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  Tackle Talk  Hooks

Sharpening Hooks

Introduction

No matter what your skill level is, beginner, intermediate or advanced tournament angler, ultimately your final connection to a fish is by a hook. The hook is what brings a striking fish into the boat and this fact makes sharp hook knowledge one of the most important considerations you can make every time you cast or troll. A dull hook is the single biggest reason anglers lose fish. A dull hook won't set in the bony structure near the rear of the mouth. It slides forward and sets in the soft front of the mouth where the tissue can stretch and break. The result is a lost fish.

Sharp hooks are extremely important on lures like crankbaits and topwaters where impact force between the mouth of the fish and the lure hooks is very low. On crankbaits and topwaters, a fish may inhale them when they have zero forward speed, are floating upwards, traveling slowly forward, or are at great depths on light line. This means low impact to drive the points home and crankbait strikes are totally unlike worms or jig combos where the angler can use a stiff rod to generate high rod tip speed on heavier line to slam a hook point past the barb.

In the 1990s, hook manufacturers such as Mustad, Tiemco and Daiichi, finally addressed the need for sharper hook point designs and there are a number of specialty hooks on the market. With the advent of better grinding technology, laser sharpening and chemically sharpened hooks, a new generation of hooks has become available.

Chemically sharpened hooks are generally more expensive than conventional hooks, but since they achieve a better hookup rate and are still one of the most economical parts of any modern fishing rig, they are growing in popularity. In fact, these hooks are used immediately, straight out of the packet.

Even super hooks can become blunt with use and once they do, they have to be honed to regain their edge, just like any other hook. You can do a lot to retain the pristine sharpness of these hooks by some simple and sensible measures. Firstly, don't drag them indisciminately over rocks. They are not indestructable. Often, they are made of high carbon steel, and, while not brittle as such, they can have their points snapped off if you try to dislodge them from solid rock or any other unforgiving surface.

Secondly, since they do cost more that conventional hooks, it's worth going to the trouble to rinse them in fresh water after a day's use to prolong their resistance to rust. An effective way of making sure you don't have to replace them before time, is to only take with you each day, as many hooks as you think you will need. Taking your whole supply with you is exposing your complete stock to the ravages of the elements all at once.

Dynamics

Invariably, and ultimately, it is the point and barb design that penetrate the fish's mouth parts and hold it. Regardless of shank, gap and throat style, you will need a sharp point, any available cutting edges and a de-burred barb. Following are some problem areas to keep alert for.

  • A great part of successful hook point design comes from the correct length of the point to barb area. If this tapered wedge becomes too short, it will be difficult to get good penetration. Look out for short, poorly-formed points struck in factory dies. These are hard to sharpen and do not penetrate well. Replace individual hooks with this defect. Over-sharpening also causes this condition.

  • A bent point will cause immediate fish losses and your first sign of trouble is a fish that jumps and throws the lure. This is most common on worm and crankbait hooks and needs immediate correction. The causes of bent points are, in order of occurrence probability: over-sharpened "hair thin" points, poor point design, impact with hard mouth bones of fish and shake-off from snags, especially rocks. Bent points can be instantly detected by sliding fingertips from area outside barb down to the point. Correct immediately with a file or replace lure or hook if fishing time allows the delay. You may also set the lure aside to replace the hook at home.

  • A high, prominent barb with a burr elevated by the forming dies can easily stop penetration past the barb. This area is quickly reduced and sharpened using a Sharp Hook File.

  • Only a file can put cutting edges and angles on a hook. "Finger nail" penetration tests are meaningless on a crankbait-style hook. Fish do not have "fingernails" and all you want to do is cut your way in and through the skin, cartilage or gristle over bony areas. On crankbaits you must play fish according to the fact you can loop around a bone with the hook gap and bend, but rarely penetrate, bone. You will be attached to fish only by skin and cartilage areas, so play them accordingly.

  • Most specialty hooks offer a sharp point that will soon need sharpening after impact and their point sharpness can easily be matched by the sharpening sequences shown here. A case for stronger hooks or one size larger hooks exists if you must stop large fish from making a run in timber or brush.

  • Teflon-coated hooks have quick penetration as long as they have a good point design, but their effectiveness is reduced as soon as they need sharpening and expense is still a factor.

  • To sharpen specialty hooks, just follow the blade cutting edges and point angles already on the hook and restore them with a file.

A file only cuts on the forward stroke. With practice, you can get a hook as sharp as many specialty hooks. Remember, sharp hooks are dangerous, so to avoid injury, treat thrashing fish with great caution and handle all lures with care.

The hooks on your lure represent one of the most vital links in the chain that is in your fish tackle. In deed, when a fish strikes, your hooks are your most important link to a successful catch. Regardless of the weight of your line, the quality of your reel, the backbone of your rod or the sturdiness of your leader, if your hooks are dull and/or weak, you run the risk of a major disappointment.

The attribute of a hook that is most conducive to fishing success is its sharpness. A hook that is sharp has a better chance at penetrating the bone of a fish’s jaw during the hooks set. There isn’t a standard hook made that is sharp enough for the average angler without some sharpening activity on the part of the angler.

If you take a close look at a virgin hook, you will notice that, although it is "sharp", it is not honed down to a fine "pin sharp" point. That "pin sharp" point is the goal of any hook sharpening activity. The sharpening of one of the hooks used by today’s angler is typically accomplished using a file.

The single sided flat file is a standard in bait shops all over Australia. They are effective and inexpensive and should be in every angler's tackle box. The double file uses two rounded files set side by side and secured with a high impact plactic hand grip. The file will quickly hone a hook to a reasonably sharp point.

Each of these files are, with the proper application, capable of putting a good point on a hook, however, I would encourage all of you to consider using both files in order to quickly put that "pin sharp" point on your hooks. Use the double rounded file to hone the shape of your hook to a point. You may have to angle the file to the right and left as you pass it over the hook shaft and point. Once you have a good point on your hook using the double round file, take the single sided file and sculpt the hook to an extremely sharp pinpoint.

How sharp should your hook be? The short answer is, as sharp as you can make it. There is a saying on the water that says "your hooks should be so sharp that you draw blood by just looking at them". That may be a bit overstated but it does make the point (excuse the pun).

How often should you sharpen your hooks? Your hooks should get their first sharpening right out of the package. Remember that no "virgin" hook is sharp enough for the angler. After that, I would encourage you to check your hooks for sharpness before you start to work a spot. You should certainly, after a days fishing, check your hooks and refresh your hooks as needed. As anglers, we spend a lot of time preparing for the eventual fish encounter. Give your hooks their due and they will do for you what you require for a good hook set.


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