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Understanding Fishing Hooks - Sizes and How to Choose One

Although fishing hooks are one of the most essential pieces of fishing gear, there are many differences between types of hooks and hook size.

The Hooks Measurement Scale

Hooks range from small to large and are defined by "sizes" and "aughts." The 1/0 is the median (middle) of the hook scale.

The Hook Scale

Hook Scale

 

Hooks J Hooks

What do Fishing Hooks Do?

Well, fishing hooks hook fish, of course. That might sound stupid, but as you will see there are a number of different shaped hooks, and if you intend to release a fish without harming it, you might want to choose what's called a "circle" hook. But if you're trolling a long piece of squid or a live threadfin sardine or goggle-eye bait for marlin in tropical waters, that same circle hook will slip out of the fish's mouth nine times out of ten exciting strikes. So a hook is used to catch fish, but if you have no intentions of keeping it at all, pick what we call "circle" hooks. (More on that in the next section).

Do you know the difference between hook sizes? Or shafts? Or gaps? The way hooks are built make one size perfect for one species and completely wrong for another.You can catch big fish with small hooks but it's very hard to catch small fish with big hooks. Fish aren't the smartest of sentient beings that we eat, but they're not completely stupid, either. The more natural a bait appears -- natural but slightly injured -- the more likely it will become the target of the predators you seek. But if that bait acts unnaturally (like it would if it was dragging a giant metal hook) it does not look appetizing to the fish.

The fishing hook is probably the most well-known piece of terminal fishing tackle, and there are many subtle differences between types of hooks.

Hook Size

Hooks are classified by "sizes" -- for example, a size 1 hook is larger than a size 7, while a 1/0 is smaller than a 7/0 (pronounced 7-aught). The smallest standard sizes available are 32 and the largest 20/0.

The slash symbol ( / ) defines a hook as grouped within the "aught" measurement system. As defined in aughts, the higher the number, the larger the hook. A 1/0 hook is bigger than a size 1. They ascend in accordance to their increased size. Therefore, a 6/0 hook is larger than a 2/0, but a plain 6 is smaller than a 2.

Hooks are also made from various wire gauges or thickness. They run from very thin wire to thicker gauge wire, for example: fine wire, heavy wire, extra heavy, 2X heavy, 3X heavy, 4X heavy and higher.

Trebles are NOT Bait Hooks

Hook sizes up and down the scales.

Picking the Right Hook for the Right Fish

Anatomy of a Hook

Eye

Eye

The eye of the hook (the loop through which line passes) may be turned up, turned down, or straight.

Shank

Shank

The shank connects the bend to the eye. A shank can be long or short. As with gap, a longer shank means that a hook is easier for a fish to bend. So why aren’t all hooks short-shanked? The answer has to do with what goes on the hook: different-sized bait needs different-sized shanks to keep it held on securely. A longer-shanked hook makes it easier to unhook a fish, too.

Sometimes the shank has a barb or two to help hold bait more securely. These are called baitholder hooks.

Bend

Bend

The bend is the curved part of the hook, and all those fine-sounding hook names, such as Limerick or Sproat, have something to do with the bend. Actually, such hook names have to do with two parts of the bend: the throat and the gap.

  • Think of the throat as the depth that the hook penetrates.
  • Think of the gap as the width of the hook, from point to shank. A relatively wide gap may be necessary to hold certain bait, to get around the snout of a billed fish, or to dig in beyond the width of a thick jawbone.
Barb

Barb

The barb is a type of a reverse point that is designed to keep a fish on the hook after the fish bites. Bigger is not better with barbs. Big barbs can make setting a hook difficult when the hook meets up with a tough-mouthed fish like a bonefish. Or big barbs can make too big a tear in the mouth of a soft-mouthed fish like a crappie. Many catch-and-release anglers fish with barbless hooks, although it is possible to release fish caught on barbed hooks, as well.

Point

Point

The point is where tackle meets fish. As in many situations in life, the first impression is an important one. If you don’t have a good sharp point on your hook, you can have the most expensive rod in the world, but you won’t catch anything but weeds.

