Lure tangling is another consideration, which is why VanDam likes the short-shanked feature on the KVD Elite trebles. “On smaller crankbaits you may have to go down in hook size, but try to get away with the biggest size you can,” he advises.
For larger topwaters and jerkbaits, he may switch to a new version of the KVD Elite Trebles that have a longer shank and are made with standard wire for those situations where balance is an issue. The shank length isn’t a problem and can work in your favor with those baits. They are strong, yet a little lighter than the KVD trebles so they are less likely to affect how the lure sits in the water.
Triple Grips have a Kahle-style bend with wide gaps and the points angle in slightly. VanDam says the kahle style will penetrate better and not rotate away like some round-bend designs do. “One of the reasons anglers lose so many fish on jerkbaits is because of the flex,” he says. “Those fish rarely get the entire bait in their mouths, so they have a leverage advantage. With stronger hooks that penetrate and hold, you are going to land more fish.”
When grinding a crankbait on the bottom or banging it through brush, VanDam wants the super stout hooks for a couple of reasons: they hold up better and offer the power to move big fish without the hooks flexing.
“In a tournament I won at Grand Lake, I was fishing Series 5 and 6 crankbaits (deep runners) in shallow water,” VanDam recalls. “I was smoking that bait with standard trebles on a high-speed reel, and within five minutes the hook points were destroyed and bent from banging on the bottom. I switched to the larger diameter KVD Elites and the hooks stayed sharp and intact.”
However, he still might change hooks when banging them against hard objects or even when catching a lot of fish. “You really need to pay attention to your hooks when fishing over rocks or around wood,” he says. “If a hook is bent, don’t try to bend it back. Replace it.”
He says it’s not unusual for him to change hooks throughout the day when grinding baits along river ledges or on mussel beds. “You may think you can sharpen a dulled hook, but you can’t get it as sharp as a manufacturer can build it,” he says.
Don’t change hooks on a lure and go fishing without testing them first. Run a lure with the stock hooks next to the boat and study its action. Note how it wobbles and how it feels through the rod tip, then compare how it looks and feels with the premium hooks on it. “The manufacturer has matched his hooks to the bait to achieve optimum performance,” VanDam explains. “A change could overpower the bait or it may cut down the wiggle and liveliness. Be real critical with that.”
Most of today’s plastic crankbaits and bigger baits can handle heavier hooks. Some wooden baits are more sensitive, especially narrow-bodied ones. “You also have to be careful with topwaters because you can weigh them down and they won’t work properly,” VanDam says. “I have discovered you can put a slightly larger hook on the rear of a topwater to enhance its walking action. I’ve even put a bigger hook in the middle and back on larger walking baits to tilt it slightly and give it a more erratic action.”
Of course, VanDam cautions, what works for him may not work for someone else and it can vary depending on lure and style of hook you use.
“The main thing readers should get from this is they need to spend more time thinking about the hooks they have on their baits, the jobs they want those lures to accomplish and get the very best hook combination for the technique they are fishing,” he says. “They’ll learn the advantages/disadvantages of each style of hook and see a difference in how many fish they land.”
Originally published December 2011