Scott Rook, professional angler from Arkansas, recalls numerous examples of how trailer hooks have helped improve his catch rate, but none are as memorable as what he and other pros call the "buzzbait tournament" held on Lake of the Ozarks in 1998. It was the second year Rook fished BASS tournaments, and it turned out to be a major turning point in his career.
"Dan Morehead won it on a buzzbait and I placed third by catching all my fish on a buzzbait. It was an awesome tournament, but I would have never done as well as I did if I didn't rig a trailer hook on all my lures," recalls Rook.
During the practice period, Rook was getting strike after strike on buzzbaits, but few were actually converting to hooked bass. The fish were just slapping at it, he recalls.
"I tried downsizing, upsizing, slower retrieves, faster retrieves and every color I had, and I still kept getting short-striked," he remembers. "I finally added a trailer hook and, man, what a difference that made. The first day of the tournament, I caught three over 6 pounds and had almost 24 pounds for the day. I caught at least one 6-pounder every day. Most of them were hooked on the trailer."
That event not only solidified his belief in his ability to make it as a professional bass angler, it helped cement his belief in trailer hooks. Now, he uses them just about every time he throws a buzzbait or spinnerbait.
When to trailer
Rook sums up in one word the situations where he uses trailer hooks: always. In fact, he can only think of one general instance when a trailer hook is inappropriate.
"I use them in grass, heavy wood — just about anywhere I would use a buzzbait or spinnerbait otherwise. The only time I won't use one is when I get hung up on every cast or I bring back a wad of grass or scum on every cast," he says.
Trailer hooks will certainly grab more branches and cling to more grass if they are used in those situations, but Rook insists the trade-off is a fair one, and it's something he's willing to risk. Big bass tend to lurk in that heavy cover, and while he spends more time going in to free his lures, he also has seen the average weights of his catch increase — thanks to trailers.
"Even if the bass are really crushing my spinnerbait and buzzbait and they've got it way down in their mouths, I'm still going to use one for that extra insurance. It's crazy not to use one. It doesn't affect the action of the lure one bit," says Rook.
Virginia tournament angler Michael Hall often won't use a trailer when he's either fishing for the sake of fishing or when he is practicing for a tournament. He's less concerned about losing fish, or even hooking them in the first place, when he isn't chasing a check.
"Trailer hooks can go pretty deep down a fish's throat and cause serious damage if the fish are real aggressive. When I'm pre-fishing for a tournament, I'm less interested in actually hooking fish than just locating them anyway, so I often would rather not actually hook them," he says.
But he agrees with Rook and so many other pros: There really is no bad time to use one. Like Rook, Hall will add a trailer hook under virtually every condition he encounters during tournaments, forsaking them only in the heaviest cover.
How to trailer
Adding a trailer hook can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, but Rook insists you'll have much better bass-in-boat ratios if you allow your trailer hook to move freely on the lure's hook. Some anglers use a system that keeps the trailer hook firmly in place, but Rook explains that such a technique not only offers a fighting fish more leverage, it is much more prone to snag branches and other cover.
Hall is one of those anglers that prefers to have his trailers held firmly in place. In fact, he's convinced that he loses fewer bass as a result of a tightly attached trailer. In other words, how you attach your trailer hooks should be nothing more than a matter of personal preference and confidence. Hall slides the trailer hook eye into a piece of surgical tubing (usually supplied with the trailer hooks) and runs the point of the lure's hook through the rubber hose and the eye of the trailer hook.
While Rook typically uses a single-point Daiichi trailer hook, Hall often attaches a two-point hook designed by friend Bobby Williams, a die-hard bass angler from upstate New York. Williams is actually in the process of protecting his trailer hook design with a United States patent. It's basically a long-shank treble hook with one of the points cut off. The two remaining points ride up.
Advanced trailer tips
When Hall uses a trailer hook, he usually attaches a soft plastic grub or worm for a dual purpose: It gives the lure extra eye appeal and it helps camouflage the trailer hook itself. He's not convinced it's vital to hide the second hook, he just figures it can't hurt. Hall recalls a tournament on Kerr Reservoir where he attached a pink Zoom trick worm to his spinnerbait and ended up finishing second as a result.
"I rolled in on this one point as another guy in the tournament was leaving, and started catching one fish after another on a spinnerbait equipped with a trailer hook and a trailer. The first fish was over 5 pounds," he recalls. "During the weigh-in, the guy who left told me he worked that point for 30 minutes before I got there and never got a bite. He may have gotten strikes, but if he wasn't using a trailer hook, he probably just missed them."
Hall doesn't put the soft plastic on the trailer hook itself. Instead, he puts it on the spinnerbait's hook prior to attaching the trailer hook. He admits that it takes more work to change the plastic when it needs to be changed, but the confidence factor keeps him doing it.
Rook will sometimes attach a trailer hook to his trailer hook, adding insurance on top of insurance for catching bass that have no intention of actually hitting his lure.
"During one tournament on Lake Champlain, I had four trailer hooks on the back of my spinnerbait. During the practice, the smallmouth were coming up out of these submerged grassbeds and just kind of flashing on it. They weren't really interested in eating it, because they were missing it by a good distance," recalls Rook. "I ended up catching numerous fish over 3 pounds on the third or fourth trailer. I would have never placed in the money if I didn't add so many trailers."
Rook attaches the extra hooks with the point opposite the one in front of it to create an up-down, up-down chain that hooks bass no matter how they take a whack at his lure.
"Some guys will add a treble hook as their trailer hook. I tried that but didn't really see an increase in hookups," says Rook. "I've been experimenting with Daiichi's red trailer hook and seem to be having pretty good success with that, but I haven't used it enough to know if it's the hook or the color of the hook."
One thing he does know, however, is exactly how important trailer hooks are to his fishing career. His livelihood depends on putting bass in his boat, which is exactly why Rook uses trailer hooks all the time.