  • Eye

    Eye

    The eye of the hook (the loop through which line passes) may be turned up, turned down, or straight.

  • Shank

    Shank

    The shank connects the bend to the eye. A shank can be long or short. As with gap, a longer shank means that a hook is easier for a fish to bend. So why aren’t all hooks short-shanked? The answer has to do with what goes on the hook: different-sized bait needs different-sized shanks to keep it held on securely. A longer-shanked hook makes it easier to unhook a fish, too.

    Sometimes the shank has a barb or two to help hold bait more securely. These are called baitholder hooks.

  • Bend

    Bend

    The bend is the curved part of the hook, and all those fine-sounding hook names, such as Limerick or Sproat, have something to do with the bend. Actually, such hook names have to do with two parts of the bend: the throat and the gap.

    • Think of the throat as the depth that the hook penetrates.
    • Think of the gap as the width of the hook, from point to shank. A relatively wide gap may be necessary to hold certain bait, to get around the snout of a billed fish, or to dig in beyond the width of a thick jawbone.
  • Barb

    Barb

    The barb is a type of a reverse point that is designed to keep a fish on the hook after the fish bites. Bigger is not better with barbs. Big barbs can make setting a hook difficult when the hook meets up with a tough-mouthed fish like a bonefish. Or big barbs can make too big a tear in the mouth of a soft-mouthed fish like a crappie. Many catch-and-release anglers fish with barbless hooks, although it is possible to release fish caught on barbed hooks, as well.

  • Point

    Point

    The point is where tackle meets fish. As in many situations in life, the first impression is an important one. If you don’t have a good sharp point on your hook, you can have the most expensive rod in the world, but you won’t catch anything but weeds.

  • Gap



    The anatomy of the hook is as follows: The point is the sharp end that penetrates the fish's mouth. To achieve the point, the hooks are either mechanically or chemically sharpened. Some hooks are barbless to make hook remova easier and less stressful to the fish. Jutting off the point is the barb, which is a sharp tip that prevents the hook from backing out. The eye connects the hook to the fishing line, which is achieved by using any one of a variety of knots. The shank is the portion of the hook that connects the point and the eye; the gape or gap describes the distance between the shank and the point. Some of these features often describe the type of the hook -- for instance, a long shank hook, a wide- gap hook or an offset eye hook.

    Hooks are named sometimes by their shape, for example, the J-hook. Sometimes they're named after the person who invented that type of hook such as the O'Shaughnessy hook.

    Most Popular Types of Hooks:

    Hooks fall into six major categories:J" hooksCircle HooksTreble hooksWire hooksThick gauge hooksKahle hooksHooks are manufactured from many different metals such as high carbon steel, vanadium and stainless steel. Stainless steel is losing favor due to its negative effects on the environment.

    J-Hooks

    Are so named due to their appearance which resembles the letter "J." They have a straight shank and when the fish bites down upon it, will hook itself somewhere in the mouth. It is necessary to "set the hook" (Which is a hard pull or quick jerk of the fishing rod upwards when the angler notices a sensation of a fish taking the hook in its mouth).

    The J-Hook is different than a circle hook, in the following ways:

    • It is not shaped like a circle because it's shank and point are not bent in towards the shaft. The shank is straight.
    • Because they're shaped like the letter "J".J-hooks are the oldest hook shape used by recreational anglers, and are still – by far – the best hook to use if you are trolling live bait behind a moving boat.
    • The shape of the hook and the fact that the barb doesn't point inward dramatically, improves the percentage of hits you get that will end up actually setting the hook and catching a fish.
    • If you're trolling live or dead bait, use J-Hooks.

    The downside of the J-hook is that when improperly matched to the size of the fish, they tend to lodge themselves deeply or get swallowed, usually resulting in death. J- hooks are defined as either non-offset or offset.

    Circle Hooks

    Are designed for the hook point to roll into the corner of the fishes mouth after he takes the bait. You do not "set" this type of hook. With the circle hook, you simply reel in when you feel the fish on the other end -- never jerk or set the hook! These hooks are designed to rotate in the fish's mouth and settle in the corner of the jaw. This design lowers fish mortality and is a requirement in some states when fishing for certain species, such as reef-dwelling fish. Circle hooks also are defined as non-offset or offset. Non-offset circle hooks have the point aligned even to the shank; conversely, the offset hooks are aligned at an angle to the shank.

    Kahle Hooks

    Also called Shinner hooks or 'K hooks' (old school) look like a cross between a J-Hook and a circle hook. The hook point is pointed toward the hook eye instead of toward the shank of the hook. The distance between the point and the shaft is greater than on a circle hook. Kahle hooks are world-renowned for bass fishing with live golden shiners. It is believed that Kahle hooks have higher instances of gut-hooking and therefore, cause higher mortality rates for fish.

    kalhe

    Wire Hooks

    Are made from light wire and are used on smaller-sized baits so it can penetrate the bait easily and the fish's mouth easily. It also allows the bait to be presented more naturally.

    Thick Gauge Hooks such as the 2X, 3X, etc., are used for larger species of fish that require a lot of drag around docks or bridges, etc., where you have to use maximum force to pull the fish away from the structure.

    Treble Hooks

    Consist of three hooks branching from a single shank. Their most popular application is in conjunction with many artificial lures. In many states it is against the law to use a treble hook with live bait attached.

    Heavy Treble Hook

    A standard treble hook.

    How to Rig Various Styles of Hooks

    Always use the smallest and sharpest hooks possible to allow the bait presentation to look natural. Be mindful of any regulations that dictate the type of hook required for the kind of species you are targeting. Check with your local or state fish and wildlife authorities

    There are many different ways to use fishing hooks. Some examples are:

    1. You tie the main fishing line to a leader, and the leader gets tied to the hook.
    2. With the combined use of a popping cork, which consists of a float with plastic beads. A loop at one end is tied to the fishing line, while the loop at the other end is connected to the leader, which is tied to the hook. A quick snap of the rod tip makes the float pop against the beads and causes the bait to hop below.
    3. A Texas rig, which is one of the most versatile ways to fish a soft-plastic bait. An offset worm hook is inserted through the face-end of the bait, and then the hook point is inserted into the body, so that the shank of the hook is parallel to the bait. This ensures a weedless and natural looking presentation.
    4. Texas Rig

      Examples of Texas Rigged baits for weedless presentation.

    5. A slip-bobber rig: after attaching the bead, run the line through the slip bobber. Select an appropriate weight to use based on conditions, which will go below the bobber. You may try a couple of slip shots a few inches from your hook. Another way is to slide your line through a sliding sinker and then tie the end of your line to a swivel. For Trolling Hooks -- they should not have an offset hook point.

    Tips for Using Hooks

    When fishing with live bait, you should consider which hook to use and how the live bait should be hooked to ensure the most natural presentation and to keep the bait alive longer.

    How to safely remove the hook from your catch (also called "de-hooking"):

    • Be careful and quick - twist the hook while pushing it toward the bend.
    • Use pliers or a de-hooking tool if the hook is deep in the mouth.
    • Remove treble hooks one at a time to release all three.
    • If the fish swallows the hook, cut the line inside of the mouth and release the fish without removing the hook.

    dehookers 2Various tools for de-hooking a fish.

    Some popular brands of hooks are: Eagle Claw, Mustad, Ohero, Owner, Gamakatsu and VMC.

    Some popular knots for tying the hook to your leader or line:

    • Snell knot
    • Improved clinch
    • Loop Knot
    • Palomar knot
    • Uni knot

    Hooks for use in freshwater are usually finished bright, which means polished but not plated, and then given a chemical coat of lacquer. Hooks that are used in saltwater are plated with chemicals such as tin, Teflon cadmium, zinc or even gold alloy.

    03 mangrove pk 380Now - go catch some Mangrove snappers!

    The number one rule for picking a hook is: The hook size and gauge should be based on the size of your bait first, then the type and size of fish you are targeting, and lastly the type of terrain or structure your fishing in and around. Of course sometimes there are exceptions to this.

    Read more about fishing hooks and specifics here.

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