When surface temperatures cool to somewhere in the vicinity of the 60°F mark in fall, lake trout begin staging around spawning habitat. On Lake Athabasca, the process begins in September, and the result is almost African in the sense that, nowhere else will you see so many large animals in one place at one time.
My friend Ted Cawkwell and I visited Athabasca a few years back, staying at the Lakers Unlimited lodge on the north side. He’s planning a return trip this year and he’s already getting his tackle in order. Admirable, but he misses out on all the fun of pulling his hair out by the roots from the stress of last-minute packing.
Kidding. Ted’s organizational skills are enviable.
“Do you prefer trebles or single hooks,” he asked me today, “and what sizes do you use?”
Big single hooks penetrate deeper, I said, but they’re easier to remove. Sometimes a single hook kills fish, sometimes it saves them. All-in-all, I think a Siwash hook saves more fish than it kills. Delayed mortality is the problem. Fish are handled and kept out of the water too long when they get tangled up in trebles. Sometimes they hook both the upper and lower jaw and suffer from oxygen deprivation while being hauled in with trebles.
I pack every size from a #1 to the largest Gamakatsu Open-Eye Siwash Hooks when heading up into the wild and I advised Ted to do the same. Different lures require different sizes to balance them. Look at the weight of the treble you’re taking off a big crankbait or spoon, like the Dardevle Huskie Devle in the photo. That’s what you’re trying to match. Manufacturers put certain sizes of hooks on lures to balance them for optimum action as well as hooking efficiency. A hook that’s too light lets spoons spin out and suspending baits rise. A hook that’s too heavy kills the action of crankbaits, dodgers, spoons, swimbaits, etc.
The Gamakatsu Siwash Open-Eye Hook allows you to simply take it out of the box, run the open end into the split ring and crimp it down with pliers. No need to run it onto the ring, which takes up too much valuable fishing time.
And, of course, the hooks are super sharp. If a fish touches a Gamakatsu, it’s probably coming to the net. I use the #1 and #2 sizes on suspending jerkbaits, small spoons, bucktails, and other lures for finessing reluctant pike. The #1/0 to #5/0 sizes match up with the trebles found on small to large swimbaits, crankbaits, Luhr Jensen Kwikfish, and Yakima FlatFish—all options I never fail to pack when heading to trophy laker waters.
And the big #6/0 to #8/0 sizes are for the largest spoons, swimbaits, and dodgers. Putting a giant Siwash on the biggest dodger I can find remains the heavyweight champion laker option in my box. Tying some blue-green-pearl tinsel to the shank doesn’t hurt. But don’t bother trailing a small fly or lure behind the dodger. Just slap a hook on a Ford fender and pull it around. Pretty soon, something will be pulling you around. Especially on Athabasca.