If you’ve been fishing for a long time, you know that one of the best things about the pursuit is the subtleties of the sport. A friend of mine compared fishing to baseball (he loves baseball) because for true fans there is a “game within the game” and non-baseball fans just don’t get it. This is a good comparison because my friends people I know that don’t like to fish are the same way. They just don’t get the beauty in setting up that jig, dropping it to the bottom in about 25 feet and tapping the bottom to snatch that Trophy walleye.
So it’s with that in mind that we are diving deep into the details that make fishing our passion in - the Ultimate Series - Detailed articles that will cover gear and technique fundamentals. Our first in the series is our Ultimate Guide to Hooks: Everything you need to know.
Anatomy of a Hook
Almost certainly you’ve heard conversations with friends and fellow anglers surrounding “lure” selection. It’s always the first place that adjustments are made for the average angler and many people swear by one lure over another. Case and point, I used the same rusty spinner bait until I was 10. But how often do you hear discussions about “hook selection”?
Specific attention isn’t always paid to the hook but it is very important . Fishing for bass, large or smallmouth? Different hook. Trolling? Different hook eye required. Saltwater or freshwater…? You guessed it, different hook.
All of these conditions require thought about the hook, but not necessarily the lure so we’ve pulled together the key features of any hook, the different types of features, uses and sizing to draw out those subtleties that make fishing our passionate pursuit.
Getting to the Point (Type)
There are several different point types on the market today. The most common are listed below. It is important to keep in mind what you are looking to accomplish and know the target species when selecting hook styles.
For example, the dramatic bend of the rolled-in hook is perfect for notorious thrashers. The spear is great for penetration of hard pallet fish and the knife edge is subtle enough for soft pallet fish like crappie that need a bit more finesse.
|Needle Point||Rolled In|
To Barb or Not to Barb....
A note on the hook's barb - this hook feature is valuable in giving the angler a better chance or successfully landing the fish as most fish that are hooked past the barb will struggle to slip off during the fight. However, the barb can do serious damage to a thrashing fish with soft structure like bass or crappie. For the sport fisherman who is looking for catch and release, a non-barbed option is worth considering. You may lose an extra fish or two but you'll be minimizing damage and keeping the population up in your local area.
Whether you're releasing or priming for a fish fry, be certain to check your local state or provincial regs as some jurisdictions restrict the use of barbed hooks.
How's it hanging?
Bait presentation, hook set, species size are all important factors in hook selection - but more specifically they are all influenced directly by hook bend and gap.
There are almost an unlimited number of shapes, sizes and contours but we've curated some popular types below.
At the end of the day you want to prioritize your goals. If there is a specific bait you want to have lined up, then pay attention to the shape of the shank (straight for worms, or bent to accommodate larger baits. If you're after something that is a notorious nibbler you may want a wider gap to maximize the chances of hook set.
The Long-shank redemption
The length of the shank is another overlooked factor. If you're using bait, get a longer shank to provide room to weave the bait onto the hook (especially with worms using the Texas rig). If you're using a primary lure or synthetic bait like a spinner bait, you want to disguise the hook with less hook-to-lure separation to minimize mis-hits.
In the eye of the beholder....
The eye of the hook has untapped potential for anglers looking into every corner and at every detail.
Eye shape | most eye variations are round (or ringed) however the "needle" eye style - named due to its resemblance with a sewing needle eye - has a thin-enough profile to be buried in some baits for a fully veiled presentation.
Eye angle/pivot | The eye can also be "offset", "angled" or "pivoted" depending on where you are and who you fish with, all of the terms could be in play - but they mean the same thing. The degree of bend in the eye as shown above can sometimes create additional resistance in the drag and result in more life-like action in the hook. Be careful however to know what's allowed in your region as some regions do not allow offset hook eyes.
Eye closure | Looped or tapered provides more flexibility and ease in stringing up your hook or tying your favorite knot. Experiment with different style and knot configurations to find what suits you best.
Our 5 most important hook types
The Jig | Weighted, baited or not. The Jig is a journeyman hook style essential to both flyfishing and lake fishing due to its controllability and versatility.
The Circle Hook | Its pronounced shape is attention grabbing - just like its point - and is leveraged in saltwater and freshwater to tame some of the more aggressive thrashers of the deep. Another less-well-known benefit of the circle hook is that it has been found to reduce mortality rates by up to 50% and is widely recommended by conservation authorities across North America - especially for vulnerable species or at critical times (spawn).
Treble Hook | Often the hook of choice for spinners and crank baits this hook style relies more on a buckshot approach in place of precision. Its use with fast-moving and gyrating lures increases the odds of a hook-set but the common knock is that they are also more likely to catch a non-target area of the fish.
Worm Hook | Hands down the best for live bait. The presentation is enabled by the long shank allowing for the body of the bait to be buried all the way if desired. Often paired with the offset eye (pictured) for more mouth capture.
Kahle Hook | The Kahle hook has to make the list based on sheer dominance. Like the circle hook, it has a unique shape and is very similar. However, the increased bend angle at the point, results in a flattened profile. This nuance makes it an overwhelming choice for flatmouth fish or bottom-feeders. If you are a catfish-chaser, this is your rig of choice hands-down.
In the end, like every choice in fishing, you need to know what you're after and make your selections to give you the best chance and landing your target catch. Experiment, test and hone in on what works best for you using the tips, tools and tricks available.
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