By Alex Julius
Stainless steel is not the greatest material to make a hook out of. Although stainless steel offers improved corrosion resistance, we pay a price for that – lower strength. The only way to compensate for that weakness is to make the wire thicker, which changes the whole hookup equation.So it would be nice if someone came up with a new anti-corrosion finish comparable to stainless steel but without losing the strength of carbon steel. High corrosion-resistant hooks are not needed for all fishing applications, and in conventional bait fishing there is a case for going the other way. Of all the hooks on the market today, only a very small proportion are stainless steel. But there are fishing applications where high corrosion resistance is called for. Anything involving bluewater trolling or constant movement of the hook through the water can make an unprotected hook point almost disappear through electrolysis in a very short time.
Mustad might have found a solution to this dilemma with its revolutionary new Z-Steel corrosion resistant finish. Z-Steel is a unique alloy which, according to Mustad, gives normal carbon steel fish hooks more corrosion resistance than any other hook finish on the market today. In earlier times, cadmium plating, tin plating and galvanising have been used to improve corrosion resistance of non-stainless carbon steel hooks. Cadmium plating was dumped for environmental reasons and manufacturers came up with their own corrosion-fighting applied finishes. And they were quite effective, as long as the finish remained intact. Where some was scraped off through the angler touching up the hook point or other wear and tear, corrosion quickly set in and spread throughout the hook.
This is where Z-Steel differs from other platings. Even where some of the plating has been scraped off, the bare steel will still be protected. Mustad’s people are tight-lipped about exactly how it works, but Mustad carried out some pre-release testing of Z-Steel in Australia. A pair of Z-Steel Mustad Super Marlins was made into a tandem rig and trolled behind a big pusher in water around 25ºC. In 17 hours of trolling, two blue marlin were hooked and released. The hooks showed no sign of corrosion, even where the angler had touched up the point with a file and exposed the steel. This was a good result, as warm water and high speed trolling are perfect conditions for electrolysis and fast corrosion.
Z-Steel is a smooth finish which doesn’t seem to affect the sharpness of the hook point, in contrast to some other finishes and platings which form a thick shroud around the point. Superficially, Z Steel looks like stainless steel. Based on the tested samples I saw, it darkens somewhat after saltwater exposure but retains its smoothness.
Z-Steel thus produces a ‘stainless’ hook with the strength of carbon steel. A moment’s thought will conjure up all sorts of possible applications. Mustad is introducing Z-Steel in a few of its well known bluewater and sportfishing patterns. The Z-Steel hooks due for release in Australia this year are mentioned below and hopefully, there are more on the drawing board. 7691Z
The 7691 Southern and Tuna pattern is probably Mustad’s best known game fishing hook in Australia, especially the stainless steel version, the 7691S. Now, there is a third team member, the Z-Steel equipped 7691Z. It’s the same shape as the original, and it has something the 7691S didn’t have – a brazed ring. Brazing is an extremely difficult thing to do in stainless steel and this is another example of Z-Steel enabling new initiatives in hooks, free of the limitations of stainless steel. Size range for the 7691Z is 12/0 down to 6/0.
The stainless 7691S has been the preferred hook for use in tandem rigs behind skirted marlin lures and this is the application where the difference between stainless and non-stainless hooks really shows up. Long hours of high speed salt water trolling maximises the effect of electrolysis and it is aggravated by the use of various other attachments such as swivels, sleeves and wire. This is where the new 7691Z will be most in demand (although Mustad will keep the stainless 7691S on the market).
SUPER MARLIN 7761Z This is the Rolls-Royce of game hooks and the flagship of the Mustad game hook range. It is a remake of an earlier Mustad classic and is largely hand-manufactured. When it was first re-introduced to the market, the Super Marlin had a black nickel finish but this year, it will be Z-Steel plated. This is interesting because the Super Marlin is a big, super-strong hook that goes up to size 16/0. It can take over from the 7691 in heavy trolling of big pushers and natural baits. Like the original, the Mustad Z-Steel Super Marlin is designed to withstand the heaviest stresses of game fishing, especially for big billfish. Available sizes are 14/0 to 8/0 and the hook is strength rating tested to hold without failure: Size: 14/0 12/0 11/0 10/0 9/0 8/0 Strength rating (lbs) 841 667 605 505 424 404 (kg) 382 303 275 229 192 183 THE HOODLUM Z Mustad’s famous Ultra Point live bait hook, the Hoodlum, will also offer a Z-Steel option. The ‘Hoodlum Z’ will also include a new 12/0 size and range down to 2/0 (even sizes only). The Z-Steel treatment gives the Hoodlum applications well beyond its traditional live baiting role. A major gap in bluewater hooks has been in light, compact trolling hooks that can be used as tandem rigs in small pushers. Traditional heavy game hooks tend to sandbag the lure in this situation. The Hoodlum Z, with its compact but extremely strong body and non-offset point, could slot right into this role now that its new Z-Steel finish enables it to be trolled for long periods without corrosion problems. The Hoodlum Z retains the 4x strong rating of the conventional Hoodlum. It is available in sizes 12/0 down to 2/0. (The original black nickel Hoodlum, ref 10827BLN, will remain on the market). 39948Z CIRCLE HOOK The Mustad 39948 circle pattern is a newcomer to the Australian market. It is a relatively light gauge circle hook similar in shape and dimensions to the 39951 Demon Circle pattern. The new Z-Steel 39948Z pattern takes over in the size range where the Demon Circle leaves off, from 8/0 up to 12/0. It will provide interesting new options in bluewater and general bait fishing. Z-Steel is the result of Mustad’s continuing product development and improvement process. In time, we should see it extend beyond bluewater hooks to several other sportfishing hook patterns where long hook life is critical.