Tweaking tackle is not only fun to say, but it's also fun to do. And I've been on quite the tackle tweaking tear lately. I'm constantly looking for little ways to do something new with a bait, or do what I'm already doing but just do it better. While working on a recent article for Wired2fish, I stumbled on the Decoy Versatile Keeper for the first time.
This product is made of rubber and comes in three sizes: small, medium and large. And if you pick the right size, it will not slide unless you want it to. The rubber grips the hook shaft or whatever else you put it on tightly. It works great for securing a trailer hook, which we'll talk more about in a minute. But as the Versatile in its name implies, it can do a whole lot more. Let me show you what I mean.
The most obvious use for Decoy Versatile Keeper, partly because I already stated it, is securing a trailer hook. In the past, I've used little rubber bands, pieces of rubber bands, small tubing and even the clicker end of a small Zip Tie to secure a trailer hook. But this little product was designed just for that and probably does the best job of all on average.
The reason I say that is that it doesn't slide easily and it's big enough to prevent even the larger trailer hook eyes from escaping. Trailer hooks have all different size eyes. Most are larger so they can slide over the barb of the main hook. Some of the other methods I use to secure a trailer hook won't work for large-eyed hooks.
All you have to do is slide your trailer hook on and then slide the large size keeper over the main hook point and into place. If you don't want the trailer hook sliding back and getting into your soft plastic trailer, you can sandwich the eye of the trailer hook between two keepers and keep it in a fixed direction while still allowing the eye of the trailer hook to swivel on the main hook shaft. This will take leverage away from the fish during a fight.
Locking in soft-plastic trailers
Soft-plastic trailers on buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs and ChatterBaits are notorious for being pulled down either in the backcast or by a fish and built-in trailer keepers have to toe a fine line. If they're too big, they tear the plastic too easily. If they're too small, they don't bite into the soft plastic enough to hold it. And then some baits don't have soft-plastic trailer keepers at all.
Enter the Decoy Versatile Keeper. Just slide your soft plastic into place on your bait and then slide the keeper on your hook and snug it up against the soft plastic. The soft plastic will lose its appendages before it gets pulled down.
Building spinnerbaits and buzzbaits
If you've ever thrown a spinnerbait for long, inevitably one of the little beads used to separate your blades has made its way up and into the bend of the arm of the spinnerbait. Then you have to flex the arm and damage its integrity to get the bead back out. Well if you're building your own or want to modify your favorite, just take the Decoy Versatile Keeper and run it up the arm above the rest of your beads and blade assembly.
You'll still want a bead between the keeper and your first blade as the blade will spin better against the metal bead than the rubber keeper, but this is a great way to keep that little annoyance from taking place. This will also keep your blades from sliding up your spinnerbait arm and getting tangled in your line on the cast, another pet peeve of mine.
Likewise with buzzbaits, there's usually a bead above the blade that will at times make its way above the bend. Just put one of these keepers above that bead and you've eliminated that issues as well.
Flipping and punching
Another use for this product comes in the way of knot protection. You can use the large versatile keeper to keep your heavy tungsten weight from beating against your knot. For a Snell knot with braid, this isn't really necessary. But if you're going to be flipping a 3/4-ounce weight all day with fluorocarbon, it would probably be a good idea to add this little cushion in between.
Adding blades to baits
You could also spice your baits up a bit by adding a blade. Take a swim jig for example. Simply take a small willow leaf blade, a split ring and a swivel and you've got yourself a whole different bait than you would if you had rigged it with a soft plastic trailer. Slide the swivel up onto the hook and then slide the large versatile keeper on and you're ready to go.
Umbrella rig mod
Some of the most popular umbrella rigs now are loaded up with blades. Got an old one lying around with no blades and some old spinnerbaits in the scrap pile? You can quickly turn your old umbrella rig into a bladed one and save yourself 30 bucks on a new one while repurposing $30 worth of baits that are just gathering dust and rust. You'll need the medium or small size for this depending on the diameter of the umbrella rig wire.
There really is a lot you can do with the Decoy Versatile Keeper if you put your mind to it. I sat there and played with it for 10 minutes and was able to apply it to three of those things on the fly. And it worked perfectly for each. This is a very simple product that can do a whole lot. And that makes it a must-have in my book.