Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Right Hook

Choose the one that fits your need

Go to any tackle shop and look at their selection of hooks. In a good shop, that selection can be mind boggling to the novice angler. Online tackle shops can be even more daunting to anglers, because there is no one to answer questions about certain styles of hooks and their use. What’s an angler to do?
Knowing the sizing and naming conventions of the major categories of hooks can help make your selection an easier task. Yes, Virginia, the type of hook you select does make a difference, and hook selection depends on the species of fish being sought.
Hook Parts
There are five basic parts to a hook: the point, gap. shank, eye, and barb. Each of these parts can and will be different on the various types of hooks in use today. Shanks can be long or short; eyes can be round, needle, or welded; and the gap width can vary significantly. All of these parts work together in each hook design, and different hook designs are made for different fishing applications.
Hook Sizes
There is no clear history on how the current hook sizing came into existence. The measurements used today use a twofold numbering scheme that measures from the smallest hook to the largest hook.
The smallest hook readily available is size 24. This is a hook with a 1/16 of an inch gap and it’s used for tiny trout flies. As the size number decreases, the width of the hook gap increases, all the way to a size 1. A size 1 hook has a gap about ½ inch in width.
At this point the numbering scheme changes and begins with 1/0 (“one aught”), which is larger in size than a number 1 and goes all the way up to 20/0, the largest commercially made hook.
Even with this “recognized” sizing method, sizes can vary from manufacturer and sometimes even within a manufacturer. There is no concrete standard.
Hook Composition
Hooks are all made from metal. The type and size of the hook is a determinant for which metal. Saltwater hooks are generally made from a corrosion and rust resistant metal. Stainless steel is often used on the very large hooks. Freshwater hooks can be made from wire, as most of the smaller hooks are, or a cheaper less corrosion resistant metal.
Do not be totally guided by freshwater or saltwater labels on hooks. Many freshwater hooks are used in saltwater, and they work well if cared for properly.
Hook Types
There are several basic hook designs currently on the market. Many specialty designs also exist, but for the everyday angler the basic hooks are the ones to choose.
  • Aberdeen
    These hooks are made from thin wire and range in size from a number 10 to a 4/0. They are very applicable for fish with soft mouths or for fishing with light tackle. Many Aberdeen hooks are bent to fit jig molds. Jig heads with these hooks can be retrieved from snags on the bottom because the hooks will usually bend before the line breaks. Because light line means softer hook sets, the thinner composition allows the hook point and barb to penetrate. This is one of the designated freshwater hooks that serve a dual saltwater purpose.
    Use these hooks when fishing with light tackle. They will catch a very large fish on light tackle. On heavy tackle with a heavier drag, they will bend and straighten, freeing the fish.
    • Live Bait
      When fishing with live bait, it is desirable to have a much shorter hook shank for two reasons. First, a short shank allows the live bait to swim more naturally, and second, the shorter shank means the hook is more difficult for feeding fish to detect. Long shank hooks with live bait draw fewer strikes.
      Use these hooks when fishing with small live baitfish or live shrimp.
    • Circle Hooks
      For years the tuna industry used a form of circle hooks on their catch boats. The tuna hooked themselves running away from the boat and were lifted aboard. Circle hooks are named for the unusual circle like bend in the gap of the hook. The point of the hook actually curves into the hook shank. If the bait is swallowed, the hook will come right back up the throat without hooking the fish. As the fish turns away and runs, the hook is pulled toward the mouth of the fish. When the line pulls the shank of the hook out of the mouth, the hook naturally turns back toward the angler, and the fish is hooked right in the corner of the mouth.
      Today these hooks are becoming more popular and are used in catch and release situations. Where size limits mean releasing undersized fish, circle hooks offer a very high survival rate on released fish. A major change has to be made by the angler who uses circle hooks. The rule is – don’t set the hook. It is so hard fro anglers to remember that rule. Setting the hook means pulling the hook and bait right out of the mouth of the fish. Let the fish turn and run and simply start reeling. The hook sets itself!
    • O’Shaughnessy
      This hook design, more often called a ‘J’ hook, is considered the basic industry standard hook design. It is the hook design seen in every illustration of a hook. It is the classic hook. It comes in all sizes and is made in a variety of metals. Made with average thickness, this hook is hard to bend and will be hard to set with light tackle. It is the most widely used hook on the market today.
      Use this hook for all general-purpose fishing. Just make sure to buy the right size for the fish you are after.
    • Kahle Hooks
      Kahle hooks were in use for live and natural bait before the short shank live bait hooks became popular. These are deadly hooks, not suitable for catch and release. They hook a fish much farther back in the mouth, often in the throat or gill area. These hooks more often result in gut hooking than other hook designs.
      Use these hooks where a 100% fish harvest is desirable. In other words, if you plan to keep everything you catch, these hooks work well.
    The Right Hook
    With all this hook information tucked away, it’s time to decide which hook is the proper hook for you. That answer is going to totally depend on the type of fish and the tackle you plan to use. Light tackle demands thinner hooks. Heavy tackle demands thicker hooks. And the size and species of fish determine the size of hook.
    There are numbers of additional specialty hooks on the market and even more variations on the basic hook designs listed here. Quite often the hook design or name is more designed to catch the fisherman than the fish! Stay with the basics at the beginning and specialize only when you feel comfortable doing so.
    So plan you next trip accordingly, choosing the right hook application for your particular outing. Successful catches are most often determined by the terminal tackle you use, and the most important part of that terminal tackle is the hook. Choose wisely – and fish often!

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