Ultimate Guide to Fishing Hooks

When you’re heading out for a day of fishing at the lake, you want to have the best fishing rig possible. At the tip of every rig is your hook, and contrary to what you might think, there’s more to hooks than just being the pointy thing at the end of your line.

From different types of hooks, different bends, different points, and even different eyes and shanks, there’s a ton of things to wrap your head around.

That’s why we came up with the ultimate guide to fishing hooks. That way, you can be sure that the most essential part of your rig is sharper than ever!

Types of Hooks

If you’re new to fishing, you might be surprised to learn that there is more than one kind of hook that you can use while fishing. If you’re not using the right type of hook, you’ll struggle catching any fish. Keep reading, and this guide will walk you through everything you need to know.

Lots of Fish Hooks

Aberdeen

Manufacturers make Aberdeen hooks from extremely light wire, and the hook itself is small. Furthermore, they have a long shank, which makes it easy to slide through different live baits.

They can also be effective choices when fishing in areas with lots of submerged timber or other debris. That’s because the hooks are light enough to where you can sometimes bend a hook that gets snagged and work it free without losing your entire setup.

In fact, Aberdeen hooks bend before they break, giving you extra versatility when fishing timber and other rough conditions.

Aberdeen hooks are best used for live bait fishing, as the small hooks cause minimal damage to your bait. This ensures that they move around a lot and stay alive for as long as possible.

Baitholder

Baitholder hooks keep your bait stuck on the hook, even in rough waters. They have barbed ends to hold your bait in place, and those barbed ends double as an effective way to keep your fish hooked when you get a bite. These features make baitholder hooks a highly effective tool in your tackle box.

However, if you’re fishing for catch and release, baitholder hooks are not recommended. That’s because the barbed ends cause a lot of damage to fish. These wounds can end up seriously hurting or even killing the fish, even if you throw them back.

However, baitholder hooks are an outstanding choice for those teaching kids to fish, as they make it easy to hook your fish, and they allow for some mistakes when reeling them in.

Circle

The circle hook is ideal for beginners. It has a very distinct curve in the hook, and they are close to closing up completely, which is the reason for its name. Circle hooks are best for live bait fishing.

When using a circle hook, you can’t “set the hook” like you would with other hook styles. In fact, if you try this, you’ll likely lose the fish. All you need to do is reel in your line and apply steady pressure.

That’s because the extreme bend in the hook allows the hook to grab the fish by the jaw, and setting the hook will dislodge it and allow the fish to swim free. Because circle hooks catch fish by the jaw, it’s ideal for catch and release fisherman.

Circle hooks are far less likely to be swallowed by the fish or hook them in the gut. This dramatically decreases the chances of seriously injuring or killing the fish.

Dropshot/Finesse

Dropshot hooks, also known as finesse hooks, come in a wide range of shapes and styles. The distinguishing factor is that dropshot hooks typically have some sort of swivel attached to the hook’s eye.

Dropshot hooks make setting up a dropshot rig a bit easier, as the swivels are built right into the eye of the hook. Dropshot hooks utilize a baitholder hook, a worm hook, a circle hook, a jig hook, or even an octopus hook.

Dropshot hooks are less about the actual hook used and more about what’s attached at the eye. They don’t have much use outside of dropshot fishing rigs.

If you don’t have a dropshot hook and still want to go dropshot fishing, that’s completely fine. You can rig up your own dropshot hook with a regular worm hook or baitholder hook; you’ll just have a little more set up to do when creating your fishing rig.

Dropshot hooks are about convenience, and you can do without them if you’re willing to put in a little extra work.

O’Shaughnessy

Made from heavy wire, the O’Shaughnessy is an outstanding choice for dressing wet flies. However, these hooks are versatile and can be used for live bait and lures as well.

The point of the O’Shaughnessy hook points slightly outwards, which can make it easier to hook a slow biting fish. These hooks are incredibly versatile, and you can use them in both freshwater and saltwater applications.

Octopus

Contrary to what you might think after hearing the name, you don’t use octopus hooks for catching octopus. They are essentially a circle hook, without as severe a bend, and with the eye bent backward. This configuration allows you to set multiple hooks across your line easily.

If you’re looking at using a snell knot to secure your hook, this is a straightforward configuration to use. That’s because you can tie a knot directly to the eye, and you won’t have any issues at setting the hook when you get a bite.

Octopus hooks are similar to a circle hook, and they dramatically reduce the chance of hooking your fish anywhere but the jaw. This makes it a much safer hook to use for catch and release applications than some other hook configurations.

They are primarily used for bait fishing and are a light hook option to use when you want your bait to be livelier in the water.

