Stan Fagerstrom

Stan Fagerstrom is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. Stan welcomes your e-mail comments at

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May 04, 2015

Let's Look at Hooks - Part 1

by Stan Fagerstrom

I never really got to know my dad until he finally retired from his labors and was able to join me on some of my fishing adventures.

I cherish the time we spent together. It gave me opportunity to realize just what a great guy he was and how much I loved him. I also remember something he told me that I've been using as a yardstick of sorts in my own life ever since.

"Son," my dad said one day while were fishing, "always remember there ain't nuthin' worth all that much unless you can share it with someone you love."

I found that bit of proof surfacing when I was asked to do a column about some of the changes I've seen in fishing tackle in the many, many years I've been up to ears in the sport, both as an angler and in writing about it.

I had a whopper like this straighten out a 4/0 hook for me once. That hasn't happened since Gamakatsu Hooks became available.

I've done a whole lot of fishing alone. Living right on a darn good lake as I did for years with my boat anchored about 60-feet from our front door made that easy. All I had to do was just to grab my gear and go. There was waiting no waiting for anyone, no debate over where on the lake to fish, when to go, when to stop, etc., etc.

No doubt about it though, when I nailed a good one I missed not having someone to share my excitement. I also wasn't able to get a picture or two once I got the hooks out of a big one before I turned it loose.

The names of a couple of the best fishing friends I've ever had surfaced immediately when I got a request asking me to do a column about the tackle changes I've seen. Most of my angling experience when I met one of those friends for the first time had been in the field of bass and panfish angling.

I'm convinced the biggest change I've witnessed where fish hooks are concerned was when a friend started importing Japanese made Gamakatsu Hooks back in 1983.

I lived in Washington State at the time. I'd done a bit of steelhead and salmon fishing but mainly just enough to realize how much more I had to learn. The guy who changed that for me was named James Ewing. He lived in the community of Longview in the southwest part of the Evergreen State. For that matter he still does.

Hooks were the tackle item subject I decided to first write about in detailing some of the tackle changes I'd seen. To me that made nothing but good sense. Nothing is more basic or more important when it comes to putting fish in the boat than the hook you have at the end of the line.

My first experience in that regards came a long, long time. Believe it or not, it's not all that now from being a hundred years ago. The first fish I ever caught was a little bullhead catfish that grabbed the grasshopper I was using for bait. The fish came from a lazy little creek not far from the small North Dakota wheat farm where my folks were trying to eke out a living way back in the last century.

The grasshopper that little bullhead grabbed was impaled on a bent safety pin my father had fashioned into a hook. My folks couldn't afford anything else. If that doesn't convince you I have indeed seen my share of hook changes in the countless decades that have come and gone since that North Dakota Experience I don't know what would.

Gamakatsu Hooks helped cement the companionship I was to enjoy with Jim Ewing, of Longview, Washington. We both did some testing of the new Gamakatsu Hooks before they eventually were brought to market.

Actually, the biggest single change I've ever seen in the production of hooks wasn't as far back as you might expect. As far as I'm concerned it came about when some brand new hooks were brought into the United States for the first time.

There had been other changes since I'd used that safety pin hook, of course, but 1983 was when hooks bearing the name "Gamakatsu" first came onto the angling scene here in the United States. As far as I'm concerned that was the most significant and meaningful hook change I ever saw happen.

I'd actually had a chance to do some test fishing with early samples of these new hooks before they were ever brought to market. They were the sharpest darn things I'd ever tied to a leader but some of the early samples I'd tested had a tendency to bend too easily.

I suppose an experience I'd had not too long before testing those samples hooks influenced my thinking a bit. I'd wound up losing one of the biggest bass I'd ever hooked on my home lake. I'd been fishing heavy pad cover with a pork chunk on a 4/0 hook when that big bass smashed it.

I hooked that fish solidly, but then it took off and went ripping away through the pads. I did my best to slow it down. That whopper kept right on going and bent that 4/0 hook almost straight out in the process.

The man who was considering importing these new hooks for the American market was a friend of mine. That hook I'd had that big bass straighten wasn't one of the samples I'd been testing. I had, however, found that a couple of ones I was testing did bend just a tad when I'd hung a snag. I told my friend about my experience.

I've taken thousands of bass and panfish with my Gamakatsu Hooks. Once I got together with Jim Ewing I also started using them to put my share of
steelhead and salmon on the bank or in a boat. Here I slide a nice one up on the shore of Southwest Washington's Toutle River.

I shared my sentiments with him. He was a tad unhappy to hear what I said but he obviously passed my single criticism along because when I got the second batch to try that bending had been totally eliminated. I wound up convinced these new hooks were a whole lot better than anything I'd ever used---bar none.

Remember now, I was using those new sample hooks I was testing mainly for bass and panfish. And this is where my friend Jim Ewing enters the picture.

I was just itchin' to let the readers of my fishing columns know what I thought of those new hooks. At the time Jim was guiding for both steelhead and salmon in the rivers of Southwest Washington.

I'd heard Jim had also been testing the new hooks. As soon as I had a chance I asked him to provide the details of his own experience. I was well aware that few fish put more of a test on hooks that those sleek silvery battlers just in from the Pacific.
Watch for my next column. I'll share what my pal Jim had to say and why we've both been using these Gamakatsu hooks ever since.

-To Be Continued-

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