Select Page

Short Shank Redemption: A Look at the Hook

Thousands of years old, the look of the fish hook has changed but the concept has not. Lure the fish in to bite the bait and set the hook to eventually catch the fish. With some natural bait attached, adorned with fur, feathers or other enticements the fish hook is a little more complex than most people believe. Abused and misused hooks have a job to do and based off the variables can be effective or frustrating.

The anatomy of the hook is important to understanding the performance and various applications. Staring with the “eye”, it’s the round end that the line is tied to and if you’re over fifty can appear smaller than in previous years. Depending on the knot you choose the eye should be big enough to take two loops of line (Palomar knot). Next the “shank” is the straight length from the eye and depending on the size of the hook can accommodate the selected bait. The curve at the bottom of the hook (the space between the shank and business end of the hook) is called the “gap” and is important from the standpoint of securing the hook firmly in the mouth / jaw of your intended target species. Too small a gap and you miss. Bluegill, small gap, bass large gap. The “barb” is meant to secure the hook after the hook penetrates the mouth of the fish. Theoretically it makes it difficult for the fish to “throw” the hook. (Some unlucky anglers would question this theory) The barb is located just below the hook’s “point” meant to facilitate the penetration of the hook. The point should be “sticky” sharp. Close attention should be paid to this throughout the day or before you tie any bait onto the end of your line.

Types of Hooks

A partial list of hook types would include live bait, light wire, heavy wire, salt water, snelled, curved, worm, drop shot, treble and circle. Intended use is important on choosing hooks. For example, for panfish, crappie, bluegill and others from the sunfish family I prefer light wire hooks for their easy penetration and removal. Normally I’m using live bait in the form of minnows or pieces of nightcrawler worms as bait and unless I latch onto the biggest largemouth bass in the pond, I’m okay. I modify jig style hooks with a small spring from Daiichi called a “hitchhiker”. The spring secure to the eye of the hook allows the soft plastic bait to hang straight and secure and eliminates the plastic lure sliding up your line, both big pluses for the bass fishermen.

Treble hooks (three points) while are liked by catfish fans are most utilized on crankbaits, jerkbaits and topwater lures. Multiple treble hooks give you several points to “hook up” with you fish. Called treble hooks they can also be “trouble” hooks when firmly imbedded in material, truck seats and most notably fingers, hands and other anatomical unintended resting places. * familiarize yourself with the technique of hook removal used with a stout piece of line looed around the gap of the hook and a quick snap directly away from the hook to dislodge the hook. 4

The circle hook has become a favorite because of the simplicity and simple set of the circle models. Used by live bait fishermen but also those who love the wacky rig worm. Using a straight style worm, imbed the circle hook off center of the body. This set up allows the worm to drift and shimmy enticingly as it falls. Once you sense the hit you merely reel and allow this hook to do its magic. The hook rides along the inside the mouth of the fish and become secure in the corner of the mouth. Crazy as it sounds it’s deadly.

Sizing Up the Hook.

Where the most errors occur are in the choice of the size of the hook. Simply stated little fish / little hook, big fish big hook. While there are exceptions like catching a big bass on a small hook but there are other reasons to match sizes with intended targets and the baits. This where size and gap come in. When the surface water reaches 70 degrees I switch to soft plastic baits instead of the jig. I still carry the jig rod and use it as a primary weapon in heavy cover. If I’m using a seven inch curly tail worm it’s likely rigged on a 3/0 hook. If I’m pitching a 4.5 Flip-N-Tube (a fat bodied bait) it is secured to a 6/0 hook. The difference is the balance and ability to effectively penetrate the plastic and give me the best possible chance at a solid hook set. The small worm would be overwhelmed by the bigger hook and the big tube would never pierce the mouth of any bass. A dose of common sense and a separate box of hooks is your friend.

For a comprehensive list of hooks, sizes and types check

Hooking Details

The majority of the time my knot regardless of the hook, bait or application is the Palomar knot. Fishing soft plastics and jigs I use braided line. Check out k9line braid and fluorocarbon lines for strength and sensitivity. When I tie my bait to straight braid (surface frogs) I tie a Palomar knot backed up by an improved clinch knot to guard against the line slipping. I keep a small pocket size diamond file sharpener in the pocket of my life jacket to touch up my hook points. Inspect the hook point often and sharpen as if you’re getting ready for the biggest fish of your life. Retie often and if the hook point is damaged grab a fresh hook!

Don’t overlook the hook, it’s can be your friend or failure. That’s a closer “Look at the Hook”