Kahle

When you want one hook in your tacklebox that you can use for just about anything, you want the Kahle hook. They have multiple unique bends that enable them to be effective in a wide range of applications.

Whether you’re saltwater or freshwater fishing or using live or chunk bait, the Kahle hook can handle it.

Even better, it doesn’t matter what kind of fish you’re going after, because the Kahle hook is effective against bass, trout, catfish, flounder, and more. It truly is one hook for just about any application. Kahle hooks are built exclusively by Eagle Claw and are well worth adding to your tackle box.

Treble

Treble hooks are the most fearsome-looking of the bunch, even if you’re not quite sure how they work or when to use them. Instead of one point, a treble hook has three. These three hooks allow your fish to come in from different angles and still get caught.

These are the hooks that are typically on crankbaits, in-line spinnerbaits, hard body swimbaits, spoons, and a variety of other types of lures, but they have other uses as well

The three hooks are especially useful when fishing with jerk baits or fishing with minnows or other live bait. Because you don’t know what angle the fish will be coming after a moving bait, you need maximum coverage.

You typically want to use treble baits while trolling for salmon or bass, as this is when jerk baits are the most effective. They don’t have wide gaps between the three prongs, which can make it easier to lose a fish once you’ve hooked them.

Jig

Jig hooks typically have a 90-degree bend just under the eye. However, if the hook has a less severe bend, it still might be a jig hook. They come in a wide range of weights and strengths, and can be useful when fishing for salmon, walleye, and bass.

Jig hooks are for both experienced and beginner fishermen, and just like the name implies, you use a jig hook when making your own fishing jig. These are versatile fishing setups that you can make yourself and are a great way to mix up tackle box and have a little fun while you’re at it.

The best part is, since you’re making the jigs yourself, you can experiment with what does and doesn’t work, creating the perfect fishing setup for your local area.

Worm

It’s just what it sounds like, a hook you use when fishing with worms. It doesn’t need to be a real worm, though; worm hooks are great choices even if you’re fishing with plastic worms. Really worm hooks are excellent choices for any kind of soft baits.

They are especially useful when bass fishing and come in a wide selection of styles and varieties. Still, most worm hooks will have a slight bend right under the eye and have wide clearance gaps around the hook.

This is because you need the extra space to accommodate both the worm and fish you’re trying to catch. They are typically stronger hooks that have a ton of penetrating power. However, if they do get stuck in underbrush or timber, they are unlikely to bend, which means you might lose your rig when you’re trying to get it out.

Parts of a Hook

Knowing about different kinds of hooks is all fine and dandy, but when someone tells you that they want a hook with a looped eye, knowing if it’s a jig or a circle hook won’t do you much good. Don’t worry, and we’ll break it all down for you.

Eye Shapes

There are a ton of myths out there about how your hook’s eye will affect the way you can catch your fish, depending on its direction. While there are no studies confirming this, that’s no reason not to find what works best for you!

Just remember, what works best at one location might not work best at another, so keep experimenting to find your best setup.

Down Hook

Like it sounds, the down hook is when your hook’s eye is facing down towards the bottom of the water. Many anglers claim that this makes it easier to set the hook. But whether this is a tall tale or fact is still up for debate.

Straight or Ring

In between the down hook and the up eye, the straight or ring eye position is when it’s facing straight ahead, parallel with the top of the water.

Up Eye

Just as you might suspect, an up eye is when your hook’s eye is facing up towards the surface. Some anglers claim that this makes the bait more presentable but makes it harder to set the hook. No study has confirmed either option, but that doesn’t stop people from swearing by it.

Types of Eyes

While the position of your hook’s eye might not matter, the type of eye you use can be the difference between a few catches and a day without any bites. But what kind of eye do you need, and what’s the difference? We’ll help you figure it out.

Looped

Looped eyes are a bit like ringed eyes, except where the ringed eye stops, the looped eye continues downwards further. This creates an eye with two vertical points. This makes a slightly heavier hook, which is ideal for wet flies.

Tapered

Tapered eyes are identical to ringed eyes except for one small difference. As you get closer to the opening of the loop, the eye gets narrower. Dry fly anglers typically prefer hooks with tapered eyes.

Ringed

Ringed eyes are the most common of the bunch. They’re easy to rig, and you can use any knot with them. They are a regular circle, with a small opening right near the end. The large opening makes it easy for new anglers to set up their rigs.

Closed

Anglers use hooks with closed-loop eyes when they are trying to catch bigger fish. They are identical to a ringed eye, except the opening is brazed shut. This prevents the eye from bending as you reel in a larger fish.

