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  Tackle Talk  Hooks

Hook Anatomy


One of the most important pieces of equipment the beginning angler must purchase is a hook. Although shopping for a rod and reel may seem more glamorous, even a thousand dollar rod won't catch any fish if the wrong hook is on the end of the line. Like most beginners, I basically thought the only thing that matters when selecting a hook is size - the bigger the fish you're looking to catch, the bigger the hook you'll need. But I discovered that hook size is only the beginning .

Close attention must also be paid to hook's style, pattern, and temper. Whether you're looking to impress your fellow anglers on your first fishing excursion, or you're seriously interested in gaining a fundamental knowledge of the sport, an examination of this small but important piece of equipment is essential.

Parts of a Hook

Over the years the basic design of the flesh hook has not changed, but significant improvements have been made, such as chemical sharpenning and lighter but stronger alloys. The three main parts of the basic fish hook are the shank, the point, and the eye.

The Shank

The shank is the straight part of the hook. It has three basic sizes; regular, short, and long. As you might expect, a regular shank is good for most all around fishing. A hook with a short shank would be appropriate when you want to hide the hook inside a bait to make it less visible to a sharp-eyed fish. A long shank would be best for fish with sharp teeth that could cut through a line or leader or for fish that tend to swallow bait. Hooks with long shanks may hold certain baits better. Also, with a long shank, you could hold more than one bait on a single hook.

The Point

The point is the part that penetrates the fish. There are many types of points to choose from, including the spear point, hollow point, needle point, rolled-in point, and the knife -edge and diamond/triangle points.

The spear point runs in a straight line from point to barb. You may have to use a bit of force to penetrate the fish's mouth with this point and it might not go beyond the barb, especially if it strikes a hard part of the fish.

The hollow point is rounded out from the tip to the point of the barb. This point is thin and shallow, which penetrates well and holds soft-mouth fish.

The rolled-in point is curved inward in line with the eye. With this point you have a direct line pull. It takes a shallow bite, but once it is set beyond the barb it holds fast and it is hard for the fish to throw it off.

The needle point is round and narrows from the tip of the point to the barb. It resembles a claw. The knife edge point has two flat sides on its single inner edge. The diamond/triangle points have three cutting edges and are good to use when you're looking to catch bigger fish and fish with hard mouths. They penetrate easier, faster, and deeper than most.

The Eye

The many variations of hook eyes include the bull/ringed, tapered, looped, and needle. The bull or ringed eye is the most common. The wire, uniform in diameter, is bent into a circle. It is often used for bait fishing, behind a spinner, or for trolling. On the tapered eye, the wire forms a ring that decreases in diameter and is thinner that the hook. It is used to tie dry flies and for bait fishing, but be careful. The tapered eye may weaken and could open or even break under pressure. The looped eye is oval in shape and runs back along the hook shank. The end may be tapered but there is no sharp edge to cut the line or leader. The needle eye, true to its name, looks like the eye of a sewing needle. It doesn't bulge out the end. It is often used when big-game fishing and is strong and small enough to fit inside a bait rigged for trolling. The eyes of hooks can be turned up to provide more gap space or turned down toward the point for tying flies or tying on leaders.


Sample Hook Sizes

  • a. Size 8 (Kirby Style)
  • b. Size 1 (O'Shaughnessy style)
  • c. Size 2 (Aberdeen style)
  • d. Size 2 (Carlisle style)
  • e. Size 10/0 (O'Shaughnessy style)

Hooks come in different sizes. For the novice, looking at all those numbers on the packages of hooks can get confusing. However, once you become aware of how the numbering system works, it will be easier to picture what size hook corresponds to what number. The smallest hook made is size 22, and hooks increase in size as they decrease in number to 1. Following this size, they are numbered 1/0, 2/0, 3/0 and so on. The largest size is generally 20/0.

Choosing a Hook

Forget any notion of there being one all-around hook that can be used successfully for all types of fishing. The type of hook you need depends largely upon the mouth of the fish you want to catch - its size, shape, and structure. You will also want to consider the size of the desired fish, its feeding habits, preferred bait, and fighting pattern. The type of hook you choose will also depend on the type of tackle , bait and the lure you use.

Most veteran anglers know how important the choosing the right hook can be. For the beginner, studying the many designs, parts, and uses of hooks can certainly pay off - it could mean the difference between celebrating the big catch and mourning the one that got away.

Hook Diagram 1

Hook Diagram 2

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