There are over 800 styles and sizes to choose from. The major styles are regular wire, light wire, heavy wire, single, double, treble, bait, worm, circle, octopus, Kahle, Aberdeen, Siwash, drop shot, weed less, fly hooks, Limerick, and O’Shoughnessy.
The sizes are likewise confusing. There are no set standards between manufacturers. But there is consistency within a manufacturer. The hook size range runs from a 32 to a 19/0. The smallest size is the 32 and the largest hook is the 19/0. From hook size 32 to size 1, the larger the number the smaller the hook; from 1/0 to 19/0, the larger the number, the larger the hook. For most of my sport fishing needs, a size two to a size twelve hook fits my demands. These sizes match the bait size to the fish species and size.
The anatomy of a fish hook includes the eye, shank, bend, point, barb, and gape.
The eye can be an up-turned, down-turned, or
The shank can be a short, regular, or long shank.
The gap can be standard or wide-gaped.
The barb can be a regular barb, mini barb, or barbless. The barb’s function is to hold the fish on the hook once the hook has been set. The size of the barb also determines how much pressure is needed to set the hook. The barb-less hook sets the easiest while the regular barbed hook is the hardest to set.
The point of the hook can be honed (filed) or chemically sharpened. Needle point, rolled point, hollow point, spear, knife edged, and triangulated points are available. I prefer the sharpest one. That is, in my opinion, the chemically sharpened one. Once it becomes dull, I sharpen it by honing the hook into a triangular or rounded point. It is imperative that the point be as sharp as possible. A sharp point catches more fish than a dull point.
Deciding the correct hook to use is one of the many choices to make when fishing. My preference is a light wire, wide gaped, barb-less hook that is as sharp as possible. When fishing bait that may be swallowed, I prefer the circle hook. Perhaps the circle hook is one of the best inventions in fish hook design. It does away with gut hooking a fish. Its unique design sets it in the corner of the fish’s mouth. If you try to set the circle hook by striking back it is likely to come out of the fish’s mouth. All you have to do to set a circle hook is to start reeling slowly and smoothly, and then exert more pressure by reeling faster as the fish swims away.
I like the treble hooks that come on the Mepps and Panther Martin spinners. They are light wire and genuinely sharp. Their gape is wide for their shank’s length. With these, I lightly hook the fish and they are easily removed, especially if you have pinched down the barb.
You can make any fish hook barb-less by pinching down the barb using forceps on small hooks or a pair of pliers on larger hooks. Once the barb is pinched down, a smooth bump is created. This bump allows the hook to be set more easily than a hook with a barb but still acts somewhat like a barb by holding the fish. Most important, it makes the hook easier to remove. That’s what you really want--a hook
that removes easily without trauma to the fish.
I once thought that I’d lose too many fish by using barbless hooks, but that isn’t true. I can see little difference in the number of lost fish. Smooth, even, sustained pressure is the best way to fight a fish. I’ve landed very energetic steelhead that have leaped, twisted, ran, and even created slack line conditions. Also, an unseen advantage is that barb-less hooks are easily set and by using them, the number of fish I do hook has increased. I’m convinced that fishing barbless has increased the number of fish that I hook and land. If I do resort to a barbed hook I prefer the mini barb that comes on fly hooks. It sets easily, holds well, and is somewhat easy to remove.
In conclusion, I try to choose between the 800 styles and sizes by selecting a light wire, barb-less one that matches the bait and fish size that I’m fishing for. I usually select a size two to a size twelve. For bait fishing, I choose a circle hook.
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