Every angler wants to catch more fish. This almost goes without saying, but it does often go with paying. Fishermen will happily spend money on new lures, flies, and baits looking for a magic bullet, or at minimum, something that will put a few more fish in the boat. The truth is, you can put a lot more fish in the boat with the tackle you already have by making one of the easiest, most low-drag modifications on the planet to your existing hooks. It’s so simple, in fact, that many anglers don’t even have this tweak on their radar.
If you spend any time fishing cutbait in salt- or freshwater, there’s a strong chance you already know the difference between inline and offset hooks. “Inline” simply means the point of the hook is in perfect alignment with the eye of the hook. If you were to drop an inline hook on a table, it would lay perfectly flat. The point of an offset hook, however, is bent a few degrees to the left or right of the eye. Toss one of those on the table and you’d notice the hook’s point and bend are raised off the surface.
The advantage of an offset hook is that when a fish grabs the bait—or when you swing to set that hook—the slightly cocked point will connect with the inside of the fish’s mouth quicker, penetrate faster, and stay planted better than an inline hook.
This isn’t a theory or conjecture. Offset hooks are so much more effective that in certain fisheries, it’s not legal to use them. As an example, saltwater striper regulations on the East Coast dictate that if you’re using any natural bait to target these fish, you must pin it on an inline circle hook. So, before leaning on offset hooks for delivering cutbait in your local fisheries, it’s worth checking the regulations to make sure doing so is on the up-and-up. However, the perks of an offset hook are harnessed far less often with lures and flies, though they offer huge advantages—minus the increased gut hooking risk that comes with fishing cutbait.
Legendary bass pro Mike Iaconelli recently joined me on the Bent Podcast and explained that the extremely simple act of bending the point slightly off the eye of his hooks has paid huge dividends over the years, especially when fishing soft plastics for bass.
“It’s a modification that you can make to any brand of hook you’re using with your soft plastics,” Iaconelli said. “You could make the modification to a round bend, an extra wide gap, a straight shank, a flipping hook, it doesn’t matter.”
According to Iaconelli, before this nugget of wisdom was passed on to him many years ago, he estimates he was losing 20% of the bites he got on soft plastics, regardless of bait style.
“When I started making this modification, it changed that ratio quickly,” he said. “Now I miss very few bites. By taking the point off of the eye, when you have that forward pull pressure, that hook goes in easier and you get a more positive hook set. You get more meat! That simple little modification has put so many more fish in the boat. It’s even won me tournaments.”
Iaconelli noted that he likes to offset his point by about 3 degrees, though there’s no exact science to it, nor does it have to be perfect. Even a slight offsetting will result in more positive connections. He did, however, mention that when bending a hook with pliers or hemostats, to never grab the tip. Doing so can compromise the point and sharpness of the hook. Instead, grab the hook below its point right where the shank starts to bend, and twist until you’ve achieved your desired degree of offset. It makes no difference if you twist to the left or right.
Treble hooks can also be offset, although it’s less beneficial since you already have three points. Some companies produce hardbaits with offset trebles on their lures right out of the factory.
In the fly game, I’ve been known to offset a streamer hook a time or two, particularly in the winter months when trout strikes tend to be softer and less aggressive than they are other times of the year. When targeting saltwater species that pull hard and run fast like mahi mahi, blackfin tuna, and false albacore, I offset most of my fly hooks considering it’s not uncommon for these fish to quickly change direction. It takes more effort to keep pressure on with a fly rod when a fast fish is suddenly running right at you, and with an offset hook, the odds of the hook falling out if the pressure comes off decreases significantly.