Gamakatsu Fish Hooks
Fishing hooks have been around for centuries helping put a bit of meat on the table, especially if a man was having an off day with broken bowstrings or blunt spear tips! Those days of hand-carved bone or wood are behind us now as we look up and admire the advances in design, quality and technology in today’s products.
During my earlier days of tackle buying, the latest toys from the major manufacturers were always first on my drool list. I quickly realized that such important necessities of life were generally unaffordable and, as salivating was free, I would continue dreaming but down-spend to just the basics.
Most anglers happily spend vast amounts on rod, reel, lures and other accessories, but overlook the importance of the humble fishhook. It is, after all, this little item that connects the angler to the fish. But yet it is often underrated. It is a case of misunderstood values to spend an unbalanced amount on a tackle combination without a similar treatment to the most vital component: the hook.
But now there is a highly effective and worthy hook range to compliment any tackle combination and “… a fine rod and reel is an investment in fishing pleasure, but premium hooks are an investment in fishing success!”
However, getting people to change their buying habits is one of the most difficult things imaginable. I know of anglers who have shunned the spending of twice the amount on a pack of hooks when cheaper brands had served them well in the past!
Nowadays with the mass depletion of fish stocks, anglers need every advantage possible to satisfy their sporting demands, whether it be a full sack or a great day ‘s catch with a few kept for the table.
My early days in Taupo, as a junior trout fisherman and fly tier, taught me that improved hookups resulted from a little extra effort in honing that hook until it was “sticky sharp.”
Taking this theme of “sharp is the best,” I had been using Gamakatsu hooks for some time before their introduction into New Zealand, and it didn’t take long before friend hooked on to my Gamakatsu’s, especially free ones! As my stocks became depleted, I commenced a search for the World’s Best hook manufacturer, the Gamakatsu Company. Since that time I have been appointed by Gamakatsu to be their New Zealand agent and have now been importing the range for 14 years now.
All anglers can test their current stocks of hooks by lightly digging the points into the thumbnail. If it stands upright unsupported, then you have an acceptably sharp hook.
This simple thumbnail scratch test will convince anglers that other hooks cannot begin to compare with the advanced technology of the genuine Gamakatsu product.
Knowledgeable anglers agree the immediate penetration of a truly sharp hook is a vitally important feature, and Gamakatsu hooks ”sticky sharpness” turns brief nibbles into a full bag.
On the North Island saltwater scene, the benefits have been enormous with many anglers extolling the virtues of the “Gammies.”
Many anglers have quoted improved hookup rates of 3 to 4 times, and stories of female anglers out fishing a boatload of males, or almost unbelievable reports of monster fish on small hooks.
So immense has been the impact of Gamakatsu hooks that the market has responded with the introduction of numerous other brands of hooks, all boasting their own sharp hook technology.
At this stage, you may well ask what is so special about a chemically sharpened hook, in particular, a Gamakatsu.
Basically, a chemical sharpening is the final process in hook making. The hook is still sharpened with traditional methods, but the rough microscopic imperfections of the hook point are chemically etched leaving a perfectly polished and “sticky sharp” point.
The final chemical process does not ruin the exact temper of the steel in the way that
mechanical honing does. These days, the use of high carbon steel is mandatory of a quality product. But Gamakatsu, through their “Hypertechnology,” goes several steps further by using a special tempering process and a secret blend of high carbon steel and some unique alloys to produce a hook that is, the strongest in its wire gauge class. This enables the use of fine wire gauge hooks which are perfect for rigging soft bait like bonito and pilchards, and are easily concealed in baits.
The exacting strength and temper of Gamakatsu hooks result in the hook maintaining a strong sharp point for a lot longer – no need to re-sharpen at day’s end.
Gamakatsu hooks remain rust-free compared with other brands which means that your hook will not deteriorate much during a long day’s fishing. Fish that escape still wearing a Gamakatsu hook will be able to shed it.
Gamakatsu is Japan’s most elite hook manufacturer, having made hooks for 34 years. Gamakatsu pioneered the chemical sharpening process 29 years ago. Since then most of Japan’s major hook manufacturing companies are using this same sharpening process. Although this technology is kept secret and secure, like your first “birds nest” of the day, or your first salmon, rival companies are trying to match the reputation forged by Gamakatsu with its chemical sharpening process.
It is commonly considered that the Japanese are the world leaders in fishing technology, while the Americans lead the world in sportfishing techniques. All of the Gamakatsu range seen in New Zealand has been developed in the USA.
