In­sights to greatly in­crease your hookup ra­tio


Are you av­er­ag­ing more than 75 per­cent hookup rates on your mar­lin lures?

There are lots of lure trollers who av­er­age more than 85 per­cent; some are even close to 100 per­cent, as they hook just about every fish that strikes. There’s a com­mon thread in their lure and gear setup: They pay more at­ten­tion to the hooks and the way they rig the lure so they can greatly im­prove their hookup ra­tios.

The en­vi­ron­ment be­hind the boat is tur­bu­lent, and the fact that wa­ter is 780 times denser than air fur­ther com­pli­cates things, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to get the lures to do what you want them to. Think of it this way: Trolling a rigged lure at 7 mph times 780 equals 5,460 mph. The fastest jet in the world, the X-15, reaches speeds of only 4,520 mph. Trolling lures with some con­trol seems to be a daunt­ing task when you fac­tor in a bit of tur­bu­lence, wind chop and swell. So rather than fight the en­vi­ron­ment, we can work with what the lure and its com­po­nents nat­u­rally want to do.


It’s the hook that catches the fish — not the lure — and yet the dis­cus­sion of rig­ging rarely goes fur­ther than us­ing sin­gle or dou­ble hooks (with the sin­gle hook usu­ally win­ning out be­cause it’s safer for the crew). A lure be­comes more sta­ble

when it is rigged with a big­ger, heav­ier hook. Oth­er­wise, the hook will spin as it tries to bal­ance it­self in the un­sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment be­hind the boat.

The shape of the hook is also im­por­tant: A hook will al­ways have an ideal pen­e­trat­ing mo­tion when it has a turned-in point that is aimed at the same di­rec­tion of pull — the hook eye. A hook with a point par­al­lel to the shank can re­sult in a slash­ing ac­tion in­stead of pen­e­trat­ing. When sharp­en­ing a hook, the point should be aimed at the hook eye, and the un­der­side of the hook should not be sharp­ened. The barb can also be filed down some­what to aid in pen­e­tra­tion.

The hook size is crit­i­cal: Be sure to pick a hook that has enough width to go around or over the jaw­bone of the fish you’re tar­get­ing. This means you need to add the ra­dius of the lure head to the bight of the hook. How­ever, this rule will cause the hooks to be too small to get around the jaw­bone of a mar­lin or sail if us­ing very small lures, so be sure to use a hook that is large enough for the tar­get.

Re­gard­less of the hook’s shape, at slow speeds, the hook nat­u­rally trav­els through the wa­ter with its bend down and the point pretty much level with the eye. As the speed in­creases, the pres­sure on the hook shank makes the hook ride higher. Re­mem­ber, all trolling lures ac­cel­er­ate and de­cel­er­ate when they go through their breath­ing cy­cle as they dive and come back to the sur­face: You can see this by watch­ing your rod tip bend and straighten while trolling. So, to al­low the hook to do what it nat­u­rally does, I rig the hook so it can move freely on a loop with heat-shrink tub­ing over both the loop and up to the hook eye.


I also in­cor­po­rate a swivel in my lure rig­ging. The swivel rig doesn’t in­ter­fere with the lure’s de­sired ac­tion, and it also al­lows the hook to ride with the point fac­ing up in most sea con­di­tions. The swivel rig also lets the lure per­form the way it was de­signed to with­out re­stric­tions, and the hook rides well in the lure with the skirt just cov­er­ing the eye of the hook.


The re­al­ity is that the right dou­ble-hook rig will out­per­form sin­gle-hook rigs be­cause two hooks have more weight, bal­ance and re­sis­tance to spin­ning than just one hook alone. Sin­gle hooks with lighter gauge and a smaller size have even less weight to main­tain lure bal­ance, caus­ing the lure to want to spin more. But by adding a small keel weight to a sin­gle-hook rig, lure per­for­mance can match the suc­cess of dou­ble-hook rigs, espe­cially in the tur­bu­lent prop wash and rougher sea con­di­tions. The added weight also keeps the sin­gle hook rid­ing in the op­ti­mal po­si­tion: up­right.

By in­cor­po­rat­ing the cor­rect hooks, the swivel rig and keel weight­ing into your lure rig­ging, your lures will per­form even bet­ter and your hookup ra­tios can in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly.

A well-hooked blue mar­lin be­hind the boat is a wel­come sight, espe­cially in a high­stakes tour­na­ment.

Peter Pakula’s unique rig­ging meth­ods pro­duce a bal­anced lure that per­forms well in nearly any sea con­di­tion.

A keel weight keeps the point of the hook rid­ing up. Also note the filed­down barb for im­proved hook pen­e­tra­tion.

By in­cor­po­rat­ing a heavy-duty swivel, the lure can swim prop­erly while keep­ing the hook in the cor­rect po­si­tion.

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