Bassmaster's 2008 Gear Guide: Terminal Tackle for 2008

Growing trends in bass tactics no doubt played a role in terminal tackle gear being offered for 2008.

Perhaps the most visible are the shaky head and football jig techniques that have surfaced on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail. Several companies have come forward with their versions of both types of jigheads designed to be fished with soft plastic baits in deep and shallow water.

Another noticeable newcomer is the large weighted hook pros are fishing with soft bodied swimbaits and plastics and using with heavy line or superlines. Companies also continue to address the angler's need for something to secure plastics to the shanks of worm hooks and jigs to prevent baits from sliding down and interfering with the hook point.

Oddly enough, new sinkers were scarce in the new product lineup. Here's an overview of some of the most interesting items displayed at the 2008 tackle show:

1. BAGLEY

The Shaky Head lineup is now offered with a red head, and a size 3/32 has been added. Bagley's Shaky Jig has a 45 degree flat spot on the head to give it a resting spot when on the bottom. The eyelet design minimizes snags while a cone-shaped keeper helps secure plastics to the shaft. The light wire leadhead jig is made in several popular colors. (www.bagleybait.com; 239-919-5780)

2. EAGLE CLAW

The family of Lazer Sharp Hooks has been expanded to include a Magworm EWG in sizes 2/0 to 6/0. Offered in platinum black and red with the Z-bend on the shaft to secure plastics, the heavy wire hooks are ideal for worm fishing with braided line. (www.eagleclaw.com; 720-941-8700)

3. FIN-TECH

The Title Shot lineup now includes shaky and football leadhead jigs. Both have a fixed keeper that not only holds soft plastics in place for a better hook set, but it also helps to maintain the appropriate gap between bait and hook. Both are built on Mustad Ultrapoint hooks. The Shaky Head is a forged 2/0 light wire and has a 90 degree bend with a flat eye for less snagging. It is offered in four sizes up to 1/4 ounce. The Football Head is created on a heavy wire wide gap hook and has a 45 degree flat eye. It comes in five sizes up to 1 ounce. (www.jigfish.com; 877-390-FISH)

4. GAMAKATSU

The company has answered the call from braid fishermen for a Weighted Superline EWG. Available in sizes 3/0 and 5/0, the heavy-duty hooks are weighted either 1/16 or 1/8 ounce on the hook shaft.

And, if the current hook offerings aren't big enough for your large tubes or swimbaits, the EWG Monster may fill the bill. The black hook comes in sizes 5/0 to 7/0 and makes it easier to pull the barb through thick plastics.

The new Trailer Hook SP for spinnerbaits has a rubberized coating over the eyelet to lock the hook in place. It comes in red or black and sizes 1 through 3/0.

Also, the red Wacky Head has an unusual design that creates a side-to-side rolling action. It has a short shank with a wide gap hook for a greater bite surface area. It comes in size 2 and 1/32-, 1/16- and 1/8-ounce sizes. (www.gamakatsu.com; 253-922-8373)

5. MUSTAD

Bass anglers will find several specialty hooks, including the Elite Series replacement trebles and a red Light Wire Tube Hook. The extra strong, short-shanked trebles are offered in sizes from 6 to 3/0. The extra wide gap offset tube hooks come in sizes 3/0, 4/0 and 5/0. (www.mustad.no)

6. NORTHLAND TACKLE

If you're fishing shiner minnows or big grubs, the Shiner Jig gets the hook point farther back on the shaft for the short strikers. Built on a long, 4/0 Mustad Ultrapoint hook, the round ball head jig comes in several colors and three sizes up to 3/8 ounce. (www.northlandtackle.com; 218-751-6723)

7. OWNER

The TwistLock feature for locking plastics in place has been added to a weighted hook and a shaky head jig. The TwistLock is a centering spring pin that attaches to the front of the hook and jig. The Weighted TwistLock has a nonmovable weight on the hook shaft and is available in 1/16 ounce (3/0) or 1/8 ounce (4/0 and 5/0). On the Shaky Jig, the TwistLock is built into the rocking jighead and comes in five weights from 1/16 to 1/4 ounce and on 4/0 hooks. (www.owner hooks.com; 714-668-9011)

8. PICASSO

The Shake-E football head has a wire spring built into the head to hold soft baits in place. The football style head has a flat surface on the nose to help hold the bait off the bottom. The jigs are available in eight weights from 1/16 to 1 ounce and in six colors. (www.picassoout doors.com; 724-349-2260

