippers of all time, and he wasn’t messing around when he helped design this hook.”
Lester also uses the same hook in a 4/0 size if he is flipping beaver or creature baits around shallow cover in flooded conditions. He downsizes to a 1/2-ounce weight and smaller hook when flipping willow trees, bushes, and other sparse shoreline cover.
Wacky and neko rig hook
Another presentation that needs to be in your summer fishing toolbox is wacky or neko-rigged soft plastics. We’ve been hearing more and more about these techniques the past few years and it’s for good reason; they flat out catch fish. Both Lester and KVD trust the Mustad TitanX Wacky/Neko Hook for this application.
“Whether it’s weightless or you insert a nail weight into your lure, a wacky rigged worm simply gets a lot of bites,” Lester explained. “For both the neko rig and a weightless wacky rig I use the No. 2 size in the TitanX wacky/neko hook. It’s big enough I have confidence no matter what size bass I hook, but small enough to not spook wary or pressured bass in clear water situations. I’ve had an incredibly high landing percentage since I started using that hook for this application.”
In the summertime Lester is primarily using a neko rig on offshore schools of fish that have been heavily pressured and won’t commit to more traditional power fishing options. While using the same hook and worm – without the nail weight – as a weightless wacky rig around docks and other cover for shallow summer bass.
Drop shot hook
A drop shot rig is a mainstay for VanDam in the summer when he heads north to smallmouth country, or when he needs to coax an extra bite from heavily pressured offshore largemouth and spotted bass. VanDam uses a Mustad Double Wide KVD Drop Shot Hook in a 1/0 size for 95% of his drop shotting.
“A drop shot is one technique I recommend everyone has in their repertoire,” VanDam said. “I always have one rigged no matter where or when I’m fishing. The extra wide gap this hook features fits most finesse baits better in my opinion and really allows the lure to move freely. The 1/0 size is perfect for a Strike King Baby Z-Too soft jerkbait which has been a smallmouth killer for me lately.”
Lester also includes a drop shot as one of his summer fishing staples but opts to use the same TitanX Wacky/Neko hook for this presentation, too. The only difference is he drops down to a #4 size and says the hook performs flawlessly.
While you load up with bags of soft plastics and different baits for summer fishing, be sure to put ample consideration into the hooks you stock, too. There are a myriad of great options to choose from when picking out hooks that’ll perform properly for these 5 techniques; but VanDam and Lester provided their go-to selection to shorten your shopping list the next time you head to a tackle store. Using the appropriate hooks will help you catch more fish!