Fluke Jigs- "Hook Refinements?"

Leprechaun

Kind of a Big Deal - In My Mind Anyway
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Dec 19, 2018
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One of the big take-aways from last season's deep fluke season was the dawning (on me) of just how deadly a properly-spec'ed spinning outfit can be in relatively deep water. In truth, I do doubt that spinning will ever be able to replace a proper baitcasting/conventional outfit on a deep, fast-moving drift. But for those slow-to-no drift days, spinning gear really does shine brightly.

My thoughts on this subject were well covered in the "Hands-on Tackle Reviews" thread, and so I'm not going to replow that ground here. Instead, I would like to discuss and get some member feedback on the following "issue" I've repeatedly encountered while casting bucktails in the deep. And admittedly this is really a "First World" problem, seemingly minor in nature at first blush, but frustrating to experience when encountered.

Over the course of the recently past fluke season we ran into several instances of slow drift and so out came the spinner and it did make a difference in filling the box. My lure of choice was a bare 2oz "Ultra Minnow" head (a kind of Spro clone), carrying a GULP! bait, either a 6" jerk shad or 5" jigging grub. This is the same jig head upon which I base all my various-size bucktail builds. I buy from Clint at HTLureco, who has always done a fine job for me, for many seasons. I like his jig heads, because he utilizes the same 5/0 black nickle wide gap hook from the 2oz size, all the way to his 8oz bottom thumpers. Very nice hooks that stick and hold well - on the drift.

However, when using those same heads with their wide-gap 5/0 hooks while casting, I've experienced a good amount of misses; meaning I could feel the fish's weight, but failed to hook MANY. A bit of further explanation is needed, in order to provide a clear picture of the issue.

On the drift (especially a quick one) a decent fish will generally give an aggressive wack at the jig - pretty much guaranteeing a shot at a solid hook-up. If not, a series of rapid sharp jig motions will generally get the fish to come back and take another attempt at his own demise.

This, I have found, is not normally the case when casting/jigging/retrieving in a "slack drift" situation. Instead, what I've repeatedly experienced is a quite subtle tap, followed by the famous "dead weight syndrome" of the fish laying there, with the bait in its mouth, I suppose trying to decide whether or not to further inhale it.

A deceptively tough situation - I've tried many differing hooking methods to deal with this: the old "five-one thousand" count, tried swinging immediately, tried swinging hard, tried gently lifting 'til he bites down on the bait, just about exhausting the gamut of hooking machinations - with decent results, I guess. However, I do feel strongly that the number of misses experienced is just not acceptable. Not to me anyway. I did find that my best results came while using the "wait and slow lift" method, kind of lightly trying to pull the bait away from the fish - I suppose imitating a bait that's about to escape Mr. Fluke's clutches. Even so, more misses than I'm comfortable with. And to further add to the frustration, slack-drift fish do not seem to come back to a bait, once you miss on the hook-up. This is the big difference between a decent-speed drift bite, versus what I've experienced on the slack drift.

So further thought on the subject has lead me to re-evaluate my jig-head choice, with particular attention to hook size. This in turn lead to a discussion with Clint/HTLureco, who agreed with my thinking that perhaps the wide-gap 5/0 is not the best choice for the far more indifferent bite that I see on the slack drift. Could it be that the large hook is inhibiting the inhalation of the lure, when fluke are in the "tap-tap" mode? Maybe. But certainly a worthy problem for which to attempt a remedy. Hey, what else is the off season for?

So in order to make the jig/GULP! combo a bit more "gulp-able," we've selected a slightly smaller 4/0 jig hook, with a much different gap profile. The new hook looks much like the ones that are now routinely used in the manufacture of tog jigs - except that it features a longer shank. This, I believe, is a good thing, as it allows more of the long-ish GULP! baits to slide up onto the hook's shank, placing the business end of the hook further back in the bait. Here, take a look, new vs old:

HTLureco.jpg

HTLureco 2.jpg

I've also made a change to the head shape, thinking that perhaps the original head is tending to lay sideways on a slower jig-and-pop retrieve, which of course a ball head will not do. Plus, I had Clint paint them in glow white, which should also help a bit in generating fishie interest.

So in truth, who knows if any of this is an answer, part of an answer, or of no help at all? But I'll tell you one thing, I will be evaluating these in a big-time way, starting around Memorial Day. You can (Cholera) bank on that!

Your thoughts are solicited and appreciated.
 
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movetheboat

Well-Known Angler
Dec 29, 2018
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I like the white..hook and jig head more streamlined and shank for sliding that gulp up on is a good thing

I plan on checking out poison tails at the show (backwater baits) see what the noise is about...maybe just noise
 

pequa1

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Dec 23, 2018
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, it should be obvious
Thanks to Pete I "found" HTLureco last year and, along with going with a much lighter setup than I ever fished for fluke with before, used the minnow style jigs in 3/4oz. Also thanks to Pete, I switched from using jigs that I tied with bucktail that I "harvested" myself, to silicone skirts. I use just 3" and 4" curly tail Gulp Alive, some shrimp imitations as well, in pink, white and chartreuse. Haven't bought bait in at least a decade. Fishing backbay and almost exclusively from a kayak, the 6' Tsunami Slimwave, a small Daiwa BG and 14lb braid made for a lot of fun and no more painful wrist from jigging. However, I didn't think the larger hooks on these HTLureco jigs, larger than the Smiling Bills from Terminal Tackle that I used to powder paint and bucktail, were a hindrance for me but more of a help. Then again, I don't catch that many fish in the first place !
 
