What to Look for When Choosing Fishing Hooks

Few things in life can compare to the feeling of hooking a large sport or game fish on the end of your line. The comprehension of their power and tenacity is humbling and exhilarating at the same time. It often takes loads of preparation, early mornings, long days, hard work, financial resources, and sometimes a bit of luck to find yourself in this position. To lose this potential trophy fish (or maybe even your next meal) due to hook failure would be catastrophic. I have witnessed anglers spend large amounts of money on the best fishing rods, fishing reels, and fishing lines but then economize on other areas of their tackle.

When looking for a quality hook, you first need to know what species you want to target. There are different sizes, and these sizes should correlate with the size of the fish's mouth that you want to catch. The hook also needs to hold the required bait. The second question you should ask is whether you are catching and releasing or keeping for a tasty meal. If you want to release the fish, you will need a circle or barbless hook. If you want to keep your catch, a treble hook is your best option. 

The size, design, quality, and durability of your hook are vital when deciding what species of fish you would like to target. There are numerous types of salt and freshwater fish for recreational fishermen to target, and most of them differ in physical make-up and feeding habits. Having a better understanding of these features and habits, along with some insight into the wonders of hook design and hook construction, will significantly increase your chances of successfully and consistently catching fish.

Hooks have been around for tens of thousands of years and were initially made from bone, wood, shells, iron, bronze, and even stone. It was only in the 1600s that Europeans first introduced quality steel hooks, which resulted in a massive demand for professionally manufactured fishing hooks around the world. In 2005, Forbes chose the fishing hook as one of man's top 20 tools ever created.

Modern-day hooks are manufactured from either stainless steel, steel-alloy with vanadium, or high-carbon steel. They are corrosion-resistant, and in some cases, coated with tin, Teflon, nickel, and gold. Some innovative manufacturers are now offering hooks in various colors to either attract fish or camouflage the hook. 

A hook can be broken down into seven sections

  • The Eye: This is the loop at the top of the hook where you connect your fishing line

  • The Shank: The shank connects the eye to the bend

  • The Bend: This is the large loop at the bottom of the hook and is also the lowest point
  • The Throat: The throat connect the point of the hook to the bend
  • The Point: This is the sharp point of the hook and is responsible for piercing the flesh and hooking the fish
  • The Barb: The barb is a safety feature that ensures that when a fish is hooked, it cannot easily come off
  • The Gap: The gap is the distance between the hook point and the center of the shank.

When manufacturers are designing hooks, they will play around with these features to suit the desired target species. For example, when designing a hook for medium-sized reef sharks, they might do the following:

  1. Increase the eye size to accommodate thicker and stronger fishing line
  2. Increase the length of the shank to allow for larger bait
  3. Increase bend to ensure it is wide enough to hook into the shark's mouth or throat
  4. The hook should have a professionally sharpened point to pierce the skin or flesh
  5. The barb would also need to be bigger, longer, and sharper to stand up to a powerful beast and keep it hooked
  6. The gap would also have to be larger on this hook to accommodate for larger live or dead bait

We can also use the parts or features of the hook to describe a particular style of hook. A hook can be described as a 2 x Long-Shank Hook, Hollow Point Hook, Turned Down Ring Eye Bait hook, or as simple as a Wide Gap Hook.

Hook Sizes

To beginner or novice anglers, the hook sizing system may appear confusing but is actually quite simple. Although hook sizes are usually referred to by a number, they don't represent any particular part or section of the hook. There aren't any specific international standards regarding the hook body or size, so sizes may be inconsistent between manufacturers. For hook sizes from 19/0 (19 aught) to 1/0 (one aught), the smaller the number, the smaller the hook will be. For hook sizes 32 to 1, the smaller the number, the larger the hook. The smallest hook available is a Mustad size 32 and the largest hook is a size 19/0, also manufactured by Mustad.

Hook Designs

There are numerous types of hook designs available and they generally all offer different features:

  • Weedless Hook – The Weedless hook is designed to be fished in areas with vegetation. It features a weed cover that runs from the point to the eye, which prevents the hook from getting snagged.
  • Circle Hook – The Circle hook has been designed to hook the fish in the side of the mouth. This allows for easy removal but also eliminates the chance of a deep hook. A deep hook is when the fish engulfs the entire bait and gets hooked in the stomach. When this happens, the hook cannot be removed and results in the demise of the fish.
  • Kahle Hook – A Kahle hook is a design that is somewhere between a J-Hook and a Circle Hook. They feature a wide gap to accommodate larger baits. The point of the hook points towards the eye.
  • Aberdeen Hook – Aberdeen Hooks feature extra width between the shank and the Point. This makes the Aberdeen Hook perfect for baiting with Minnows. The light-wire design keeps the bait alive and swimming longer.
  • Jig Hook – Jig Hooks have been designed with a lead sinker to be fished with soft-bodied baits. Jigs are great for targeting bottom feeders but can be fished in almost any water column.
  • Worm Hook – This design works well with all soft-body plastics. Worms, Tubes, Flukes, and crawls.
  • Siwash hook - This hook features a straight Eye and a long Shank. They are designed to sit correctly on the lure and can be used on single-hook baits. These are great hooks to replace the treble hooks that are usually supplied with lures.
  • Baitholder Hook – Baitholder Hooks have been designed to allow soft, fresh baits to be firmly secured to your hook.
  • Octopus hook - An octopus Hook features a round, short, bent Shank. They are not as rounded as a Circle Hook and can be used when fishing with minimal weight while looking for a natural presentation.
  • Treble Hook – Treble Hooks are great for keeping fish on the line. They involve three single-hooks being molded together and ultimately offer three sharp points to hook your fish. You should not use these hooks if you are practicing catch and release. They are great for targeting large fish with long-sharp teeth.

Types of Hook Points

The most crucial aspect of any fishing hook is the point. The point needs to be super sharp to penetrate the skin or flesh to set the hook. There are a few different types of hook points:

  • Beak
  • Spear
  • Needle-Point
  • Rolled-In
  • Semi-Dropped
  • Mini-Barb
  • Knife Edge
  • SP

SP stands for various terms regarding fishing hooks. Some examples are Special Point, Super Point, or Sports Point.

Choosing the correct hook is vital for successfully targeting your preferred species of fish. You will need to consider what the species feeds on, their feeding habits, and their potential size. Small hooks can catch small, medium, and large fish, while large hooks can only catch large fish. Instead of going too big, rather go a little smaller. 

It is imperative to purchase quality hooks, and it is strongly recommended that you don't economize when it comes to this critical piece of fishing tackle.


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