Stinger Hooks, the Good the Bad and the Ugly
By: Mark Romanack
The author has been jigging with stinger hooks for 40 something years. Experience has taught him, use the stinger hook and learn to live with the extra snags and hassles.
Should I be using a stinger hook? That’s a common question, especially in the winter time when fish can get pretty lethargic. I’ve had about 40 years of experience using stinger hooks to catch walleye, trout and a host of other species. In that time, the truth told I’ve probably cussed at stinger hooks as much as I have praised them.
The one thing you can not get around when using a stinger hook is that extra hook is pretty handy at catching just about everything in or around a fishing boat. I get frustrated at times because it seems like the because stinger hooks catch in the landing net, they catch on gloves, in the boat carpet and about a thousand other places.
Every once in awhile, a stinger hook actually catches a fish and that is why we use them. To be fair, some days if you’re not using a stinger hook, you’re going to have a bad day on the water. Other days, the stinger is helpful, but not necessarily a deal breaker. The attitude of the fish makes such a big difference from day to day and bite to bite, it’s pretty hard to predict if the stinger hook is going to help or not.
Because the activity level of fish is constantly changing, I’ve just come to the conclusion that for certain types of fishing a stinger hook is a necessary evil. If you use the stinger hook you are for sure going to have to deal with that extra hook catching on stuff you don’t want to catch. On the other hand, it might just catch you a few more fish and isn’t that what it’s all about?
STICK OR DANGLE?
Among those who use stinger hooks there is an ongoing debate about how best to use them. Some guys feel strongly that one barb of the stinger hook needs to be imbedded into the bait or soft plastics being used. Another whole school of thought is that a stinger hook is most productive when left dangling free.
If every fish bit like this lake trout, stinger hooks would not be necessary. Unfortunately, fish often bite, but not with authority leading to short strikes. A stinger hook does a good job of hooking those light biting fish plain and simple.
Here’s my two cents on the subject. Back in the day, there was a treble hook “stinger” that featured one of the hooks pointed backwards and two of the hooks pointed forward. This unique hook was one of the best stingers I have ever had the pleasure of using.
The hook that was pointed backwards was pierced into the minnow or plastic, positioning the other two hooks upright, pointed forward and ready for action. When a fish would bite, because the one hook was solidly imbedded in the bait, that hook was very resistant to tearing free. This in turn applied pressure to the hook points that were exposed when a fish grabbed the bait.
This small amount of pressure on the hook points did an excellent job of sticking and holding most of the fish that made the mistake of biting. I liked these stinger hooks so much, I ordered hundreds of them. Unfortunately, the company eventually went out of business and that unique treble hook soon went away. I’ve never seen anything else that worked quite as well as this unique two hook forward, one hook backwards stinger hook design.
After these hooks became unavailable, I tried for years to use ordinary treble hook stingers and to pierce one hook into the bait while fishing. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to keep that hook stuck in the minnow or plastic for any length of time, because pressure easily pulls the hook back out the same hole it was stuck into. Just the natural jigging action works the stinger hook free in a matter of a couple minutes.
So, I started just letting the stinger hook dangle and you guessed it, that option works as well. When the stinger hook is free dangling, the lightest part of the presentation becomes the stinger hook. Fish that try to inhale the bait, almost always get the stinger hook in their mouth and that’s what fishing a stinger hook is all about.
In my humble opinion, a stinger hook should be long enough that when it is imbedded into the bait or left dangling, the treble hook should be at or very near the tail end of the bait. If the stinger is too short, fish will be missed. If the stinger is too long, snags become a bigger problem.
This is the very reason a lot of anglers prefer to tie their own stinger hooks, so they can precisely match up the stinger to the jigs they are using.
ATTACHING THE STINGER TO THE JIG
There are a number of ways the stinger hook can be attached to the jig. Some are designed with small clips that attach to the line tie on the jig. Others are designed to fit over the hook point.
I like a stinger to fit over the hook point because this option works to keep the bait on the hook better. I use this option exclusively when fishing with live minnows.
A Michigan company known as Golden Gator Tackle, produces the EZ-Cinch Stinger that uses a small bead to create a loop that can easily be placed over the hook point, then cinched down tightly. The beauty of this system is the loop can be cinched up tight to hold the stinger in place on the hook, then by simply grabbing the bead and pulling, the loop opens and the stinger can be removed when it times to re-bait or add a different soft plastic.
The EZ-Cinch Stinger Hook shown here is easy to put on and take off when it’s time to bait or change plastics. This style of stinger does a good job of holding minnows on the hook as well.
This simple system works as well as anything on the market. Golden Gator makes these stingers in varying lengths and hook sizes suitable for a wide variety of jigging applications. If you’re that guy who doesn’t want to tie his own stinger hooks, the EZ-Cinch is the answer.
STORING STINGER HOOKS
Stinger hooks are one of those fishing tackle items that are tricky to store. I use a small clear plastic fly box that allows me to stick the treble hook into the soft foam lining. The box I use is two sided and I can store dozens of stinger hooks in one very small package.
I’ve seen guys also use foam blocks to store stinger hooks. This works well until you forget and leave the foam block on the deck while running to a new fishing spot. Just that quick your stinger hooks blow out of the boat and are lost.
Jake Romanack of Fishing 411 has grown into a world class jig fisherman. From humble beginnings as a kid who was frustrated with jig fishing, these days Jake is the guy in the boat to beat on any given trip.
LOVE THEM OR HATE THEM
Love them or hate them, stinger hooks are here to stay. Like I said, they are in my mind a necessary evil associated with cold water jigging and also deep water jigging applications. Those anglers who feel they do just as well without the stinger hook are welcome to that opinion. My 40 years of jigging experience suggests that if stubbornness prevents you from using stinger hooks, that same stubbornness is also costing you fish.