Rightly or wrongly I like looking around for alternatives in my fishing, and a while ago I came across what I now know are for the most part called "swimbait hooks". A soft plastic "swimbait" is what I believe US freshwater bass anglers often call what we here know as shads or paddletails, and as much as you can of course rig them with all manner of different jig heads etc., I went looking for another, perhaps more weedless option for some of those times when I thought it could be useful. Why on earth do you think I like the look of these Fiiish lures so much (see my blog post here about them) ? I like choice.
Anyway, I came across various swimbait hooks that have a little weight moulded around them so that you can very effectively "swim" your paddletails or other soft plastic lures. All makes perfect sense to me, and especially when you have those hitch-hikers for securing your soft plastic lure to (that weird looking coil thing just behind the eye of the hook). The hitch-hiker seems to be the key here, but as far as I can work out, they need a particular kind of hook shape to work properly - unless I am missing something, and please, please fill me in if I am. There are of course many occasions when I do actually want a jighead - like "trotting" the current in an estuary for example or trying to get a soft lure down in some deep water for pollack.
It was early summer last year when I started to fish far more confidently with weightless senkos for bass - when I say weightless, I mean with no added weight, because some of these senkos do in fact weigh quite a bit on their own (check here for a blog post about them). Now of course the most obvious and logical way to rig these somewhat innocuous looking soft plastic "sticks" is with some kind of weedless/wide-gape hook. There are loads of different kinds around, and once you have rigged a few lures with them you'll be able to do it blindfolded. It's easy, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. But sometime early on last year I came across some weightless versions of these swimbait/hitch-hiker hooks ("researching" online !!), and straight away they grabbed me as a good way to rig something like a senko or a Slug-Go.
It's not as if there is some kind of problem with using a conventional weedless hook for these soft plastics sticks. They work well and the fish seem to hook up just fine. I crush any barb I use for lure fishing these days, including on single hooks and jig heads. I spend time around fly anglers who crush their (single hook) barbs as a matter of course and they have done so for years - why should we be any different ? Anyway, I digress. Weightless swimbait hooks with hitch-hikers on them. I have looked around and the ones that I can find on sale here in the UK are these Mustad ones you can see in these photos (check here for example). I sort of presumed that such a "logical" hook like this with a hitch-hiker attached would be almost a common thing, so either I am doing something wrong here or for some reason they have not really caught on yet. But even if I am doing something wrong by fishing them with senkos, they work pretty well on the bass !!
I am convinced that these weightless swimbait hooks with the hitch-hikers on them make your soft plastic lures last longer when you are casting them hard again and again. I can't prove this, but last year I could fish a senko for ages without tearing it up too much - unless a bass grabbed it that is. I reckon those Hawg Wild Stick Baits are going to last almost forever (ok, not quite, but you get my drift). Soft plastics by their very nature are going to tear up in varying degrees, but the way you screw that hitch-hiker into the front of the lure and then bring the hookpoint through as you do on a weedless hook seems to me to be such a logical and effective way to rig them. When I went over to Jersey last year to photograph some wrasse fishing and to see those (new at the time) Century HPR rods, I was pleased to see that Keith had some to hand when I was shooting some lure rigging photos. In the end I see this way of rigging senkos etc. as merely another option or alternative to a more regular weedless hook (without a hitch-hiker on it), and in the end I just like having choices in my fishing.