In a tournament in which landing huge smallmouth bass was harder than finding and catching them, Rapala® Pros Brandon Palaniuk and Seth Feider enjoyed an advantage over the competition by arming their drop-shot rigs with VMC® Neko Hooks. That edge helped them place 7th and 10th, respectively, competing against 107 of the world’s best bass fishermen on the crystal-clear waters of the St. Lawrence river in New York.
“With a lot of finesse-style hooks, you end up skin-hooking the fish on the roof of the mouth,” Feider explains. “The Neko Hook, it doesn’t skin-hook ‘em – it punches solid meat every time. It’s a big confidence-booster for me when every fish you set into is pinned perfect.” The Key for Feider is using Sufix® 832 hi vis 10lb braid, combined with a 6 or 8lb Sufix® 100% Fluorocarbon Invisiline™ Leader.
Before the tournament, which was dominated by drop-shotting, Bassmaster had reported that landing – not just hooking – the St. Lawrence’s hard-fighting, 5- and 6-pound smallies would be key. And indeed, Bassmaster Live viewers witnessed in real-time the heartbreak of several leading anglers whose hooks lost hold of huge bass boatside, depriving them of game-changing weight. “That was a $100,000 fish,” one leading angler said after losing one, Bassmaster reported.
But Feider and Palaniuk entered the competition confident their Neko Hooks would prevent such catastrophes. VMC is one of several Rapala Respected Brands and several Rapala pros have relied on Neko Hooks to win and place high in previous top tournaments, including Feider’s 1st-place finish on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake in the final Bassmaster Elite tournament of 2016.
“I had such a good landing percentage on the Neko Hook wacky rigging, I started using it as my drop-shot hook for smallies,” Feider said following his win on Lake Mille Lacs, another fishery famous for football-shaped 5- and 6-pound smallies. Since Feider’s win with a Neko Hook, Palaniuk won a 2017 Bassmater Elite tournament on Sam Rayburn in Texas.
Rapala Pro Ott DeFoe has also enjoyed success arming his drop-shot and wacky worms with a Neko Hook, which he called “one of the most amazing pieces of tackle” he’s ever tied on. “Since getting them,” he wrote in a blog post last year, “I’ve caught literally hundreds of fish and I can only think of two that I’ve lost.”
Both Neko Hooks and Weedless Neko Hooks feature a black-nickel finish, wide gap, 3-degree offset point, resin-closed eye and a forged, long shank. They’re available in four sizes: 2, 1, 1/0 and 2/0.
’Great Big’ Spinbait Smallies
Although drop-shotting deep dominated the tournament, Feider “called an audible” occasionally and threw a Storm® Arashi® Spinbait in shallower water. That tactic put “two great big ones,” in the boat, he said.
In the St. Lawrence’s crystal-clear water – an environment in which bass can see your bait coming from far away – the Spinbait’s subtle action can be the difference between getting bites and coming up empty. Similar in looks to a top-water prop bait – but not designed to be fished on the surface – the Spinbait boasts a unique 3-2 prop design (three blades up front, two in back) that imparts a vibration that anglers easily feel, ensuring an optimal slow retrieve speed that will maximize the lure’s action and stay in the strike zone. In addition to imparting vibration and subtle flash, counter-rotating props ensure the bait swims a straight path back to the boat.
Rotated hook hangers, a feature of all baits in the Arashi line-up, ensure that the Spinbait’s two sticky-sharp No. 6 Premium VMC black-nickel treble hooks will grab fish and not let go. Spinbaits measure 3 1/8 inches, weigh 1/3 ounces and come in 10 fish-attracting color patterns: Hot Blue Shad, Bluegill, Blue Back Herring, Wakasagi, Ghost Hitch, Ghost Pearl Shad, Green Gill, Pro Blue, Black Silver Shad and Green Gold Shad.
Arashi (Ah-Rah-Shee) means “Storm” in Japanese. Storm is one of many respected names in the Rapala family of brands.