By Michael Grant and Seth Funt
One of the keys to successful live bait fishing is matching the size and style hook to the bait you fish. Regardless of whether you catch or buy your bait, baits vary in size from trip to trip. That’s why we’ve developed a hook box system so that we are always prepared to find the right hook for the bait at hand and the species of fish that we are targeting.
To start, determine what species of live baits you normally catch or buy (i.e. sardines, herring, blue runners, goggle-eyes, pinfish, cigar minnows, mullet, speedos, menhaden, pilchards). Then, determine what species of fish you typically target (sailfish, dolphin, kingfish, cobia, wahoo, snapper, grouper, jacks, tuna, etc.). Select the brand and model hook that best corresponds with your bait and target fish. Then identify the size of that hook that best corresponds to the average size bait that you use. Buy a pack of hooks that size and also one size larger and one size smaller.
For example, we regularly fish with mullet for sailfish and dolphin. The mullet that we catch and use generally range in size from 5 inches to 10 inches and average about 7.5 inches. For that application we prefer VMC Tournament Circle Hooks Model #3785BN. The 6/0 size of that hook best corresponds to the bait we normally fish. But, we also buy a pack of 7/0 and 5/0 hooks. That way we’re ready to tie on the best size hook for the size mullet we have to use (5 inch mullet get a 5/0 and a 10 inch mullet gets a 7/0).
How might you best organize your hooks? We prefer to store our hooks in Plano Waterproof StowAway boxes in the 3600 size. These boxes have a rubber DriLoc O-ring gasket seal and three heavy duty cam-action latches that ensure water will not get in. They also have adjustable compartments to accommodate as few as 5 or up to 20 hook models and sizes.
We usually configure our hook boxes for 16 individual compartments. As such, we purchase 16 different hook packs of various models and sizes per box. On our boat, we have two standard hook boxes: one dedicated to circle hooks and another to conventional “J” hooks.
Once your hooks and boxes are purchased and configured, it’s time to plan the layout of your hook box. We like to lay out our hook packs on a table next to the open box to visualize the layout. We like to keep each hook model together in individual columns if possible and lay out the sizes from largest on the top row to the smallest on the bottom row.
After your layout is complete, you are ready to label each compartment. We take a pair of scissors and cut off a section of each hook pack that identifies the hook model and size. Each section is cut to fit into the lid of the box that corresponds with the location of the hook in the compartment below. Once all of the labels are dry-fit into the box lid, each is individually hot glued into place. We like to use hot glue instead of super glue because later you have the option of removing a label and replacing with another label if you change that compartment’s hook model or size. Once the labels are in place it is time to load your hooks into their individual compartments. Although the boxes are waterproof we suggest loading your hook boxes with just enough of each hook for a trip or two. That way if saltwater should find its way into your hook box while open you won’t ruin (rust) a large quantity of hooks. When a compartment is running low on hooks, simply reload it from your hook supply on land. FS
First published Florida Sportsman April 2015