Needle

If you’ve ever seen a sewing needle, then you know precisely what this eye looks like. Needle eyes are long narrow slits that are perfect for bait fishing. The thin design allows you to slide the entire hook through the baitfish easily, you simply can’t do this with other eye shapes.

Bend Shapes

The bend of your hook is just what it sounds like, where your hook bends. However, you need to make sure not to confuse the eye’s direction with the bend of the hook. The bend of the hook is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting a hook.

Egg

The egg hook is a hook with a Sproat bend and a heavy wire and eye. It’s not a true hook bend, but it commonly gets categorized with them nonetheless.

Model Perfect

Model Perfect bends are a true round bend—both dry and streamer hooks are commonly used Model Perfect bends. Model perfects have become increasingly popular in recent years, and they have a wide range of success with multiple fishing rigs.

Nymph

Nymph bends make the fly look as lifelike as possible. To aid in this pursuit, sometimes the manufacturer will bend the shank at a 45-degree angle.

Sproat

Sproat bends are common and have a wide range of uses. You can use Sproat bends for wet flies, soft hackles, and bass hooks. Adding to their versatility, you can use them in both fresh and saltwater applications. The distinct feature of a hook with a Sproat bend is that it has a small or turn or upward slope at the point.

Scud/Shrimp

Scud and shrimp bends look like a turned down shrimp. As the name implies, this bend is an ideal fit when using scud baits. Furthermore, you can use caddis emergers, bead flies, and other bottom crawlers that fish like to eat. You don’t need to use live bait with a scud or shrimp bend, as artificial baits that mimic bottom crawlers are effective as well.

York

York bends are ideal when fishing with stoneflies, large nymphs, or simulator type flies. They have a long sloping bend that is useful when fishing for steelhead trout and salmon.

Sneck

Sneck bends are no longer in style as they make it hard to hook a fish. Instead of a sloping bend, they have a square edge. They don’t have many practical applications. However, they do have a unique look, even if they aren’t very useful.

Stinger

A stinger bend is simply a modified Sproat bend. They have a sharp arc that goes all the way to the point of the hook.

Spey/Bartlett

If you combined the york and nymph bends, you’d get the Spey bend. The shank is curved and turns up at the eye. It’s only useful when you’re fishing for trout or salmon.

Hook Points

While different style fishing hooks and fishing hook bends are interesting enough, it’s the hook points that catch the fish. Knowing what hook point you need to catch your fish is half the battle.

Spear

Spear points are the most common points on fishing hooks. The reason is simple, not only does it easily penetrate the fish but it also only causes minimal damage. Spear points are straight points with a single barb, and you can easily sharpen them, so you don’t need to buy new points just because yours is getting a little dull.

Hollow

Contrary to the name, hollow points aren’t actually hollow. Hollow points describe a hook with a bent in tip. It’s a bit like the needle point; however, the tip’s bend is more pronounced. This bend can make setting the hook a little more difficult, but once it’s hooked, the fish can seldom slip it.

Rolled-In

Rolled-In points are almost identical to needle points; however, they are a little smaller at the tip. This allows them to penetrate easier. Rolled-in points are perfect for fish that go in all different directions as you try to reel them in. While not as challenging to slip as a hollow point, rolled-in points are still highly effective.

Needle

Needle points are one of the most simple and effective point options available. It’s almost identical to the spear point, except that it points out slightly towards the tip. Because it still has much of the same design as the spear point, it only causes minimal injury to the fish. However, since the tip is slightly bent, it is much harder for the fish to slip the hook and get away.

Knife

You shouldn’t use knife points for catch and release. They are sharpened on both sides and are angled away from the shank. They provide maximum penetration, which is useful when you’re trying to set your hook and make sure that the fish can’t get away. However, it causes a lot of additional damage to the fish.

Barbless

Every point option listed above comes in both barbed and barbless options. Barbless options are easier to set and cause less damage to the fish. The tradeoff is much easier for the fish to slip from after you have hooked them. Barbless hooks also tend to hook the same fish in multiple locations.

Finally, barbless hooks are generally a lot harder to find then barbed hooks, as barbed hooks have become the standard because they are easier for beginners to use. However, if you are fishing for catch and release, you might want to consider a barbless hook, so you cause less damage to the fish.

Surgical

Removing a barbed fish hook can require a visit to the emergency room. That’s because barbed hooks are difficult to pull out. The barb is pointed in the opposite direction of the hook, making it a one direction piercing. If you hook yourself in the finger with a barbed hook, you often need to push the hook all the way through and cut the barb out to remove the hook.

