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Norwalk bass and blues on circle hook jigs

3/4/2008

Visit "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" to learn more about the show and watch video clips. His show airs January through March, each Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit his Web site.

Rick Mola is on to something big! The owner of Fisherman's World tackle center in Norwalk, Conn., and an avid angler — who has pioneered many of the fishing tactics used today in Western Long Island Sound — now rigs his jigs with circle hooks, and is catching more fish because of it!

My MARC VI was shipped to Norwalk this past October, where Rick and I shot a jigging for bluefish episode for my ESPN2 televison series. Rick explained that while we would indeed be jigging, we'd be trying something new: prior to our trip, he spent three weeks jigging in the Sound, keeping on top of the fish.

FYI

Rick Mola
Fisherman's World
Norwalk, Conn.
(203) 866-1075
www.fishermansworld.net

The big "twist" was that he had re-rigged his jigs with circle hooks. His primary reason for the modification was to prevent hooking bass and bluefish in the throat or stomach, a common downside of jigs rigged with J-hooks and trebles.
He wanted to see how the circle hooks would fare.

ON THE MONEY!

The circle hooks worked like a charm, hooking nearly every fish in the jaw.

What Rick didn't expect, however, was the dramatic surge in positive hook-ups.

"When you're jigging for bass and bluefish, you're going to miss some fish," says Mola. "That's just part of the game. Yet, I was very surprised to see how many fish I didn't miss by using a jig rigged with a circle hook."

"My friend didn't believe me, so I took him fishing. He used a jig with a standard J-hook, and I used a jig with a circle hook. I outfished him badly. He couldn't believe it! Plus, every one of my fish was hooked in the corner of the jaw. Unfortunately, he couldn't say the same thing."

The jigs Rick has been experimenting with are the standard diamond jigs and the SPRO Sushi Spoon.

With the diamond-style jigs, he simply removes the J-hook, adds a Size 7, 50-pound test, SPRO Stainless Split Ring to the jig, a Size 7, 75-pound test SPRO Power Swivel to the split ring, and a 6/0 Gamakatsu offset circle hook to the swivel (done by heating up the hook eye with a small torch, spreading it, and then heating it up again and closing it around the swivel).

With the Sushi Spoon — and other similar, flutter-style jigs — he removes the hooks from the head of the lure, and adds an identical split ring, swivel and 6/0 Gamakatsu offset circle hook to the bottom of the jig. From there, he ties on a couple feet of 60-pound test (for striped bass) or 100-pound test (for bluefish) monofilament leader capped with a Size 7, 75-pound test SPRO Power Swivel.

CAUGHT ON HI-DEFINITION

When Rick and I got together, we put the set-up to the test. We'd drop the jigs to the bottom, reel rapidly for several feet, pause, reel rapidly several more feet, drop back to the bottom and repeat the tactic. We did not impart that "jerk-up", and go slack "flutter-down" action commonly associated with jigging.

THE COMPONENTS

As of this writing, it appears offset circle hooks work best in combination with jigs, because they angle away from the jig bodies and tend to snag better. There are two critical factors to this system: First, the hook must be large enough so that the body of the jig won't interfere with it latching and setting in a fish's jaw; Next, make sure the hook is free to rotate, so it won't bind and possibly rip free. This is where the barrel swivel comes into play, the one the hook attaches to.

When using this system on heavier tackle and for offshore fish like tuna and wahoo, make certain split rings, swivels and hooks have been upgraded to weather heavy pressure and additional abuse.

Outside of the jigs, all that is required are split rings, barrel swivels, circle hooks, and a pair of split ring pliers to make fabrication a snap.

I couldn't miss a fish, providing I kept winding during the strike and let the circle hook set. I also found that once the circle hook was set, even the wild surface antics of bluefish couldn't dislodge the iron!

Rick Mola and I cleaned house on the bluefish and small striped bass with our circle hook jigs. We hardly missed a strike, and not one fish was hooked deep. Rick says that the set-up is so new, he's still trying to tweak it as far as sizing the hook to the jig and species, and if an offset circle is better than an in-line version.

Even after we sent the MARC VI back south, Rick has been in the Sound trying to finetune the system even more!

NOTHING IS SAFE!

It only stands to reason that if circle hook jigs work on bluefish and bass, they should work on most species.

I showed a friend, Carl Grassi, this jig set up back in South Florida, and he converted one of his irons. He called a few days later to let me know he caught a blackfin tuna on it, as well as a few amberjack. And a few weeks after that, he caught three grouper on the circle hook jig.

(As of this writing, he has added kingfish and a big red grouper to his list. He's impressed over how he doesn't miss any strikes, and how the circle hook latches in the fishes' jaws.)

This is such a revolutionary find, I suspect you just might be seeing circle hook jigs on the market in the near future. As more anglers give the set-up a try, and see how their hook-up ratios soar — and how difficult it is for fish to shake these jigs free, they'll be sold.

And then when you add in the fact that very few fish will be hooked deep, you end up with a huge win-win situation for both anglers and gamefish.

Visit "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" to learn more about the show and watch video clips. His show airs January through March, each Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit his Web site.