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Marlin lure hooks

CATCHING billfish on lures can often be extremely frustrating and sometimes the hook-up and fight might only last for seconds or just a few minutes. Marlin have a tough boney bill and upper and bottom jaw and the point of the hook can sometimes grab momentarily, then after a few jumps or head shakes it gets dislodged and falls out.

The ideal place to hook any marlin in a secure location is in the corner of the jaw or in the roof of the mouth. Marlin are a very tricky species to stay connected to that’s for sure, but the following hooks and techniques will help you achieve the best possible chance to tag and release your first or best ever marlin.

ABOVE: Even the best of hooks can break if the hard, boney jaw of a marlin crunches
down on the hook at the wrong angle.

The Hooks

These days there are so many lure trolling hooks on the market and anglers get confused as to what ones are really the best. Back a couple of decades ago we didn’t have too many suitable trolling hooks to choose from and the good old, straight pattern, 7731D Mustad Sea Demons were readily available and very popular, either rigged in a single or double hook configuration.
Then along came the Owner brand, Jobu Trolling Hooks featuring a scalloped cutting point and a slightly smaller barb, which certainly helped in the hook-up department. These strong forged, black nickel steel hooks needed a little anode fitted to the shaft to stop them from corrosion. These Jobu’s worked very well and certainly became the popular trolling hook of choice for quite a
few years with anglers chasing billfish.

ABOVE: The Owner brand, Jobu Trolling hooks became very popular.

Jobu’s were also the hooks I found worked far better using a slightly smaller size and instead of using the larger 11/0’s and 12/0’s in either double or single hook rigs, I found the 9/0’s and 10/0’s gave a much better hook-up performance even in the larger lures. I know my connections increased, even with the frustrating striped marlin.

The next exciting step a few years later for me was changing over to the Captain Peter Bristow trolling hooks, that only came in a 10/0 size at the time. They were already fitted with a little corrosion resisting anode and when I first brought some of these hooks home from Madeira in Portugal where Bristow fishes for giant blue marlin, I couldn’t believe how good they were.
My hook-up ratio soared and the other great feature I found with these hooks, once they were set in any size marlin’s mouth, they rarely came out. Over a few seasons rigging just a single Bristow hook in both large and medium size lures I had an 85 percent average from marlin strikes resulting in solid hook-ups.

ABOVE: The Peter Bristow Trolling Hook showing the excellent, fine sharp point and
pre-fitted anode.

Single and double hook rigs for different species

These days many anglers have switched over to just the single hook rig for black and blue marlin. About the only time a double hook rig is necessary is when targeting yellowfin tuna or wahoo and the finicky striped marlin, which can be difficult to hook on a lure at the best of times. The reason for this is the way the stripey wants to play and bill swipe at the lures. The length of their long slender bill and narrow jaw line often fails to connect with hooks consistently!
For the larger blue and black marlin, the single hook rig has certainly proven to be far, far more effective. After a lot of trial and error with the single hook came the theory whether it should be left swinging or fixed solid? A huge majority of billfish anglers world-wide I’ve spoken to have settled on setting the hook firmly fixed.

ABOVE: A close-up of the Jobu Trolling hook showing the different point.

The other important technique is having the point of the hook set right back at the end of the lure’s skirt, which is in a legal IGFA position. When setting the hook firmly I also like to have the point riding upwards to the way the lure runs through the sea.

There’s a couple of neat ways to set this position and one is by pushing a couple of wooden tooth pics between the back of the lure head and the mono trace. Another trick is gluing a little rubber door stopper on the back of the lure head to pull the top crimp of the hook rig firmly into. A few lures on the market now actually have this little rubber stopper fixed permanently to the back of
the head.

To position the hook correctly in a tapered face head you need to look at the head as the longer part of the head will be the top. In other words, the angle of the taper cutting back will steer the lure to run that way. With a scooped faced head or flat faced heads, they can be weighted (like in the photo) so the hook can be set correctly riding upwards.

ABOVE: The Sta-Stuk system showing the S/S rings, S/S clips and the Fudo trolling hook.


The new Sta-Stuk Hook system

As we all know, fishing hooks have been around for thousands of years and over this time the materiel’s used from bone and shell to finally metal has changed dramatically. All the various modern hooks designed for lure trolling have also changed in recent years and as previously described, some of the newer styles of trolling hooks have given anglers, including yours truly, a far better result in the hook-up department on billfish.

One of the biggest problems with any J-hooks though, is when they do set or stick in a marlin’s mouth, it’s a question as to whether it will stay in there firmly for the duration of the fight. The longer any fight goes there’s always the chance the line pressure on the hook will help work it loose and it could eventually fall out.

One particular billfish species this seems to happen to quite often is the blue marlin and many an angler has felt the disappointment of fighting a good size blue for a long period of time, only to have the hook fall out in the final stages of the battle. One of the most devastating loses I ever experienced was off the Island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean when we hooked up a massive blue marlin that was in excess of 550 kilos.

ABOVE: The Sta-Stuk System in bits and connected ready to go.

The angler did a really great job during the fight and survived a near spool job even though he was using heavy 60kg chair tackle. The fight lasted for just over an hour and when the first part of the top-shot (the monofilament line over the reels Dacron backing) was finally on the 130 Penn’s spool, we knew the big marlin was only about 100 metres away.

I was in the cockpit with the big Canon camera anticipating some awesome close-up action shots, when suddenly the rod tip bounced a couple of times from the marlin shaking its head and this action unfortunately dislodged the hook. As you could imagine the bitter disappointment for all onboard when that happened! Some underwater footage I saw once actually captured the
actions of a large blue marlin close to the boat shaking its head with the mouth wide open. This is certainly one of the tricks blues have to get rid of the hook.

ABOVE: Some anglers have modified circle hooks with success for their lures.

One of the things that can work a J-hook loose is the leverage effect from the line pressure on the hooks shaft during the fight. To try and eliminate this from happening an American angler by the name of Sam Peters, who owns and operates Release Marine, has designed an amazing system to try and overcome this often-disappointing problem of losing a nice big marlin during
any stage of the fight!

The Patented Sta-Stuk system is very unique and the early prototypes saw a number of major changes made. At first, they tried using a strong swivel for the connection between the two shaft ends, but found it too stiff. Then they settled on three strong welded S/S rings which were far more flexible. After measuring and trialing several different brands of trolling hooks, Peters finally settled on the new Fudo hooks, which have a slightly shorter shaft length than many of the other new hooks on the market.

As you can see here in the photos, the design and breakaway stainless-steel clips allows the hooks two-piece shaft to stay together straight and tight. This is very important to help drive the point of the hook home. After the marlin’s initial strike and hook up the drag pressure on the line will pop the clips off allowing the main end of the shaft to become much shorter.

ABOVE: Straight face or scooped face lure heads can be weighted like this so the hook can be set opposite the weights with the point sitting up.

This clip release also has a trap-door like effect on the hook’s point giving it a better chance to bite in harder and set into the marlins mouth or the corner of the jaw as well. So far, all the tests they have done in various marlin hot-spots like Costa Rica and the Cape Verde Islands have shown real promise. The hook- up ratio and staying connected, particularly with blue marlin for the duration of the fight, is a bit over 90% of their strikes. That’s pretty incredible!

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