VanDam believes a treble hook’s flex is an angler’s worst enemy. “The thing I’ve discovered is that a hook that flexes tends to pull away from the pressure, bend out and not penetrate as well,” he explains. “It’s something I’ve really noticed while fishing for smallmouth. You catch a 3-pounder with light hooks and the treble will be mangled, even when fishing lighter line and using gentler hook sets.”
Also, he notes, bass caught on jerkbaits and crankbaits often are hooked outside the mouth, either on the chin or gill plate. For that reason, he wants a sharp hook that penetrates beneath the barb and doesn’t flex. Otherwise, the fish can shake free when jumping or making hard runs next to the boat.
“There’s a common misconception that hooks of bigger diameter don’t penetrate as well,” VanDam says. “What I’ve found is that slick, black-nickel finish hooks with a super-sharp point probably penetrate easier than small diameter hooks that flex.”
Some anglers believe you need light-wire hooks when fishing lighter line because they penetrate better. Not so, he argues. He increases his hooks in size and strength whenever it doesn’t affect lure performance.
“I fish a lot of 8-pound line on some jerkbaits and smaller crankbaits when fishing for smallmouth and I’ve found I lose fewer fish — because the hooks don’t flex,” he explains.
Today’s tackle has a lot to do with it. Lines have less stretch and graphite rods have faster actions, so hooks penetrate better, VanDam adds.
You can overpower a lure or impact its balance with the wrong size of treble. A topwater may not sit in the water properly or a small crankbait or jerkbait may not run as effectively as it was designed if matched with large diameter wire hooks.
“I try to get away with as big of a treble hook with a wide gap as I can,” VanDam says. “You just have to experiment with them until you know which works best on individual lures.”
That’s why he convinced Mustad to come out with the KVD Elite Treble. It’s got an extra-short shank, wide gap and “Triple Grip” design. The shorter shanks allow him to “upsize” the hook for a bigger bite. Those are the hooks he used on his crankbaits to win the last two Classics.
“For example, the KVD 1.5 crankbait or Strike King Red Eye Shad come stock with size No. 4 trebles, but I can upgrade to No. 2 Elites on there,” he says. “It has enhanced my landing ratio considerably.”