by Stan Fagerstrom
The well-liked and respected man who gave American anglers their first look at Gamakatsu Hooks was the late Walt Hummel of Washington State.
Walt lived in Woodland, Washington. He was a tackle manufacturer's representative. At the time, I was writing newspaper fishing columns in Walt's area. That's why he gave me samples of the new hooks he was considering bringing to market. I wrote about this in my previous column here
Jim Ewing, a Southwest Washington steelhead and salmon guide, was also involved in the testing of these brand new hooks. The hooks, of course, were those wondrous new Gamakatsu fish hooks designed by the Japanese.Jim Ewing was guiding steelhead and salmon anglers on the rivers of Southwest Washington when he tested some new hooks a friend of his was thinking about bringing into the United States.
I've already written about how well these new hooks worked for bass and panfish. I asked my pal Jim how he felt about them for his salmon and steelhead angling. His experience using those hooks for those migratory tackle busters was the same as mine. He flat out loved them.
Jim had worked at an outdoor show in Seattle with Walt before the tackle rep was 100% sure about importing the new Gamakatsu hooks. Jim chuckles when he recalls what Hummel told him then.
"I remember he asked me to go to coffee with him while we were at that show." Jim says, "Walt had evidently decided to go ahead with bringing in the new hooks but he wasn't at all sure exactly how things would work out."
Jim says Walt told him that among other things he'd mortgaged his house and just about everything else to come up with the bucks to put the deal together. "He told me," Jim says, "that I'm going to wind up being a hero or a zero."
The hooks that both Jim Ewing and I had oportunity to test before they were marketed were the brand new Gamakatsu Hooks from Japan. These hooks have had a tremendous world wide impact on the hook market.
Based on my own experience, I would have myself bet some big bucks on how Walt Hummel's decision to make those hooks available in the USA would work out. It turns out my friend Jim Ewing felt exactly the same way.
"In the testing I'd done," Jim says, "I'd never found a bad Gamakatsu hook. I still haven't. That hadn't always been my experience. I was forever having to sharpen some of my other hooks; I'd also had some that turned out to be brittle and I'd actually had some of them bust on me."
"I'd just not experienced the quality and the quality control that came along with these new hooks. Like I said, in all the fishing I've done with them since I've never ever found a bad Gamakatsu hook."
It wouldn't be difficult, I expect, to find a whole bunch of anglers who'll tell you the same thing. This would be particularly true of old timers like myself who can easily recall some of the difficulties they sometimes had with their hooks before these new Japanese imports became were available.
You'll find a number of other darn good hooks on today's market, but as far as I'm concerned, it was the new Gamakatsu hooks that brought in what amounted to hook upgrades all over the place. I'm not aware that there were others of the same quality when Walt Hummel started bringing in his new Japanese imports.Guide Jim Ewing washes off a bright new steelhead he has just taken from Southwest Washington's Cowlitz River.
I have some other reasons for feeling as I do about the changes the Gamakatsu folks brought about. Besides having had a chance to test their hooks before they ever made it to market, I've also had opportunity to suggest a couple of changes that have been added to their hook inventory.
One of those changes was adding a ringed eye to two models of their extra wide gap superline hooks. If you're into using braid along with your plastics, don't overlook these hooks. I suggested this style of hook to my friends at Gamakatsu after I'd lost a couple of the best bass I'd ever hooked at Mexico's Lake El Salto Lake.
The braided line I'd tied directly to my hook had pulled through that teensy gap left at the eye of the hook. Tying your hook to the rings now available on the special hooks that now have them eliminates that problem and at the same time make it possible. It also makes it a whole lot easier to give the plastic lures you're using with them a better variety of actions.
Do you remember the comment I made in last month's column about things taking on more importance when you have someone you love to share them with? Here, once again, my friend Jim Ewing steps back into picture.
I've always been up to my ears in bass and panfish fishing. Jim, after he got to Washington State, was only guiding for steelhead and salmon. Once we got into a detailed discussions of the new Gamakatsu Hooks and the revolutionary changes they'd started in that tackle field, it wasn't long before we started sharing a boat.My friend Jim Ewing shared some techniques that helped me put my share of steelhead on the river bank. I think he'll tell you I also shared some bass and panfish catching tactics that have helped him in those angling endeavors.
I fished steelhead in his rig and he started joining me in my bass boat. I'm pretty handy with a bass rod or a spinning outfit but when it comes to things of a mechanical nature I've got about the same levels of talent as a billygoat. My wife says there's even a physical resemblance of sorts, but we won't go into that.
I do recall Jim's comment once when I couldn't figure out exactly how to get his big truck to drag his drift boat out of the Cowlitz while he was still on board. The truck had more buttons and knobs and on and off switches than a B-29. When I climbed back out of the cab to say I was sorry, but I was reluctant to drive it, I've never forgotten Jim's response. He said "It's okeh, Stan. I know you'd help me if I was crippled." Ouch!
Anyhow, Jim's mechanical abilities more than made up for those I didn't possess. He wound up towing my bass boat wherever we wanted it to go and opened a whole lot of fishing doors I'd not opened before. I think he'll tell you we had one helluva lot of good times together.
And those Gamakatsu hooks I've been talking about had a hand in our doing that, as well as helping us take the hundreds of fish we've managed to put into both his boat and mine.