What makes Kevin VanDam so good?
The devil is in the details.
Perhaps no one on the Bassmaster Elite Series pays as close attention to the tiniest details in every aspect of his fishing. “Those details can keep you out of serious trouble when things aren’t going your way,” he insists.
And that includes how he chooses and uses treble hooks.
“The past few years, I’ve discovered more about the role hooks play in fishing than I could ever have imagined,” VanDam says. “Our rods and fishing lines have changed over the years and that certainly factors into hook choices. But there is so much more to it than that.”
For example, he explains, fluorocarbon and braid materials have less stretch so stronger hooks are required. Equally important, however, is learning how the bottom and cover affects hooks, how each species of bass hits the lures and how hooks perform on different types of lures.
“There are so many variables that anglers overlook,” he says. “Since I began analyzing and selecting hooks for specific situations, my hooking/landing ratio has improved substantially. You’re never going to land them all, but some of the little adjustments can be a deciding factor, especially in tournaments where every fish is critical.”
VanDam is such a believer that he may change the type of hooks he uses on his hard baits throughout the day, depending on the demands of each scenario. He compares it to a NASCAR crew chief setting up a car and making adjustments throughout the race. “He may make a minor adjustment in the chassis or tire pressure,” VanDam says. “Those adjustments may be ever-so-slight but produce a big difference in the end. The same can be said about the hooks you use on your lures.”
Mustad, VanDam’s hook sponsor, has heeded his advice by building specialty hooks to suit his and other hardcore Bassmasters’ needs. Several quality hook manufacturers also offer variety, yet most anglers stick with the hooks provided with their hard baits.
VanDam agrees that some bait manufacturers have upgraded their hooks, but stock hooks don’t fit every situation.
There’s no definitive rule for which replacement hooks or sizes work best in each situation because it can vary within a manufacturer’s brand and style. However, the four-time Classic champion offers this advice for assessing and matching hooks for hard baits.