However, if you are using a barbless hook, you can usually remove the hook by pulling it straight out, and visits to the emergency room are rarely necessary.

Hook Shank

The hook shank is the part of the hook between the eye and the bend. The shank is the backside of the hook, typically from the eye down to the bend. Once you go around the bend to the point, it is called the throat.

The hook shank itself can be different sizes and bent in different ways. What you need will depend on what you’re fishing for. We’ll get you up to date on all the jargon, so all you need to worry about is finding the perfect hook for your rig.

Short

Many anglers use hooks with short shanks when fishing with a Snell knot. Snell knots have several advantages while fishing, including the fact that you can use an eyeless hook with them. Furthermore, if you’re using a wacky rig, you should use a short shank for better results.

Regular

In between the short and long shank hooks, there’s really no set size for a “regular” shank. However, there are plenty of hooks out there that you’d have a hard time deciding if it had a short or long shank. Regular or medium-sized shanks are versatile and can be used with Snell knots or with more traditional knots when teaching kids how to fish.

Long

Hooks with long shanks are great for children and those just learning to fish. With a longer shank tying the knots is a bit easier, and it’s easier to control the hook. This is perfect for clumsy hands and dramatically reduces the chances of you accidentally hooking yourself.

Curved

There are tons of hook styles that use a curved shank. Both circle and octopus hooks have a curved shank. Curved shanks allow you to get a more natural bend for these hooks, making it easier to get a natural hook without putting a ton of effort into setting the hook.

Offset

Hooks with offset shanks are used primarily with Texas rigs; however, you can certainly try them with other setups. Additionally, anglers typically use offset shanks with bulkier plastic baits. Some anglers have complained that offset shanks make it harder to set the hook, but if you’re using larger bait, you need an offset shank to fit both the bait and the hook.

Gap

The gap of the hook refers to the space between the shank and the hook. However, it does not refer to the actual bend of the hook. It’s the open space above the bend.

There are tons of different gap sizes depending on the type of fish you’re trying to catch and the size bait you are using. The bigger the fish you’re trying to catch, the bigger gap you want. That’s because the gap is what slides into the fish’s mouth and hooks them. So, if you want a fish with a big mouth, you need a hook with a larger gap to fit.

Hook Sizes

When you’re walking down the tackle aisle at the store, one of the most noticeable options you’ll see are the different hook sizes. There are tons of options, and if you get the wrong size for the fish you’re trying to catch, you’ll never reel in any fish.

Hook sizes start a size 30 and get larger until they reach size 1. From there, they change to sizes like 1/0 and 2/0. They get larger as the number gets bigger, all the way up to a 27/0, which the manufacturer claims are for catching 3,000-pound sharks.

But that’s only one dimension used in hook sizes. You also determine hook sizes by gauge, length, and gap. To catch your fish, you’ll need to get all four sizes right.

Gauge

Gauge refers to the thickness of the wire. You’ll find that manufacturers label gauge sizes from fine to heavy. The thicker the gauge, the stronger the hook, and the less likely they will be to give out when reeling in your fish. However, if the gauge is too thick, you’ll struggle to hook smaller fish.

Length

The length refers to the length of the shank. Manufacturers label them with names like 2X long or 2X short. They also have extra long and extra short options. While you need longer gaps, bigger hooks, and thicker gauges to catch bigger fish, the length of your hook doesn’t necessarily matter for the size fish you’re catching. Smaller lengths might be easier to hide from the fish, but other than that, there’s not much of a difference outside of personal preference.

Gap

As we’ve mentioned before, your hook’s gap refers to the space between your hook’s shank and the throat. The more significant the gap, the bigger fish you need to be catching. You might think that bigger hooks will have bigger gaps. However, this isn’t always the case. Some fish naturally have larger mouths than others, so you might need a smaller hook with a bigger gap in some instances.

What Rig for What Hook

When it comes to selecting the perfect hook for your rig, not all hooks are created equal. The two most important things you need to consider when choosing a hook are the type of bait you plan to use and the kind of fish you are trying to catch.

While there is a wide range of hook options that you can use depending on your rig, some are extra effective when paired together.

For instance, when using a drop drop shot rig, you should utilize a drop shot hook. Carolina rigs work best with a worm hook, while a floating rig works best with a circle hook.

However, some rig setups aren’t so straight forward. As an example, the Texas rig works best with hooks that utilize a straight shank. Aberdeen hooks come to mind, but the most notable factor for a Texas rig is that the shank is straight, so you don’t necessarily need to use an Aberdeen hook.

Furthermore, if you’re using a large plastic bait with your Texas rig, you should utilize offset hooks, as this gives you a little extra room for both the bait and the fish.

