Fishing Hooks 101: Parts, Sizes, Types, and More
Sep 22, 2020 | 9 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 9 minutes

If there’s one piece of your whole angling setup that you have to get right, it’s the hook. They may seem simple, but there are as many types of fishing hooks 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.

A close-up of a Cod with a jigging lure hanging out of its mouth. The fish is being held by a man in a maroon sweater.
You need a strong hook to pull in deep-dwelling fish like Cod.

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

A set of fishing hooks on a string. Half of them are barbed, the other half are barbless

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

A stack of blue jeans against a wooden background

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.

Worm Hooks

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.

Jig Hooks

An angler on a boat wearing a black cap and blue sunglasses. The angler is holding a Striped Bass with a soft plastic lure hanging out of its mouth. Sea and sky are visible behind him.

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

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

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.

Treble Hooks

A Calico Bass laid on a white boat deck, with a green and yellow lure sticking out of its mouth

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.

Siwash Hooks

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.

Octopus Hooks

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.

Aberdeen Hooks

A woman's hand with white nail polish holding an Aberdeen fishing hook against a black background

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

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

A man's hand holding two treble hooks and a circle hook over water

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!

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Comments (22)
  • Vinnie

    Feb 2, 2020

    A great guide for different styles of hooks!

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      Albert

      Feb 3, 2020

      Hi Vinnie,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad you liked the article!

      Tight lines!

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    • Reply icon

      Brian Kimani

      May 17, 2020

      Hi. Albert,I am from Kenya,I wood like you to get me a job of making fishing hooks,some of which I make are like:Dries,Nymp,streamers,wets,murders and many others,you can give me tenders like three hundred dozens and I can send the work after three weeks at most,my whatsup number is +254792531703 or my email [email protected],I will be waiting for your reply,thankyou

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    • Reply icon

      Sean

      May 18, 2020

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      We’re actually not in the business of selling or buying fishing equipment, I’m afraid. This article was more written for educational purposes.

      My advice would be to reach out to a tackle shop chain, or perhaps an anglers’ organization.

      Best of luck, and have a great day!

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  • Rob

    Feb 28, 2020

    Thanks for this article. I am doing some research on ancient North American Copper artifacts and I have about 130 fishhooks. These artifacts are probably between 5000 and 3000 years old and they are definitely made with these different shapes and strategies in mind. Specifically there are Circle, and Kahkle and Aberdeen type hooks, though the Aberdeens are probably not as thin as these modern ones are. There are also a series of very small “straight” Aberdeen style hooks, any ideas on what those might be used for in a shallow, low energy, fresh water environment? I will probably be citing this post in my research… Also is there any other name for those classic straight J shape hooks besides Aberdeen, it seems like that name is rather specific to it being small and thin?

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      Albert

      Mar 2, 2020

      Hi Rob,

      Thanks for getting in touch. How amazing to think people were already developing specific styles of hooks thousands of years ago!

      It’s tough to say what those small hooks would be used for without seeing them and knowing where they were used. Most likely, they were for catching small fish with worms or other small natural baits. They could even have been for catching baitfish if they were small enough.

      In terms of the name for this kind of hook, you can just call them “straight shank hooks” or “straight shank J hooks” I guess.

      Good luck with the research, please do let me know if you end up citing this article in it!

      All the best!

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  • Pete Northup

    Mar 9, 2020

    Excellent article! I’ve been trying to explain to my kids and novice fishermen and women the difference between the usage and description of hooks and various other pieces, I had my minions read the article and they said they now put together what I was talking about, easy and informative article, thank you.

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      Albert

      Mar 10, 2020

      Hi Pete,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m so glad you found the article useful!

      We’ve also got a post on common types of lures if you’re looking for explainer-type articles.

      Thanks again for the kind words. I hope you and your minions catch a monster next time you’re on the water.

      Tight lines!

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  • Paul

    Mar 19, 2020

    Thanks indeed for educative article…. books on Hooks tend to be windy for learners like me…. yours is to the polnt..

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      Albert

      Mar 20, 2020

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m really glad you found it useful.

      Would you find guides like this on any similar topics useful? Just let me know – we’re always happy to write more about fishing!

      All the best!

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  • Tony

    Mar 30, 2020

    Can you tell me what ” L.O.E” would mean when talking about fishing hooks?

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      Albert

      Mar 31, 2020

      Hi Tony,

      I have no idea I’m afraid! Where did you come across it?

      Can anybody else shed some light on this one?

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  • Jerry

    Apr 16, 2020

    Great article!

    What are the neon sleeves called that cover the shank of treble hooks? I have been looking for them… Thank you!

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      Albert

      Apr 16, 2020

      Hi Jerry,

      Do you mean something like this? I’d just call them “shank sleeves”

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Let me know if you have any more questions.

      Tight lines!

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  • Jerry Maday

    Apr 16, 2020

    Hi Albert… like this.

    Thank you for replying back!

    Jerry

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      Albert

      Apr 21, 2020

      Hi Jerry,

      I had to remove your link but thanks for clarifying.

      I hope the link I sent through before was helpful. If not, I know that a British company called Greys used to make them, and you can still find them around online.

      All the best!

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  • Josh

    Jun 28, 2020

    Obviously, each hook has its pro’s and con’s, but if you are going to a deserted island and forced to take only one (or two), which one would it be?

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      Albert

      Jun 30, 2020

      Hi Josh,

      Great question!

      If I was fishing for food, I’d take a plain old-fashioned J hook like a bait holder. They’re simple, effective, and pretty hard-wearing.

      As a backup, I’d probably bring a kahle hook that I could target bigger fish with. It depends on whether I get a rod with it, though.

      What does everyone else think?

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  • Button

    Jul 16, 2020

    I am interested in making my own bladed jigs. I have made some using materials from Netcraft but that involves connecting tha blade to the jig with a split ring. This results in the bait making wide circles behind the blade. Is there a hook or a method I can use to connect the blade directly to the hook eye! Thank you!

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      Albert

      Jul 20, 2020

      Hi Button,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid I don’t know much about making bladed jigs.

      Does anyone else have any tips?

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  • Ramon Urteaga

    Sep 12, 2020

    Albert: great article; very informative. Thanks for sharing all that knowledge. I recently purchased several types of spoons/metal lures and have noticed that some come with a pair of hooks attached to the front ring (near the “eye” of the simulated fish), while others have them at the opposite end. Also – my assumption is that you tie your leader/line to the front ring of the lure, but some lures that have hooks tied to the front also a solid ring at the back end of the lure. Why is that ring in the back of one would not tie a line to that end? Thank you in advance for your reply.

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      Albert

      Sep 14, 2020

      Hi Ramon,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad you found the article useful.

      The short answer is: they’re all for hooks!

      On plugs and poppers, you normally have two or even three spots to attach hooks, to increase your chance of a hookup. This also lets you tailor your setup to the species you catch, as some fish will chase the lure through the water, while others will attack from below.

      The most common place to see pairs of hooks is on jigs. Because jigs move in a more unstable way, it can be tough to predict where a fish will hit it. These “assist hooks” are designed to latch onto the fish wherever they come into contact with it, and you’ll often find a fish hooked in more than one place when you bring it in.

      Lastly, you’ll sometimes see trails or feathers attached to the back of a hook to increase its visibility. These can be with or without a hook.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions!

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