9. PRO

You won't have to worry about your Carolina rig swivels coming apart on big fish with the Power Ball Bearing Swivel. The company says it is the strongest ball bearing swivel on the market. The swivels have welded rings and are offered in sizes 3, 4 and 5, and rated from 135 to 250 pounds. (www.spro.com; 770-919-1722)

10. STRIKE KING

The Tour Brand shaky and football style leadhead jigs earned our pick as the best value in terminal tackle gear for 2008. Both types of premium jigheads, tested and tweaked by Strike King pros, feature a special barb that helps baits stand up better and holds plastics in place. The heads have a 60 degree flat eye and are built with a Gamakatsu hook. Painted versions are powdercoated to resist chipping. They are offered in painted and unpainted colors and several sizes. (www.strike king.com; 901-853-1455)

11. STRUCTURE PROOF

The first thing you notice about Structure Proof jigheads is the unusual downward bend in the hook shank behind the ball style head. The manufacturer says the unique design gives soft baits a more natural upright appearance and is more snag-proof than conventional jighead designs. Sizes range from as small as 1/64 ounce for panfish to 1/2 ounce for bass. The jigs have a keeper barb near the head to secure baits. (www.struc tureprooftackle.com; 630-978-2867)

12. TTI-BLAKEMORE

The Standout hook line, designed for drop shotting, has been expanded to include a size 1 and 1/0 in the black nickel pattern. If you prefer red hooks, a size 1 has been added. The Standout has a series of unusual bends in the shank that makes tying a drop shot easier, insures the hook sits horizontally on the line and gives the bait a natural presentation. (www.truturn hooks.com; 334-567-2011)

13. TRU-TUNGSTEN

Tired of snagging your drop shot hooks in brush? The Drop-N-Shake Hook offers a unique weedless alternative that earned it the author's choice as the best new product in terminal tackle. Developed by Elite pro Ken Cook, VMC hooks in sizes 1, 1/0 and 2/0 are rigged with two strands of heavy-duty fluorocarbon line that are hand-wrapped on the shaft.

The heavy fiber works as a weedguard when pulled over the hook point and poked into the soft plastic bait beneath the hook. (www.tru-tungsten.com; 724-349-2260)

14. VERTICAL LURES

The ChunkX Sling can be added to bass jigs that have keeper barbs to help prevent soft plastic trailers from sliding off the keeper and interfering with hook sets. The feature earned it runner-up honors in our choice of best new terminal gear in 2008. The flexible sling-like collar slips over the hook point and down on the "keeper" barb on the neck of the jig. Once the soft bait is added, a sling tab slips over the hook, where it locks the plastic trailer in place. It also serves as a carrier for rattles. (www.verticallures.com; 877-318-1142)

15. VMC

The Bugeye's weighted shanks are colored red, black or white and are available in sizes 1 through 3/0. The Needle Cone Wide Gap hook on the Bugeye can be used for rigging soft plastics weedless or wacky style. The hooks are offered in three weights from 1/32 to 1/8 ounce.

New bass hook additions include a trailer for spinnerbaits (1/0 to 4/0); an extended, locking bend offset to help hold plastics better (1/0 to 5/0); and a Fastgrip straight shank and a Fastgrip wide gap, each with three micro-barbs on the point (1/0 to 5/0). (www.vmchooks.com; 952-933-5536

EDITOR'S CHOICE

Best Overall:

Drop-N-Shake

Tru-Tungsten's weedless hook gets our nod as the best new terminal tackle item for 2008 because of its innovative system that protects drop shot or wacky rigs from snagging in brush— without interfering with hook sets.

Two strands of 30-pound fluorocarbon line that are hand-wrapped on a VMC hook shank near the eyelet work as a protective guard over the top of the hook. The stiff line is pulled across the hook point and poked into the soft bait to secure it, yet gives way when the fish bites. The hooks will sell (three per pack) for around $3.99.

Runner-up:

Vertical Lures ChunkX Sling

Keeping jig trailers in place can be a hassle, but this little rubber keeper could be the answer. It works on any jig that has a keeper barb by snugging the plastic trailer to the shank of the jig hook. If a bass pulls on the trailer, it snaps back in place. One size fits all and they retail for under $1.50 for a bag of three.

Best Value:

Strike King

While the shaky and football style leadhead jigs are priced similarly to other jigheads, Strike King's quality features caught our eyes. Equally convincing is that the jigheads were developed with input and testing by the company's stellar pro staff. They are built on premium Gamakatsu hooks and the painted versions are powdercoated to resist chipping. The barb on the shank was created specifically to accommodate a variety of soft plastics. They come with a suggested retail price between $3.49 and $3.99 for three painted heads or four unpainted heads.

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