If you target crappie in areas loaded with stumps, treetops and laydowns that are prone to snags, this tip will save you lots of fishing time — and jigheads.

Chas Champagne, the creator of Matrix Shad soft plastic lures, uses pliers to intentionally weaken the hooks on his ⅛- or 1/16-ounce jigheads so the hook will straighten out more easily when it gets hung up. 

“Bend the hook left-right, left-right,” he said. “You’re straightening the hook out and then bringing it back to its regular form.

“That way when you get snagged, instead of going through 25 jigheads in a day, you can just pop it with your rod or pull the line straight to get it free.”

And as long as you don’t weaken the hook to the breaking point, Champagne said it doesn’t at all affect his hookup ratio. 

“They’re mouth doesn’t have a lot of power,” he said. “Their nickname is the papermouth. When you reel them in, they don’t have much fight to them. It’s not like they’re going to straighten the hook on you.”

An added bonus is that when your hook does break free from a snag — and your lure darts out near the cover— it can trigger a strike.

“A lot of times if you pop it real hard with your rod tip and it jumps out of that tree limb, you can let it fall and go back down,” he said. “I guess it looks real natural to the fish.”

Champagne typically fishes with 6-pound braid — which provides enough pulling power to break free with the weakened hooks.

“If you pull it straight to you — like you do when you intend to break your line — most of the time it will come off,” he said. “Then just reel it in and use the pliers to fold it back to the regular hook shape.”

You need to determine the strength of the hooks you’re using, but Champagne says he uses the tactic to spend a lot less time tying on jigheads and a lot more time reeling in crappie.

“I usually bend it back and forth two to four times,” he said. “Some might break after four, some you might be able to do it 15 times. It just depends what they’re made of.

“But if you’re right on top of them and you’re sitting there retying the whole time, you’re never going to be able to fish it.”