In a Bassmaster tournament in which fish were hard to find, they were even harder to keep hooked. Angler after angler told tales of woe on the weigh-in stage of feisty, hard-fighting Lake Oahe smallmouth coming unbuttoned before coming in the boat. But Jacob Wheeler had no such hard-luck stories. He was drop-shotting with a new VMC® Neko™ Hook prototype.
“I lost one bass all week, and I caught a hundred-plus smallmouth,” says Wheeler, who finished 7th in the Bassmaster Elite tournament in South Dakota, ahead of 101 of the best bass fishermen in the world, many of whom didn’t catch a 5-bass limit on one or more days. “A lot of people lost quite a few fish this week. You know how smallmouth are – they were jumping, they were running, they were going crazy. But with these new Neko Hooks, I didn’t have to worry about those fish going crazy and jumping off.”
Neko Hooks feature a black-nickel finish, wide gap, 3-degree offset point, resin-closed eye and a forged, long shank. VMC, a Rapla Respected Brand, created the Neko Hook initially as a key component for Neko Rigging, a modern take on traditional nail rigging. But Rapala pros soon began using it as their go-to hook for wacky rigging and drop-shotting as well, touting a landing-percentage advantage that borders on ludicrous.
“Neko Hooks have got the most unbelievable hook-to-land ratio of any hook I’ve ever fished,” says fellow Rapala pro Michael “Ike” Iaconelli. “The shape of the Neko style – that particular bend of the hook – once you hook one, you’ll land that fish.”
Wheeler enthusiastically agrees.
“That bend on that hook, and the offset, and the diameter, it has everything you want in a hook,” he explains. “I’ve lost a lot of big smallmouth in my day, before Neko Hooks came out. So if I can throw that Neko Hook in anything I’m doing, I’m going to. Absolutely 110 percent I’m going to try to keep it in the game. Because I feel like when I get that bite, I’m going to make it count. That fish is coming in the boat.”
Wheeler’s drop-shot set-up comprised a main line of 8-pound test Sufix® NanoBraid®, a leader of 10- and 6-pound test Sufix Castable Invisiline™ 100% Fluorocarbon, a ½ oz. VMC Tungsten Drop Shot Cylinder Weight, a 3-inch soft-plastic stick-bait and a prototype of the Neko Hook not yet available for sale, the Finesse Neko Hook.
“That hook is no doubt, by far, the best hook for finesse tactics ever made,” Wheeler says.
Finesse Neko Hooks include all the design components that make original Neko Hooks so successful, plus additional features bass anglers will love. They will be available in four sizes: 2, 1, 1/0 and 2/0. Additional details will remain top secret until mid-July, when Finesse Neko Hooks will be officially unveiled at ICAST, the sportfishing industry’s largest trade show. Keep an eye out here for more information.
“I was actually threading a little 3-inch stick-worm on the Finesse Neko Hook, which will be new next year,” Wheeler says. “By doing that on Oahe, when the fish were just nipping it, I would hook all of them. That was a huge key.”