Jig hook evolution

A few years ago, I tied a fly for kob called the Lead Ass Mullet, and was based on a pattern that I saw in the Fly Fishing in Salt Waters Magazine. The pattern was tied by Dan Blanton, well known salt water fly-fishing and fly-tying personality from California,  and named the Darting Jig Hook Sea Habit. Blandon’s fly, in turn, was inspired by another striper pattern, Seller’s Striper Teaser.
Blandon explains; “The “Sellers’ Striper Teaser” (SST) was born out of a challenge given Dave Sellers by close friend and northeast coast striper addict, Mark Susino. Mark was fishing the Susquehanna River for smallies with Lefty Kreh, when they both agreed that if a fly could be tied to mock the action antics of the incredible Super Fluke, a gear lure, a major breakthrough in fly design would occur. Dave seized the challenge and within three months the SST fly was born. What made this incredible new fly dart side-to-side so erratically was that it was tied on a 60 degree bend jig hook and was rear-keel-weighted.  To my knowledge Dave Sellers was the first ever to come up with this method of weighting a fly for the specific purpose of making it “jack knife” during the retrieval pause, darting left or right, without a predictable pattern, just like an injured baitfish would.”

A juvenile kob taken on a 3/0 DMA.
A juvenile kob taken on a 3/0 DMA.

Instead of Blandon’s method of using lead wire wrapped around heavy mono to add rear-keel-weight, I tied in small lead bead (used for bass lure fishing), rolling bead style. Like many fly tying missions, I had to place a bulk order for 60degree jig hooks in order to try and test the pattern properly. The pattern unfortunately did not prove as successful than my other kob patterns, and soon I stopped tying and using the Lead Ass Mullet. I did have several packs of Targus 60degree jig hooks in 2/0 and 3/0 and ended up giving them away to some friends to experiment with.
For a few seasons I stopped tying on jig hooks until Jimmy Eagleton came along and tied a fly on a jig hook that was inspired by the article he read about my Lead Ass Mullet in TCFF Magazine (Three flies for kob). Jimmy didn’t have any jig hooks, and made his own by bending a long shank hook to create the 60-degree bend. He tied a pattern to be fished deep over a rocky substrate in the surf in order to create the same effect the artificial lure guys were doing fishing for kob with drop shot on the West Coast. Instead of a rear keel weight, Jimmy tied heavy dumbbell eyes at the front of the hook where the upward bend occurs. He aptly named it the DMA, which is an acronym for Dropshot My Ass. The pattern proved deadly on kob in the surf. Soon Jimmy made Fly Rod history by pinning a Cape Salmon on this pattern while he was targeting kob in the surf. Leonard Flemming also told me about this pattern’s effectiveness after he fished with Jimmy and all this hype around the DMA had me looking at jig hooks with renewed interest. I replaced Jimmy’s dumbbell eyes with Sculpin helmets and was blown away by how effective this pattern turned out to be.

A winter kob that couldn't resist a DMA fished deep and slow over rocky ledges
A winter kob that couldn’t resist a DMA fished deep and slow over rocky ledges

It worked really well when fishing over a rocky substrate in the surf, as the jig hook rides point up and the flat Sculpin helmet bounces over the bottom really effortlessly, minimizing getting snagged to the bottom. Another area where I use this fly exclusively is when fishing of rocky ledges in estuaries. Since this development I have tied the DMA in various styles and sizes to meet my needs. My go-to kob DMA is tied with bucktail and lots of matching flash on the tail, and finished with a collar of SF Blend or Sculpting Fiber.
Jig hook styles
Over the last ten years or so, jig hooks have become more and more popular among the US saltwater scene — specifically, jig hooks with 60-degree bends, with many fly fishermen believing that patterns tied on a 60-degree jig hook are superior.
Dan Blanton, a big jig hook enthusiast, says that he likes using jig hooks for several reasons. “You never gill-hook a fish as you could with a ‘J’ hook, which makes it ideal for catch-and-release fishing. Eighty percent or more of fish caught on a jig hook are hooked in the top or corner of the mouth. Also, a 60-degree jig hook will get you a much better hook set due to the lever action of the bend. As you continue to pressure a hooked fish, the angle created by the shape and the pulling of the jig hook continues to stick it farther into the fish’s mouth. In short, I lose less fish on jig hooks, which is important when you fish barbless.”
Today there are a wide assortment of 60 degree jig hooks on the market by a variety of manufacturers like Mustad, Targus, Eagle Claw, Owner, Gamagatsu and many more. I have checked most of these out and the following are my go-to jig hooks.

Owner 5304 jig hook
Owner 5304 jig hook

I have recently found some Owner 5304 Jig Hook. It’s an ideal hook for smaller patterns and I use the 2/0 for tying smaller DMA’s for inshore surf and estuary fishing. It has a sickle style hook bend, light wire with a very strong shank, and black finish.

Gamagatsu 60 degree EWG jig hook 3/0
Gamagatsu 60 degree EWG jig hook 3/0

My current hook of choice is definitely the Gamagatsu 60 degree Extra Wide Gap (EWG) jig hook. It’s not a fly hook per se, and was designed with an extra wide gap for the larger bodied plastics and skirts. The extra wide gap gives you more surface area for better hook ups. It’s a forged hook and is very strong despite the thin wire. I use it in 3/0.

Gamagatsu 60 degree EWG HEAVY WIRE jig hook 4/0
Gamagatsu 60 degree EWG HEAVY WIRE jig hook 4/0

On my trip to Gabon early 2016, John Travis introduced me to the Gamagatsu 60 degree Extra Wide Gap (EWG) Heavy Wire jig hook in 4/0 size. This is a remarkably strong and sharp hook and is the business if you know you are about to have a tussle with a big fish. We landed some decent cubera snapper on DMA’s tied big, yet sparse. They are not easy to come by, but if you can get your paws on some of these, buy it regardless price. They are worth it.

Gamagatsu EWG jig hook doing it's thing in Gabon
Gamagatsu EWG jig hook doing it’s thing in Gabon

If you are a die-hard salty dog and haven’t given jig hooks a go, I recommend you give it a try.

3 thoughts on “Jig hook evolution”

  1. stephen says:

    Getting jiggy with it….

  2. Bryce says:

    Thanks for sharing Conrad… very interesting how hook choice makes such a difference.

  3. Petrus Gous says:

    HI Conrad

    I will be going to Gabon during mid to late February. Can I order some of your DMA flies from you tied on the 4/o Gamagatsu EWG hooks? I would also like to chat to you re the Gabon trip about what equipment I should take along?

    My phone number is 0824165477

    Looking forward to hearing from you in this regards
    Best wishes and tight lines
    Petrus Gous

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