Factor No. 2: Spend the time to sharpen or change hooks

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This isn’t me just trying to sound like a dork; of course you need sharp hooks. But this is the most important time of year to make absolutely certain they’re razor sharp at all times. Spend the extra money and buy several packs of extra treble hooks. If money is an issue, at least sharpen them frequently. 

Right now, the skin around a bass’ mouth is very tough and firm because of the cold water. Pay attention the next time you catch one and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. When you combine lethargic feeding behavior with this firm mouth, you’re flirting with disaster in regards to losing fish. Many times, cold-water bass will swat or roll on top of your crankbait with their mouths closed. If you’re using cheap treble hooks, you will miss those fish.

There are two ways I test the sharpness of my crankbait hooks. If the hookpoint won’t scratch my thumbnail or catch the skin of my finger without any pressure, I throw it away. A crankbait hook should scare you to touch. During an eight-hour fishing trip, I’ll probably change my treble hooks three or four times in the boat.

There’s one other thing to consider: You’re going to be fishing a lot of rock this time of year. Rocks heat up quickly on sunny days and both the bass and the forage will snug up next to chunk rock, pea gravel and riprap. Rock will dull your hook points quicker than you can blink.

Takeaway: Spend the money. Buy extra treble hooks. I most often use a No. 5 Gamakatsu TGW Nano Finesse Treble Hook this time of year. It’s not a sales pitch. If a fish breathes on that sucker, it’ll get hooked.