Fishing hooks are one of the smallest parts of an angler’s setup, but in some ways, they’re also the most important. They may seem simple, but there are as many types of fishing hook as there are fish to catch with them. Well, maybe not that many, but there’s more to them than just bending a piece of metal. Much, much more.
Today, you’ll learn all about this crucial piece of tackle. Cut through the jargon on the different parts of a hook to find out how they affect your chances. Get to grips with the most popular hook types and when you should use them. By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to up your game and improve your success on the water.
Parts of a Fishing Hook
Let’s start with the basics. Every part of a fishing hook has a name. This helps people describe what makes a hook special, and what to use it for. Here’s a short breakdown of each one:
- Point: The sharp bit that pierces the fish’s mouth.
- Barb: A backwards-facing spike that stops the hook from coming loose.
- Throat: The section of the hook running down from the point.
- Bend: Where the hook curves back on itself.
- Shank: The same as the throat, but on the blunt end.
- Eye: The ring that attaches the hook to a lure or a line.
- Gap/Gape: The distance between the throat and the shank.
Each hook is tailored for a specific purpose. For example, having a long, narrow shank is useful when working with thin baits like worms. On the other hand, having a wide gape lets you use larger baits to tempt big predators. Out of all these parts, the ones with the most specific varieties are the point and the eye.
Types of Hook Point
This is the business end of your whole setup. It’s the difference between a solid hookup and a near-miss. No surprises then, that various hook points have been developed over the years. The five most common points are as follows.
Needle point: Needle points taper in slightly towards the shank. They’re designed to pierce easily, and to cause minimal damage once they’re through. This keeps the hole small, reducing the harm to the fish and making it harder for it to throw the hook.
Spear point: This is the most common point and a great all-rounder. Spear points run straight up from the throat, giving you decent penetration and limited damage to the fish. They’re also easier to sharpen than more elaborate varieties.
Rolled in point: Rolled in points pierce deeply with the minimal amount of pressure. The tip faces towards the hook eye, keeping your force directly in line with its path through a fish’s mouth. They’re perfect for fish that thrash about when they’re brought to the boat.
Hollow point: Hollow point hooks have a bent-in spike which curves down to the barb. They cut through soft-mouthed fish and stay in place once they’re there. However, they can make setting the hook much more difficult on tougher species.
Knife edge point: These guys mean business. Sharpened on both sides and pointed away from the shank, they’re made for maximum penetration. The problem with knife edge points is that they cause a lot of damage to the fish.
Types of Hook Eye
Moving over to the blunt end, choosing the right eye can be just as important to your catch rate. There are specific eyes for certain knots and tying styles. Some eyes are also strengthened to deal with the pressure of big game battles.
The most common is a simple ringed eye. It’s easy to thread line through and works with a variety of knots. For bigger fish, anglers normally use a brazed eye – a loop sealed shut with melted metal. Brazing a hook stops it bending or breaking during the fight. Finally, needle eye hooks are ideal for fishing with bait. You can thread the entire hook through the bait fish easily, just like a sewing needle.
There are also a couple of eyes that you’ll only use with specific fishing techniques. Dry fly anglers swear by a tapered eye, which is more slender towards the end of the loop. This keeps the weight down, helping the fly float properly. On the other end of the scale, a looped eye gives wet flies a little more weight. It also lets fly tyers get more creative with their designs.
Barbed vs. Barbless Hooks
The final thing worth mentioning is the barb. Barbs are great for holding bait on hooks, and some hooks actually have multiple barbs because of this. Barbs can also make it tougher for a fish to throw the hook, meaning more meat in the cooler.
However, barbed hooks cause much more damage to the fish than a simple point. They make a bigger hole, and can get snagged or lodged deep inside a fish. This lowers its survival rate, and makes it tougher to remove the hook.
In short, barbed hooks are awesome for fish you plan to eat, but barbless hooks are better for catch and release. That’s why many anglers break or file off the barbs on their hooks.
Fishing Hook Sizes
Finding the right size hook should be simple. You just look up a standard table of hook sizes and find one meant for your chosen species, right? Sadly, life’s never that easy. Instead, you have to wade through half a dozen different measurements in order to make your choice. Here are the most important ones and what they mean.
Sizes and Aughts
Essentially, fishing hook sizes start in the middle and work their way out. On the left, you have sizes. On the right, you have “aughts.”
The smallest hooks out there begin at around a size 30. The second-smallest is size 29, then 28, 27, and so on, running “up” to size 1. After size 1, it switches to size 1/0 (pronounced “one aught”) then 2/0, 3/0, all the way to 27/0, which we assume people use to catch literal sea monsters.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s no standardized “actual size.” A 1/0 jig hook won’t be the same size as a 1/0 circle hook. More importantly, it varies a lot by brand. A 1/0 jig hook made by Eagle Claw will probably be bigger than the same hook made by Gamakatsu, but smaller than one made by Mustad. And size is only one of the measurements involved.