It’s the same thing when trying to find a hook for a wacky rig. But instead of a hook with a straight shank, you need a hook with a short shank, a wide gap, and a round bend. It doesn’t really matter what kind of hook you use, as long as it meets those characteristics.

In addition, you’ll still need to find the right size hook, regardless of the rig you’re using.

Tips for Using a Hook

You might think that there’s not much to using a hook. But the truth of the matter is that if you don’t rig your hook up correctly, you might end up having it fall off your line entirely, or even worse, injure yourself. But with just a few tips and tricks, you can rest assured that you’ll catch a ton of fish, and not yourself.

Safety

No matter what kind of hook you’re using, you need to be careful, but you need to be extra cautious with barbed hooks. That’s because once you get hooked with a barbed hook beyond the barb, it needs to be pushed all the way through so you can cut off the barb.

If you try to pull it straight out, the barb will grab hold of you and rip open the incision. However, if you’re using a barbless hook, this is much safer, and you can pull the hook straight out if you get hooked.

Even with barbless hooks, there are a few safety tips that you need to keep in mind.

  • Always look around before casting your line
  • Always properly stow your line when moving your rig
  • Use extra caution with barbed hooks

Fishing can be a ton of fun, but it’s even more fun when you aren’t stabbing yourself with a hook. If you’re fishing with youngsters, it’s even more important to practice extra caution. Use barbless hooks, long shanks, and don’t be afraid to step in when needed! Take your time and use a little extra caution. Your fingers will thank you for it.

Knots

Have you ever cast your line and had your hook slip off the rig? That’s because you were using the wrong knot. Here’s a quick rundown of the most popular knots around; that way, you can focus on catching fish, not losing your hook.

There are tons of different knots for different setups so its very difficult to recommend one knot that covers every situation.

Fisherman’s Knot

There’s a reason for its name. It’s the most popular and most common knot used for fishing for a reason. It’s simple to learn, and it’s highly effective. If you’re going to be spending some time out on the water, you need to learn the fisherman’s knot.

Palomar Knot

There’s no real advantage or disadvantage between a palomar knot or fisherman’s knot. It just comes down to personal preference. Both options are great ways to attach your hook to your line, even if the fisherman’s knot is a little more widely known.

Snell

The snell knot is the strongest knot of the bunch. It spreads the tension from the line across the entire knot, giving it more strength than either the fisherman’s knot or the Palomar knot. It’s one of the best knot options available, and many hooks are sold with the Snell knot already attached. Once you know how to tie them, they are quick to tie. The downside is that they’re not one of the easier knots to learn, making them unsuitable for beginners. Snell knots are incredibly versatile and even works for eyeless hooks!

Uni Knot

The uni knot is a highly versatile knot that is simple to tie and easy to learn. It’s also one of the strongest knots. The uni knot is one of the knots we recommend you learn as a beginner as it is great for attaching terminal tackle to the end of your line, but it’s also effective as a double uni knot for splicing different lines together or attaching leaders.

Frequently Asked Questions

It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an angler that’s been doing it for decades. At one point or another, chances are you’ve asked some of these questions.

What Size Hook Do I Need?

If you’re looking for a chart that lets you know what size hook you need for the fish you’re trying to catch, we’re sorry we’re going to disappoint you. The truth of the matter is that no such chart exists.

For instance, when fishing for bass, you could need a size 2 hook, or you might need a size 5/0. Still, when fishing for bass, you should use a 4, 2, 1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, or 6/0 hook size. These are middle of the line hooks when it comes to sizes. There is a large difference between a size 4 hook and a 6/0.

Picking the right size depends on the size bass you plan to catch. If you’re fishing in a small stocked pond, you probably want to use a smaller hook. However, if you’re out during trophy season, you’re going to want a bigger hook to catch monster bass.

Furthermore, picking the right size hook is about more than just the hook size. You also need to take into consideration the gap, length, and gauge. So, what’s the best way to find what hook you need? Try out a few different hooks and see what’s working best for the area you’re fishing.

Are Hooks the Same Size from All Manufacturers?

One might think that it doesn’t matter if you get a hook from Eagle Claw or Matzuo; a size 4 hook should be the same, right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

While hook sizes are similar to each other across brands, they aren’t identical. That means a size 4 hook from Eagle Claw might be a 5 with Matzuo or vice versa. The only way to know for sure is to get hooks from each brand and compare them.

If you don’t have the luxury of going to the store to check out the sizes yourself, you should be good with the same sized hook from different manufacturers as these small differences are rarely the difference between one that gets away and the best catch of the day.