Gulf Coast Fisherman magazine
Tackle Time - Summer '98
by Max Hunn - Department Editor

All About HOOKS

How many times have you been saltwater fishing and missed a bite? Probably more times than you care to remember if you're an average fisherman.

Missing is all part of the angling game, but did you ever consider why you failed? Was it your hook? Was that particular hook the proper one for the type of fish you were seeking? Your hook could be the cause of your failure Understanding hooks is the key to successful hooking

There's more to the art of hooking than is first apparent, and if you don't know the fundamentals of hooks and their use you may miss a lot of fish. There's a special nomenclature about this phase of fishing. It's not difficult to understand, but this basic information makes it easier to learn about hooks and hooking.

Through the centuries, a special terminology developed keyed to the uses of the many hook types. Today, each part of the hook has a special designation The various parts are: (1) eye, (2) shank, (3) bend, and (4) point There are two other special terms, the gape and bite. While these are not actually a physical part of the hook, they are important indicating the distance between the point and the shank(gape) and the distance from the bend to the end of the point (bite).

The various parts vary with each type of hook,and each is important in identifying the hook's use and it strongest and weakest parts.

The eyes vary. The four most widely used are needle, tapered, ball, and looped The needle eye looks like an enlarged head of a needle. Boca Grande, Florida , tarpon fishermen favor this hook because it will work itself out of a tarpon's jaw after releasing There's no protruding head to impede the hook's forward movement. Releasing is a vital part of tarpon fishing at this Florida hot spot.

Of course, it's not just a Florida hook It's useful in any situation where you want to release your fish The needle eye obviously will work out of any fish with a minimum amount of difficulty This type hook is especially useful for releasing any big fish, the type you have to break the leader to free.

The other eyes are basically looped, although they have special names These all have loops at the end of the hook They are made with eyes either turned up or turned down. Then there's the regular ringed hook with the eye at a 90 degree angle to the shank, and the eye hook which is parallel to the shank.

The shank is that portion of the hook between the eye and the bend, and is either short or long, depending upon the hook's design and usage. Short shanks generally are used when fishing with natural baits. These hooks can be hidden more easily in the bait and have good penetration in soft mouthed fish.

However, when using them make certain the hooks are buried in such a manner that they will come out of the bait easily, and hook your fish ~ barb that doesn't come free quickly won't enable you to land many fish. Instead you may end up running piscatorial free lunch counter.

Long shanked hooks are essential for sharp-toothed fish, and also for fish that suck in their food, such as flounder and trout. A long shank with such fish makes it easy to remove the hook.

All big gamefish hooks have forged shanks, and for saltwater fish, forged hooks generally are preferred, regardless of size until you get to the small panfish.

Salt water denizens, obviously, are much stronger and larger than their fresh water cousins. Thus sea going hooks take a lot of punishment, and must be stronger. Hook makers accomplish this during manufacture. In addition to bending the barb into the required shape and tempering, they forge the hook. This is done by hammering part of the shank and the bend so it is flat on two sides. After tempering, this process gives added strength where needed to prevent the bend from straightening under

It's a mistake to use non-forged hooks in salt water unless you're seeking extremely small fish. Many first time anglers do this and then wonder why their hooks don't hold.

You'll find five types of shanks are most commonly used. They are the straight, humped, sliced, curved down, and central draught.

There's the humped shank. A hump bend is made in the shank during manufacture. This hook is ideal for use with plastic, wood, or cork bodies The bend keeps the hook from turning when mounted in a lure's body However, it is not widely used in salt water.

Then there's the sliced shank with a barb or barbs cut into the shank designed to anchor a soft bait such as sea worms, or shrimp These are particularly effective for bait fishing.

The curved down shank is designed to bring the line pull closer to the hook point of penetration, and although it takes a shallow bite, it is a good bait hook. The central draught shank bends upwards to give the hook a quick, raking penetration.

A hook's bend is another of the main distinguishing characteristics. Each type of hook has its distinctive bend. Sproat has a parabolic bend with a straight point, while the Model Perfect has a round bend A Limerick hook has a half-round parabolic bend.

A Carlisle is a round-bend hook with an extra long shank, while the Kirby is another round-bend hook, similar to the Sproat, but it's point is off-set or "kirbed") for better penetration. The popular O'Shaughnessy resembles the Sproat, but its point is bent slightly inward. The Eagles Claw and Mustad Beak hooks accomplish the theoretical idea of having the hook point in direct line with the pull of the leader.

The Wide Gap is an odd-looking hook with a slightly reversed bend with an outpoint, and turned-up ball eye. It's generally used in fresh water, particularly when fishing with minnows. Some salt water anglers prefer it when bait fishing, but it is not a really popular sea going style.

The final part of the hook is the point. Again, there are variations There are four points now generally in use -- needle, hollow, spear and knife edge.

The needle point is ground on all sides, and if properly made has the best penetrating ability However, it is easily blunted. The hollow point, too, is designed for quick penetration. It is hollowed or round between the bit of the barb and the tip of the point

The spear point, which adapts itself to mass production. is the least expensive to make However, it does not have the quick penetration of the needle or hollow-point hooks.

The knife edge point is a very sharp point used mainly for big gamefish. Four sides of the point are ground With this hook, the surface of the barb is flat and wider than normal, making it a very difficult hook for big fish to throw.

There are variations in the positions of the points You generally encounter one or more of the four common ones The straight point is parallel to the shank The rolled point has the point bent in towards the shank, and is regarded as the best one for bait fishing in salt water

The bent-in point differs from the rolled point in that the entire spear is bent towards the hook shank While the point achieves a small bite, it's difficult for the fish to dislodge. The bent-out has a point bent away from the shank to achieve quick penetration.

One of the most confusing things about hooks is the size system. It's illogical and baffling until you understand the numbers. The numbers are reversed as to size. A No. 20 hook is NOT the largest It's the smallest. Hook sizes begin with No. 20 or higher, depending upon the manufacturer. Hook sizes get progressively larger as the numbers decrease until No. l is reached.

Then whoever invented this numbering system ran into a dead end.

Obviously, the size system couldn't use minus numbers. As a result, the developers did the next best thing They started over for larger hooks with 1/0 as the smallest in this system. The O's are sometimes referred to as ocean hooks. A 4/O hook is a 4/0 hook, regardless of whether it's used in salt or fresh water. O numbers range from 1/0 to 18/0, the larger the number, the larger the hook.

Knowledge of the various hook pattern, their usage, and the size (numbering) system is vital to saltwater angling But no hook can be really effective unless it's razor sharp. Dull hooks probably contribute to more missed fish than any other factor in angling. But don't forget that the sharpening process, whether with a stone or a file, also can invite rust, unless you're using stainless steel barbs It's cheaper to discard a few rusty hooks rather than to use dull ones that won't hook fish.

You can minimize the rust problem by using cadmium plated or tinned hooks. Most saltwater anglers do, and shun bronzed hooks. However, a few salty anglers, including some guides, prefer bronzed hook on the theory that the hooks are less visible. They probably are, but how important this is questionable.

If you do use bronze, you can expect greater rust problems, but they will work if the hooks are strong enough, and you don't attempt to use hooks weakened with rust.

Hooks are for hooking, and they're not expensive. Make certain you have the right ones.

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