All of the live bait range are designs evolved from the West Coast fishery, notably in California, home of standup fishing. It is in these waters that anglers in “cattle boats” developed a method of standup fishing for large game fish aboard crowded fishing vessels.
Along with standup game fishing was born the technique of fishing live bait, and these techniques have found favour in New Zealand with live baiting, in particular proving to be one of the most successful techniques in dealing with tuna, kingfish and marlin.
The most popular hook style in the Gamakatsu range is the Octopus hook. This is the classic suicide or beak hook and is available in either red or black finish.
Why Gamakatsu hooks are these colours?
One of the best techniques for snapper fishing is stray-lining. This is basically allowing an unweighted, or slightly weighted, bait to drift tantalizingly in a berley trail. Much of this style of fishing is done in shallow water where the bait is fished close to the surface.
At this shallow depth, snapper can be put down by shiny chromed hooks that reflect sunlight hence they are definitely not on the menu. The introduction of black and red colours is important because neither colour will reflect light, and the red colour serves as an attractant near the surface. You may have experienced this phenomenon as I have, casting chromed ticers for kahawai. I found an improved strike rate in these lures that carried a red plastic tag. So concluded that red was a colour that attracted fish – kahawai at least.
In talking to successful snapper fishermen, they would say that the red colour on the bait suggests the red gills of a baitfish in a distressed condition making it the ideal defenceless prey. Thus it would follow that a red hook would add to the attraction of a well-presented bait. It will also look natural when baited with a piece of bloody bonito, a popular snapper bait
There is a further important thing to know about colours. When viewed underwater all colours change due to the water filtering out light. Red is the first colour to change underwater at about ten metres depending on water clarity it ‘disappears” into a grey which is almost invisible underwater. Thus red hooks will seem to disappear underwater, the perfect hook! Use the Octopus hook for all general fishing for species such as cod, skate and snapper.
One of the most exciting hooks from Gamakatsu would have to be their range of trebles. These are available from size 4 to 3/0 and as you would expect are dangerously sharp, so exercise caution when changing the trebles on your salmon ticers and kahawai lures.
I once tested the trebles off the mouth of Canterbury’s Rakaia River, casting for hours and dredging the hooks trough the surf and shingle. I had to be impressed because, after five hours of this severe treatment, the trebles were almost as sharp as new. They were certainly much sharper than a new standard treble.
The Gamakatsu treble is well designed featuring a short shank with a classic O’Shaughnessy style bend. It is super strong with nickel plating and features Gamakatsu’s rust-free quality, which was born out several days after fishing with no signs of corrosion on the hooks. This treble must be the obvious upgrade for ticers. Imagine the salmon out past 100 metres when casting over the surf. It takes an experienced angler with the most sensitive tackle to feel those light tentative takes when the salmon are at their most wary. At this distance, positive hook setting with standard treble hooks is like winning Lotto, sometimes luck; other times not. The use of an ultra-sharp Gamakatsu treble would make a significant improvement both in long-range and short-range casting.
These trebles are also equally suited to all jigging, trolling and casting lures. Sure such technology and performance don’t come cheaply. Although a packet of trebles is still cheaper than a kilo of salmon! With the prices of snapper and salmon being so high, who can’t afford to have a pack of Gamakatsu trebles in their tackle box.
For the angler in a hurry, a great low-cost option is to pick up a few packs of Gamakatsu Flasher rigs before your next boat fishing trip These rigs are already tied to our exacting standards and feature well tried and tested designs. The range includes the very popular Gamakatsu Blue Cod Flash, Snappa Flash, Puka Flash (groper) and Tarakihi Flash. These things are a great idea. Carry the packs in your tackle box and you can tie, or clip one, to you reel line in just a few seconds, ready to start fishing.
Gamakatsu Flasher rigs work straight out of the pack, or you can “sweeten” them with the addition of small strips of cut bait. These flasher rigs can also be used for rock fishing and surfcasting.
There we have it. These are the important things to remember about fish hooks:
We now know that sharp hooks are vital. But some brands are sharper than others and hence are more desirable.
Some hooks stick out like a sore thumb when baited. Look out for hooks that are easily concealed in your baits and are appropriately coloured.
The best type of hook is one that is not only strong but is also a fine gauge wire so as not to be obvious in the bait. As well fine wire hooks don’t tear soft baits as heavier hooks do
Advanced hooks are more expensive so look for a hook that is durable and doesn’t rust so freely.