Have you ever heard of anyone using circle
hooks to catch River Smallmouth's?
If not, you're missing the boat.
A couple of years ago, I was
fishing with my 11 year old daughter out of Whites Ferry on the Upper Potomac in June.
The action was good, almost too
good as we were casting
4" Case Magic Stick's with a 2/0
Offset Shank Worm Hook
rigged with no weight. The Smallmouth's were in such a feeding
frenzy they were literally inhaling and swallowing the magic
sticks before we could set the hook.
This resulted in hooks penetrating
the Smallmouth too deep and made it difficult to recover the
hooks without doing harm to the fish.
I happen to have some #2 circle
hooks in my tackle bag that I traditionally use for minnow
fishing and decided to give it a try with the Case Magic Stiks.
I rigged the Magic Stiks by simply
inserting the circle hook through the nose of the bait and
casting it out with no weight.
On my daughter's first cast a
Smallmouth grabbed her offering and started to swim away from
I instructed her
to hold her rod at a 90 degree
angle to the fish and start reeling keeping steady pressure on
Her rod tip bent and the fight was
The feisty 15" Smallmouth made
three acrobatic jumps out of the water before finally
surrendering and getting scooped by the net.
The hook was firmly lodged in the
corner of its mouth.
Throughout the day the results were
Ninety five percent of the time we
hooked the fish right in the corner of the mouth, the other five
percent, the fish got away unharmed.
I have since experimented
Smallmouth fishing with circle hooks and will share the baits I
use; as well as, where and when to use them.
I have found that circle hooks are a great
option when fishing soft plastics in open water or light cover
situations especially when fishing with kids or inexperienced
anglers because they don't have to set the hook or maintain
constant contact with the lure in order to detect a bite.
If a fish takes the bait, you
simply watch your line, wait for the fish to swim away from you,
hold the rod at a ninety degree angle from the fish and start
The hook does the rest of the work,
usually penetrating the fish in the corner of the mouth.
I have also been successful using
circle hooks with split shot rigs.
A couple of things to keep in mind
when using circle hooks.
You don't need an extra heavy rod
when fishing with them as you're not executing a violent hook
set as you would with a
rigged worm or fishing a jig.
Medium action 6' Gator Rod
with 8lb test Suffix Siege in Camo is a perfect setup.
I usually use a 1/0 - # 4 Gamakatsu Octopus Circle
The soft plastics I like to use are,
Case Magic Stiks, Case Jack's Worms, Case Ring Worms,
5" Mizmo Doodle Worms , and 4"
For these baits, I usually nose
hook the bait and do not use any weight.
The less action you give these
baits the better and usually have the person fishing from the
back of the boat throw this set up.
Simply cast the bait perpendicular
to the boat and let the current carry it down river.
Here's the important part...DON'T
Let the bait stay in the middle of
the water column and wait for the Smallmouth to come up from
behind and eat it.
If I'm not getting bights with the
nose hook rig, I will sometimes try wacky rigging the worms
which provides a little different action.
I have found that the wacky rig
works best in slow slack water or behind current obstructions
and is not as effective in current.
Let the fish tell you what they
want and experiment with different colors.
For drop shot rigs, I prefer using a
smaller hook and smaller baits.
I typically use a 3/16 or 1/4 oz
weight depending on the river flow, a # 4 or # 2 hook and small
plastic baits ranging in length from 2-1/2 to 3-3/4 inches.
I have found the Scorpion worms
from Mizmo work great for drop shot rigs as it imitates minnows
or small forage often sought after by hungry Smallmouth's.
I will utilize the drop shot rig
along weed edges or ridges that run parallel with slow current
as I can bounce the weight on the bottom and keep it in the
strike zone hoping to catch the attention of any opportunistic
Smallmouth just inside the weeds or
under the ledges.
Circle hooks have a distinct advantage to
the conservation minded angler.
Smallmouth that fall for a bait
rigged with a circle hook are far less likely to get hooked
to release them with minimal damage
This also makes it a no brainer for
those fishing with kids or very inexperienced anglers.
The bottom line is that adding
circle hooks to your arsenal will catch River Smallmouth Bass
and help sustain the populations of this exciting freshwater
species we all love to pursue.