Fishing Tackle

Understanding Hooks for Fishing

Understanding hooks for fishing can be daunting. The selection of hooks available today for fishing is rather large to make an understatement. The good news is knowing which hook to use for a specific application will allow you to catch more fish. It is common for an angler to have 5-6 types of hooks in various sizes.

Hooks can be made of formed wire or forged wire changing the strength properties. The wire hook will straighten out under heavy loads whereas forged hooks will often break. These failures are due to exceeding the hooks’ intended load.

Understanding Hooks Terms

There are a few terms common among hooks. They describe the sections of a hook. They can vary in style among hooks, but all hooks are made the same in some regards

Eye; The eye is the line attachment point

Shank; The section below the eye that can be long or short, and bent or unbent

Bend; The part after the shank leads to the point that also creates the gap. This varies on the styles of hooks.

Gap; The distance between the shank and the point. These can be large or standard-sized depending on the intended use.

Point; the sharpened tip of the hook comes in a few different configurations. Hook makers are always trying to improve this feature with chemical and laser sharpening and other small changes.

Barb; a raised portion on the point or shank of the hook to prevent bait or fish from coming off the hook. These are not on the barbless hooks.

Understanding Types of Hooks

Aberdeen Hook; A long-shanked wire hook used for live bait and may be used for soft plastic however they do not have any method of holding the plastics in place. Made with a classic point and ringed eye. The long shank makes for easy removal since it stays farther out of the fish’s mouth.

Bait hook; One of the most commonly used hooks. It has barbs on the shank to help hold live bait on the hook. If you use nightcrawlers as bait this is the correct hook. The hook will keep small fry from pulling the bait off the hook. These are forged hooks that will break before straightening out

Barbless Hooks; These hooks do not have the classic point with a barb to keep the hook in the fish better. Used by some anglers and where the law requires their use. They do prevent harm much better than other hooks.

Circle Hook; One of the best hooks to use in many circumstances. Similar to an octopus hook in shape with one difference. The tip is bent in so the fish actually will hook itself when it takes off with the bait. You do not set the hook instead you “reel down” and increase line tension to further set the hook. They greatly reduce swallowed hooks and fish mortality for catch and release fishing.

Double Hook; This is a hook with 2 points and one eye. The double hooks are becoming more popular on lures that used to have treble hooks. I have seen large fly-type lures made with double hooks for salmon, pike, and musky. They come in different styles based on the intended use.

Jig Hook; A wire hook with a long shank and bend close to the eye. Used to make jig heads and come in various angles on the bend.   

Keel Fly Hook;  a hook used in fly making that has various shapes. Fly-tyers used them to create beautiful streamers for trout and other gamefish.

Octopus Hook; A hook with the eye bent backward. Used by anglers who “snell” their own hooks. The octopus hook is good for minnows as they weigh less and have thin wire allowing bait on the hook to survive longer. 

O’Shaughnessy Hook; in appearance similar to Aberdeen hooks. These are forged hook designs adding more strength size for size. It is a good live bait hook with a long shank to ease hook removal.

Sickle Hook; is a newer addition to the fishing market with a unique shape. They are a thin wire hook some anglers swear by when using minnows. Designed to prevent hook turns that can result in a loss of fish. They have a very sharp point due to the wire size. The sharp point requires less power on the hook set.

Siwash Hook; an open eyes single point hook used to replace treble hooks on lures is the primary use. 

Treble Hook; A three-point hook used on lures. Points are spaced 120 degrees apart.

Wacky Rig Hook; Use primarily for wacky rigs or drop shots. It is also used with minnows as a live bait hook.

Worm Hook; a hook designed for use with plastic worms used in bass fishing. They may or may not have a device to hold the worm in place and a weed guard. They come in many sizes and a few different shapes.

Hook Sizes

The method of hook sizing is simple. The size is denoted by a number with 1,2,4,6, ect. being the scale for common freshwater fishing. The higher the number the smaller the hook. A size 12 is smaller than a size 2 hook. If you need a bigger hook than a size one the “0” size (pronounced ought) and separated by a slash denotes its size. It is the same scale reversed when “ /0” follows the number.

Examples are 2/0 or a 7/0 with the seven “0” being a larger hook than the two “0” hooks. One item to note, not all manufacturer’s sizes will match another maker’s size. They are often a size smaller or bigger in many cases. You need to keep this in mind if changing brands of hooks.  

Understanding hooks for fishing will increase catches. The right hook at the right time makes a difference. Hopefully, the information answered a few questions.

Keeping fishing simple for tight lines and bragging rights

John McIntyre

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