M. D. Johnson
Many of Life’s mysteries are best explained using the familiar what-why-where approach, and the subject of stinger hooks is certainly no different. We’ll throw in a little bit of how, just to round things out.
What – Stinger hooks are secondary hooks, either single or treble, attached to a live-bait rig by means of a short, strong section of monofilament or braided line. Stinger hooks can also be used in conjunction with artificial lures such as crankbaits, jigging spoons, or plastics. Nine times out of 10, stinger hooks are used with leadhead jigs. As for size, stinger hooks are generally smaller than the primary hook, often by as much as one-third to one-half. The reason behind this is twofold—first, short-striking fish are frequently hesitant in their approach to a bait, perhaps due to an abundance of natural forage. These fish are reacting on instinct rather than pure hunger. The result is a nibble instead of a full-fledged, rod-bending hit. A smaller stinger doesn’t play to this hesitancy, rather, it doesn’t give a reason for the fish to be cautious in their approach. Secondly, a small stinger has little or no effect on the natural action of a live bait. A minnow still swims like a minnow, a leech like a leech, and a ‘crawler like a ‘crawler. Common stinger hook sizes will range from No. 10 through No. 4.
Why – After spending $1.50 to $2.50 per dozen for nice, plump nightcrawlers, nobody wants to simply feed them to the fish. And in essence, that’s what you’re doing when faced with short-striking species such as walleyes or any fish that are approaching a live bait, be it ‘crawler, shiner, chub, leech, and just nipping the very end of the bait away from the rigging. Sure, you feel the strike, but there’s no hook where the fish are hitting. Enter – the stinger hook. These additional hooks take up the slack between the point of a leadhead jig’s hook and the tailend of a ‘crawler.
Where – Stinger hooks can be used anywhere short-striking fish are to be found, but is there such a thing as a best scenario?
“Any time fish, especially walleye, are lethargic and just barely nipping at the tailend of that ‘crawler is the perfect time to employ a stinger hook,” said Ed Iman , a well-known and respected fishing guide on the Columbia River. Iman at one time held the Oregon state record in the walleye category with a tremendous fish that nudged the 19-pound mark. Today, Iman’s experience on the Big River includes more than 45 on-the-water years; in short, the man knows walleyes and stinger hooks.
How – Stinger hooks come in two varieties—commercial, and self-tied. Many reputable hook companies such as Eagle Claw, Gamakatsu, Mustad, and Owner offer high-quality, ready-to-fish stinger hooks. “Hooks, and I mean quality hooks, are the number one concern with stingers,” said Iman. “These fish are already tentative, so you really need a point that will reach out and grab them.” Do-it-yourselfers can easily make their own stinger rigs using either heavy 20-pound monofilament or one of the new high-tech braided lines.
“I tie my stingers longer than most folks,” said Iman. “I’ll typically put my stinger—a No. 2 Daiichi treble—from three to four inches behind the jig. And I’ll make sure the ‘crawler is hanging straight when I hook him up. You want a natural swimming action as you work that bait along the bottom; something that looks like a ‘crawler or leech or small eel.”
Iman’s Columbia River Sportfishing can be reached at 541-298-3753, or by visiting his website at www.edimanguideservice.com.