Though single soft-plastic swimbaits used to be a technique I relegated for years to south Florida alone, I’ve come to find it’s an effective presentation elsewhere as well, even in cold water. The product we’ll look at today has opened up even more possibilities for this technique in my personal fishing. I’ve never been one to fish a a big soft-plastic swimbait in stained or muddy water. To me, it’s a technique that’s very visual, unless I’m reeling the bait right along the surface so that it can generate noise. But even then, I like for the water to be fairly clear—until I found the VMC Heavy Duty Weighted Willow Swimbait Hook, that is.
For starters, this type of fishing is usually done to target plus-sized fish, so you don’t want a weak hook. You might catch a few small ones here and there and this hook serves that purpose fine as well. But when that big bite you’re looking for comes, you’re going to want a meaty hook. The HD Weighted Willow Swimbait Hook has you covered there, with the HD standing for Heavy Duty. This hook is a beast and won’t bend, or at least I haven’t been able to bend it and I’ve laid into some pretty good fish with 65-pound braided line and a 7-foot, 10-inch rod.
These hooks also come in large sizes, which is crucial since many of the swimbaits used for this type of fishing are large and quite meaty. Anytime there’s a lot of plastic to a bait, you need a big hook with a wide gap where there’s space for that plastic to ball-up when you set the hook. Otherwise, the hook never penetrates the fish. With sizes ranging from 3/0 to 11/0, you’re not going to find a bait too big for one of these hooks. For reference, the Gambler Big EZ I’m using here is 5 inches long and I have it rigged on a 6/0 hook. You can see the adequate gap left between my swimbait and the hook once it’s rigged. But also note, those smaller sizes will work well with little 3-inch paddle tail swimbaits too.
Screwlock and weight
At the eye of the hook, you’ll find a heavy-duty screwlock. This is meant to be screwed down into the nose of the soft-plastic swimbait. Since the hook has a molded weight on it, you can’t simply run a bait up onto this hook like you would a worm on a worm hook when rigging a Texas rig for example. Instead, you screw the screwlock into the nose of your swimbait and then run your hook point through the body of the bait and then skin hook the point in the back of the bait to create a weedless presentation.
Making your way down the shaft of the bait, you’ll notice the molded lead weight attached to the hook. This weight, as we’ve already mentioned, anchors an eye, which is attached to a wire, which then holds the blade. But this weight is also intended to help keep the bait down at the desired depth you want to fish. With the smaller hooks, the weight is smaller. And as you go up in hook size, the weights increase as well. Because the bigger the bait you use, the more lift it will have and the more it will try to rise in the water. With weights ranging from 3/16-ounce all the way up to 1/2-ounce, you’ll be able to find a hook that works well with almost any swimbait.
There’s a lot to talk about with this hook and we’ll get around to some of that in the coming paragraphs. But first and foremost, let’s discuss the main area where this hook stands out when comparing it to a lot of the other swimbait hooks on the market. There’s a short, flexible wire arm that connects a willow leaf blade to the lead weight that is molded onto the hook. This blade spins freely as the bait is reeled through the water and creates a flash that helps catch a fish’s eye and draws it to the swimbait.
I believe that’s the primary purpose of this blade and it’s less about creating vibration like we see with blades on most spinnerbaits. This blade is fairly small and willow leaf shaped, so it’s not likely creating enough vibration or turbulence for the fish to feel it over the thump of the swimbait’s tail that is already present in the water. But that little bit of flash is huge when the water is a little stained or even when it’s windy and the light’s penetration of the water is broken up by the ripple of waves on the water’s surface. Those conditions are perfect for adding this hook to your swimbait presentation. But what else does the hook have to offer?
This is one of the coolest products I’ve had the opportunity to review lately as it pertains to my personal fishing. I’d seen this hook before, but didn’t really feel like there was a need for it or a place for it in my tackle box. But, as I’ve seen time and time again, being required to test baits for a living I find myself regularly trying out baits that I likely wouldn’t have otherwise and finding lots of stuff I really like.
The VMC Heavy Duty Weighted Willow Swimbait Hook is yet another such product. With an eye-catching blade added to an already stout and well built hook, I have the ability now to target big bass with confidence in slightly more stained water than I otherwise would have thrown a swimbait into. Add to that the beefy screwlock, well-balanced and versatile sizing of the belly weight and wide range of hook sizes and VMC has a winner on their hands here. If you’re a swimbait fan or looking to get into this technique, I highly recommend this one.
The VMC Heavy Duty Weighted Willow Swimbait Hook is available at the following online retailers: