Ultimate Guide to Fishing Hooks

Ultimate Guide to Fishing HooksWhat are the best hooks for fishing?

A fishing hook can help you catch your limit of fish. But use the wrong kind of hook and you’ll struggle to catch a nibble.  This article takes the mystery out of choosing the right fishing hook and make it easier for you to catch more fish.  Covering a wide range of fishing hooks that are appropriate for all freshwater fish, especially trout, panfish and bass,  I also explain the different kinds of hooks and the best times to use them. One kind of hook is never best for all the different kinds of fishing styles and kinds of fish.  Use the right hook for the right job and you’ll have tight lines all day long!

It’s all about the right fishing hook

Hooks are one of the most important parts of fishing. Some people think it’s a rod or a reel but they are mistaken. Most fish are caught fairly close to shore so the rod and reel don’t need to be the best. But using the right kind of hook can make the difference between fooling a fish into biting or not. The right fishing hook can also make a difference in whether the fish biting your bait will stay hooked or be able to shake it off.  The hook doesn’t have to be the most expensive but it does have to be the right fishing hook.

Hooks from the major brands are generally high quality, regardless of price. Should you buy cheap hooks? I’m not a fan of cheap hooks but I do appreciate modestly priced hooks that offer value. Here is why I do not recommend cheap hooks:

1. Cheaper hooks become dull fast
A cheap hook tends to lose it’s sharpness quickly. This will negatively affect your ability to hook a fish. It also means you’ll constantly replace hooks that are dull, bent, or rusting. Each time you catch a fish or hook a twig the hook gets a little duller. You don’t even need a microscope to see that the low quality hooks are full of imperfections like eyes that aren’t perfectly closed or wire that has small pits.

2. Discount hooks are not sharp
Discount fishing hooks are pointy. But cheap hooks are never sharp. There is a difference between pointy and sharp. Sharpness defines a hooks ability to cut. Being able to cut will affect a hooks ability to penetrate like a knife in hot butter. A pointy hook cannot cut.  A cheap hook takes more effort to get a proper hook set, which means you’ll be catching less fish.

Many name brand hooks like Gamakatsu, Owner, and LazerSharp are deadly sharp, even in their larger sizes. The bigger the hook, the harder it is for the hook to penetrate. So when you get to a size 6 hook, the cutting power of a hook is absolutely critical.

3. Discount hooks have more flaws
Flaws are going to play a role in whether the hook is going to bend or break. The quality of the steel is inferior in cheaper hooks. This makes them more likely to fail.
What kind of hooks are best?
The best kind hook depends on how you are fishing, with a floating worm, floating dough bait, a real worm, a sinking worm, or a soft bait. Let’s take a look at the different bait presentations!

Overview of fishing hooks

Treble hooks

Treble hooks are often used for different situations. Small thin wire treble hooks size 10 to 14 are commonly used for dough type baits that float. They are also useful on a variety of lures like spoons and hardbait fishing lures. Unfortunately many of the trebles that come with fishing lures are of a lower quality and result in fish that get away. For more information read BaitSoakers Guide to Treble Hooks to learn everything about freshwater treble hooks.

Live bait hooks

If you’re using live worms, a bait hook can be the right choice, especially for a live worm because the keeper barbs prevent the worms from bunching up as they wiggle up and down the hook shank. A standard bait hook has keeper barbs that help keep the bait on the hook.

Specialty bait hooks

There are other kinds of hooks called Bait Hooks that don’t have keeper barbs. It kind of confuses the issue to call them bait hooks but the difference is that they’re not live bait hooks. They’re intended to be used with chunks of meat, dough or other bait like artificial worms and other soft bait. Typically a light wire hook will help in keeping the presentation natural when paired with a light bait like a rubber worm or similar lure. A light hook allows the lure to undulate and wiggle around while a heavier hook could kill the action. In any case, a heavier hook is harder to set while a light hook will slide into fish’s soft jaws more easily. A wide gap in the hook will ensure that the sharp end of the hook pokes out of the bait enough to make a hookset. More information about freshwater fishing with soft bait here.

Here’s a good tip to keep in mind when selecting a bait hook or a live bait hook: Don’t be afraid to let the hook point stick out. In general there’s no need to hide the hook. The fact is that burying the hook is a way to ensure lost fish as it is more difficult to get a proper hook set with a buried hook than it is with a hook point that isn’t blocked.

For example, a circle type hook can be useful because a trout will tend to hook itself automatically. A circle type hook doesn’t need you to set the hook so it can mean better hook ups. With a bait hook it’s important that the hook is properly set otherwise the fish can head shake it out.

Circle hooks

Speaking of having to set a hook, the great thing about circle hooks is that setting the hook is not necessary. A circle hook sets itself when the fish takes the bait and takes off with it. The circle hook rotates in a fish’s mouth and hooks itself, usually in the corner of it’s mouth. I fish with circle hooks as often as I can. The great thing about circle hooks is that they don’t need you to react to a twitch by immediately yanking the rod to set the hook. The hook sets itself.  Thus, it’s a hook worthy of consideration if you fish with natural or artificial baits. If you like to set your rod in a holder then sit back and wait, the circle hook may be the right hook for you.

Light wire hooks

Owner makes a nice hook called the Mosquito Hook. The hook is made from a strong but thin wire and it comes in red, which can appear more natural to a fish because it resembles the flash of gills or blood. I fish with either black or red, with a preference for red if I have a choice. What’s great about the Mosquito Hook is that they are a fine diameter hook. Thin hooks tend to penetrate better, so you are more likely to get a better hook set. The only exception is with bony mouth fish like gar. Because the Mosquito hook is light, it will have less effect on a bait moves in the water, which means a more natural presentation. Remember, presentation is one of the most important factors for catching a fish, even more than color. A heavier hook can change the way a bait looks, moves or wiggles.

Wide gap hooks

Wide gap hooks won’t help you catch trout or panfish like bluegill if the gap is too wide for their mouths. However they are extremely useful for other kinds of fish and different types of presentations. As explained above, a wide gap hook enables you to use a smaller hook while still retaining the hook power of a larger hook. That means you can downsize your hook when the fish are behaving spooky and skittish in clear water but still be able to retain a solid hookset. Another reason to use a wide gap hook is when fishing for fish with larger mouths, like a largemouth bass. Another useful quality of a wide gap hook is that they’re perfect to use with a bulky bait like a large profile minnow soft bait, a live bait or with a chunk of bait like chicken livers.

What size hook?

The general rule of thumb is to use the biggest size you can get away with, without negatively affecting your presentation. Obviously, a floating bait or lure needs a light hook, typically smaller and/or thinner. I use a size 14 to 16 hook with Berkely Mice Tail baits. Another consideration is the size of the fish you want to catch. A largemouth bass will need a bigger hook than what you’d use for a trout. For small bass, a size 6 hook is fine. For larger bass (or to keep smaller bass and panfish off your hook), you can upsize from a size 4 to a size 1 hook. Consider the size of the fish you wish to catch and the size of it’s mouth.

If you’re angling for trout, the typical hook sizes are from a smaller size 12 hook to a size 6 hook. A size 6 hook is able to handle trout over five pounds and as small as eight inches. If you are catching and releasing then try to use a size 6 or 8 hook as this will raise the odds against them swallowing the hook. But if you’re catching and eating then go ahead and downsize to as small as a size 16 hook.

Should you buy an economical hook or an expensive brand fishing hook?

Mustad and Eagle Claw are economical choices for high quality hooks. You can’t go wrong with those brands. However if you feel better fishing with ultra sharp hooks, then I can recommend (from personal experience) Owner, Gamakatsu, Mustad Ultrapoint, and Eagle Claw Lazer hooks. Owner is a personal favorite because of their high quality and sharpness. Gamakatsu makes deadly sharp hooks as well. But Owner is one of my personal preferences.

What is the one hook if I could only choose one?

Hands down it would be a circle hook. If I couldn’t find a circle hook in the size I needed, then I would choose an Owner Mosquito Hook. If I couldn’t find an Owner Mosquito Hook locally then I would choose a Gamakatsu Octopus hook. If I couldn’t find a Gamakatsu Octopus hook then I would choose an appropriate hook by Eagle Claw.

All about gold colored hooks

I don’t use gold hooks. Some anglers believe the flash will help attract attention and there may some truth to that. But I haven’t been outfished by gold hooks so I’m not convinced. Also consider that professional anglers don’t use gold hooks and their money is clearly where their mouths are! So my choice is usually black or red hooks, followed by bronze.

Best size hook for catching trout

There are many hooks that are appropriate for trout. The choice of hook is a matter of the size of the fish you are trying to catch and the technique you are using to catch it with. A bait hook in size 12 through 6 is great for bait fishing and can work well with soft baits like rubber worms and soft minnow lures. A circle hook or octopus hook work just as well in the same sizes, although you can downsize even more to as small as size 16 if you need to.

There are various style hooks that may not be appropriate, such as Kahle and Aberdeen. A Kahle hook is a specialized hook generally used in saltwater and an Aberdeen is used for panfish. An Aberdeen hook features an extra long shank so as to catch those fish that nibble rather than gulp their prey.

Egg hooks

Egg hooks are popular for fishing with salmon eggs. But I’m not enthused by them because egg hooks have extremely short shanks. The extremely short shanks of egg hooks tend to make hooking up a little harder because the hook gap is so small. So I never fish with typical egg hooks.

That said, Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp makes a killer short shank hook with just a little extra length called the Needle-Point Short-Shank hook. They are sticky sharp, come in red or black, and are sold in packs of about fifty hooks for under five bucks. A really great deal. I have used the Eagle Claw Lazer Needle-Point hooks with great success for when I downsized my soft bait to two inches or less. I’ve missed a few strikes but if you’re going to fish with a small bait then you can’t go wrong with the Needle-Point Short-Shank hooks.

The best trout hooks

Here’s a tip that most trout anglers don’t know about. If you are at a good quality bait shop go take a look at their fly fishing section. Fly tying hooks are generally very sharp (particularly brands like Umpqua and Tiemco) and they come in a wide variety of hook diameters (from three extra fine to heavy gauge hooks), and are sold in a variety of sizes down to size 16 (and smaller). Fly fishing hooks are my favorite hooks to use because you can dial in the exact specification for the right presentation. As I said at the beginning of this article, catching a lot of fish often comes down to using the right fishing hook. I always use fly tying hooks for floating worms and floating mice tail lures (read here about Powerbait mice tails, a killer fishing lure!).

What makes fly tying hooks so great is that they are clearly labeled as to the thickness of the hooks. They come in thickness ranging from extra heavy to 3 extra fine (3XF). I find that a 2XF (2 extra fine) size 14 hook by Mustad is the perfect hook for small soft bait lures (3 inches and smaller). The Mustad 2XF dry fly hooks come in a box of around fifty hooks for under five dollars. An excellent hook for an excellent price!

Please share this article with a friend, thanks for stopping by.  Fish-on Freddy says, tight lines! Good luck with your fishing!

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