Why Hooks are Like Pants
Bear with us on this one.
When you buy a pair of jeans, you can’t just look at one size – not if you want them to fit. You need the right length, the right waist, and the right cut. Fishing hooks are the same. You need to think about the gauge, length, and gape.
Gauge has to do with how thick the actual metal is. It usually runs from fine to heavy wire, but you can buy extra-thick hooks which will be marked as 2X Heavy, 3X Heavy, and so on.
Length measures how long the shank is. The higher the number, the longer the shank. You’ll often find this written as 2X Long, 3X Long, and occasionally even 4X Long.
Gape covers how far the point is from the shank. In short, how wide the hook is. It’s normally marked as, you guessed it, 2X Wide, 3X Wide, etc.
Common Types of Fish Hooks and Their Uses
If you’ve spent any time in a tackle shop, you’ll know that there are dozens, even hundreds of different fishing hooks. Each exists for a reason, and even the most bizarre designs come in handy from time to time. However, there are a few types of fishing hooks that every self-respecting angler should have in their tackle box. Here’s our short list.
Bait Holder Hooks
Bait holders do exactly what you’d expect: they make sure your bait doesn’t slip off the hook. They have barbs on the shank to hold bait in place, and a barbed point to latch onto any fish that bites it. Bait holders are extremely effective, but their barbs can cause a lot of damage along the way. They’re not the best choice if you’re planning to release your fish.
If you like fishing with plastic worms, you and worm hooks are probably old friends. The bend near the eye holds the “head” of the worm in place. The point pierces the body, waiting to latch onto unsuspecting fish. The rest of the lure hangs loose. This lets it move freely and naturally.
These guys are as simple as they are effective. The eye is set at a right angle to the shank to increase the lure’s movement in the water. Jig hooks can be easily adapted for catch and release by breaking off or filing down the barb on the point.
Circle hooks are the closest you can get to “fish-friendly” tackle. The point bends in towards the shank, which stops them from “deep hooking” a fish’s throat or gut. Instead, they catch in the corner of its mouth. Circle hooks take some getting used to. You need to wait until they lodge firmly in place before you the put pressure on or you’ll pull them right out of the fish’s mouth.
Weedless hooks are a favorite of Bass anglers worldwide. They’re used in lakes and ponds, where you’re fishing among heavy vegetation. They have a thin guard that clips onto the point. This stops you from pulling out half the pond every time you retrieve. At the same time, it’s fixed on lightly enough that it will come off as soon as a fish takes your bait.
Planning to storm a castle or throw topwater lures? You’ll need some treble hooks. Triple the points means triple the chances of a hookup, as one of them will always be facing the right way. The problem with trebles is that they don’t tend to pierce very deeply. They can also be tricky to remove without accidentally hooking yourself in the process.
A lot of anglers add siwash hooks to spinnerbaits or poppers in place of treble hooks, as they’re easier to remove and less harmful to the fish. Because of this, they come with an open eye for easy attachment. Siwashes have long shanks and points so that they hang naturally off your lure and don’t come out once they set.
Whoever invented octopus hooks had one thing in mind: presenting small baits naturally. Their short, rounded shank cuts down both size and weight, while still leaving enough gape to hook larger fish. The point bends in slightly on an octopus hook, although not as much as on circle hooks.
First used in the remote Salmon streams of northeast Scotland, Aberdeen hooks have been popular for as long as fishing has been a sport. Their light wire and long shank let you fix small live baits on securely without injuring them. This keeps them alive for as long as possible.
Kahle hooks are on the opposite end of the scale to Aberdeens. With a super-wide gape and heavy build, they’re born for big baits and tough battles. Kahle hooks look similar to a circle hook, but the point doesn’t bend in towards the shank. Instead, it faces straight up to the eye, making them easier to set.
And Many, Many More
Honestly, we could spend all day listing different types of fishing hooks and we’d barely scratch the surface. We’ve covered the most important ones, and kept you off the water for long enough in the process!
More Than Just a Twist of Metal
In theory, fishing hooks are the simplest piece of your setup. They don’t need to made of some high-tech carbon fiber, or to turn invisible underwater. They’re just a bent piece of metal with a pointy bit at one end.
However, as with all things fishing, hooks have been honed and perfected into a thousand unique varieties. Each part has its purpose. Every style has its place. Knowing what to use when is a surefire way to up your game and, hopefully, improve your catch rate.
What are your favorite types of fishing hooks and how do you use them? Did you learn anything today? What did we miss? Drop us your thoughts in the comments below!