I also think you are on the right track with a smaller sized hook on your jig when using spinning tackle. I don't believe it has so much to do with striking technique and would also use the example of the highly successful technique of jig fishing for Tog with spinning rods.

With Tog, while jigging there are times when you let the fish swim off with the jig before striking because the jig/bait combo is so light the fish probably doesn't feel anything unusual and really inhales the entire rig. However, I have also found there are several days when the Tog bite the jig very lightly and I wind up lip hooking many of the fish. In those cases I have not found the spinning outfit does not provide enough power to properly set the hook.

So, I also believe it may be a hook size issue. I too will have my jig guy make up a number of my Fluke bucktails with a smaller and narrower gap hook for those days when a spinning set up may make a difference.
 

flounderjoe

Angler
Mar 7, 2019
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On those swing and miss tides and some times days when the bite is picky useing a smaller bait or gulp some times just a plain hook with one small spearing changes things. like the old saying "elephants eat peanuts "
 

buddha162

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Dec 19, 2018
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Personally, I'd go to a lighter WIRED hook vs smaller gap. The 60 degree line tie is better than the 90 degree ultra minnow, which once you go over 2oz the hook eye pull point becomes sort of a lever/wedge in the fish's jaws.

I'm convinced that most of the biggest fluke come unbuttoned do so bc they inhale the jig deep, and if you set the hook w/o removing all slack from your line, your hookset is merely pulling the jig until the jighead abuts against the inside of the jaw, and the hook is not embedded at all. You'll get a few cranks on the fish bc a big fluke is loath to let go...but as soon as she opens her maw the entire jig flies out.

Same thing happens when they clamp hard onto the jig head. Either way...reeling down until your rod tip starts to load before you slam it home is key. You want to bottom out that hookset at 12 oclock, and keep going. You don't want to get into the backbone of the rod when it's behind your head.

So many aspects of fluking reminds me of freshwater bass fishing. These mechanics are pretty fundamental to the bass guys...and imo apply to casting-jigging for fluke. Like you said, on the drift it's a different game...but when you cast out esp ahead of the drift, you're dealing with a lot more potential for slack line issues than dragging behind the drift, and managing that slack is vital.
 
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pequa1

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Dec 23, 2018
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, it should be obvious
As I said, I went to a lighter setup and a 3/4oz HT Lureco minnow leadhead. they use a pretty large hook compared to the Smiling Bill style I used to use. Could it be that the smaller jig size enables the 4/0 to aid the hook set. I have yet to gut hook a fish with one, but I do often have to use pliers to avoid the teeth in order to remove the hook as it seems the smaller jig I went to usually hooks the fish (fluke or weak) past the lip.
 

B4sunup

New Angler
Dec 19, 2018
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Pete, I have preferred the jig heads without hair or skirts for years. I like the new jighead, but I'd prefer a longer shank hook for the 6" worms we use in the deep.
I personally have seen little difference in the shape of the leadhead being a factor. I've used spro shape, ball, triangle, and bullet shaped with very little difference in action. Color doesn't matter most days either. I've used all colors including unpainted jigs. I'd be interested in testing all of the shaped jigs & seeing if one style had a better hook up ratio?
Artie
 

mudman

New Angler
Mar 15, 2019
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3
Just read the above and am glad I did...my situation is similar and am glad I am not only person to have similar problem...I go for Fluke from shore in Jamaica Bay...use a variety of rigs....tins, modified 3x3 with Finese 4 or 5”, traditional fluke rigs with teaser above...plenty of times I get what you call the “dead weight” syndrome...they just lay on the bait....don,t know if I should wait longer, try to inch it out slowly, swing hard fast or what...very frustrating ...usually lose the fish...I would imagine I scare the fish away...well good luck with your hook size, I think I’ll just try more patience and count higher...mudman
 

hartattack

New Angler
Dec 22, 2018
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Central Joisey
Lep - - do you use a teaser above the jig ? At the advice of Buddha, I've (mostly) eliminated it and find my hook-up ratio has improved. Without the teaser you are forced to really work the jig, not just drag the jig and work the teaser. Less is more (thanks Roger!).
 

Leprechaun

Kind of a Big Deal - In My Mind Anyway
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Dec 19, 2018
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I use a B/S Rig with a top hook no matter what, on the drift - not whilst casting. Typically a bucktail on the bottom with 4/0 trailer hook, carrying a GULP! 4” swimming mullet or 5” jerk shad. 6” GULP! jigging grub or 7” jerk shad on the top 5/0 hook. 85% of my fish come on the top hook, not the bucktail. But some real whoppers on the bucktail though. Interesting, no?
 
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Leprechaun

Kind of a Big Deal - In My Mind Anyway
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Follow-up - Proof of concept is sweet. Used my new 2oz. smaller-hook ball jig heads all day yesterday, with a decent showing of keeper fluke, two over 5lbs. Solid hook-ups, with fewer missed bites. You can see the head of one, deeply embedded in this fish's craw:

IMG_1438.jpg
 
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LowGear

New Angler
Feb 8, 2020
50
11
8
North East
I went right of your / the groups hip with this purchase once again. It’s that year when my stocks are down and need to re-up. Decent prices one stop shop.

Unfortunately, some I fish with grab out of my bag and enjoy donating to the structure gods every trip. I need to start enforcing party boat pricing policies for when they loose gear!
 

LowGear

New Angler
Feb 8, 2020
50
11
8
North East
Pete,

When you order your BT’s from HT does he custom pour the 2oz ball jig heads for you with the 4/0 hooks, not regular change he has made?

I know his site says they come with the wide gaps.

28BFB266-F47D-42C9-AE78-F16F0999ED9B.jpeg