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The Point Of It All

 

Not to put too fine of a point on it, but hooks are one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment for many anglers. Considering that they are your only real contact with a fish, it is surprising that few fishermen put much thought into their hook selection, especially given they make a significant difference in effectively presenting your bait, as well as, your ability to secure and land the fish.

Hooks are one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment for many anglers

Hooks are one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment for many anglers

Hooks originated long before any other fishing equipment. Speculation is that hooks made from wood, stone and shells were used in the Stone Age, and bone hooks dating back some 9000 years have been discovered in Palestine. Over time, hook material evolved, going from bone to copper to bronze to iron. The first modern hooks made from steel are noted in writings dated in the late 1400s. By the 1600s, fishhooks were being manufactured for resale, and Izaak Walton, in his historic book from that century, The Compleat Angler, actually recommended purchasing hooks from London maker Charles Kirby. Hooks were hand made until the mid-1800s, when mechanized production took over. Today there is an amazing array of hooks manufactured, all designed for specific purposes related to angling technique, the lure or bait being used, and the mouth structure and size of the targeted fish.

Hooks originated long before any other fishing equipment Today there is an amazing array of hooks manufactured

Today there is an amazing array of hooks manufactured

Modern fishhooks are predominantly made from high carbon steel, though some use stainless steel or alloys. They are commonly characterized by the number of points they feature, with single, double or triple hooks being the norm; quadruple hooks have been manufactured but are not used for sport angling purposes. Single hooks are the most common and are clear favourites for anglers fishing with bait. Virtually all flies utilize single hooks, as well as, an increasing number of lures, especially jigs, spinnerbaits and spoons. Proponents of single hooks argue that they make it easier to both hook and release fish.

Double hooks are relatively uncommon. They are used, however, on some Atlantic salmon flies, a few weedless lures and for some bait-fishing applications. Treble hooks are extremely popular for use on a wide range of manufactured lures, particularly on crankbaits, spoons and spinners. Every hook has the same general characteristics, including the eye, the shank, the bend, the point, and the gap. The eye is the part of the hook to which the line is attached. Though there are a number of eye shapes and angles available on the market, the vast majority of our angling applications are serviced with standard 'ball' eyes.

Every hook has the same general characteristics

Every hook has the same general characteristics

The shank is that section of hook between the eye and the bend. While hook patterns have a standard shank length, they are also available in longer and shorter than normal configurations. This variation from the norm is designated by the letter 'X'. A long-shanked 2X hook, for example, indicates that the hook has a shank length equal to the standard shank of a hook of similar pattern two sizes larger. Some shanks feature curves or bends for increased hooking efficiency or for their appearance when dressed. Others have mini-barbs along their length for holding soft-bodied lures or baits in place.

The point is the sharpened, business end of a hook, designed for both its penetrating and holding ability. Most feature a barb, a projection that prevents the backward movement of the point once it has impaled a fish’s mouth or a threaded bait. However, with barbless regulations common in many jurisdictions today, anglers are increasingly relegated to pinching their barbs down or purchasing factory barbless hooks where available. Hook sharpness from the factory has improved considerably in recent years, a result of advancements in manufacturing. A chemical sharpening process that relies on a series of rinses in acids that shave a thin layer of metal from the point has resulted in factory hooks that require no extra sharpening before use. Most hook points lie parallel to the shank, though some are offset, theoretically to increase hooking efficiency.

The bend of the hook typically denotes the style by which the hook is named. Bend is paramount in determining the strength of a hook, and optimally it should resist bending almost to the breaking point. There are a number of different bend styles available on the market, each with its own attributes. Many are specialized for use with different natural baits. Lastly, the distance between the tip of the point and the shank is known as the gap.

All fish hooks are designated by size, though it should be noted that sizes are not identical between manufacturers. The size designation is largely a measure of the gap of the hook, and as such can also differ widely depending upon the hook style. Smaller hook sizes are denoted by whole numbers, the number getting larger as the hook gap gets smaller. Larger hook sizes are designated by fractions, with 0 as the denominator, the hooks getting larger as the numerator gets larger. The smallest hooks, depending upon the manufacturer, are sizes #28 through #32; the largest hooks range from 14/0 up to 19/0. In Canada there are few applications for hooks smaller than size #24, which are used on some of the smallest dry fly patterns. At the other end of the scale, it’s rare to find hooks larger than 8/0, which are used on some of the largest spoons and crankbaits.

All fish hooks are designated by size

All fish hooks are designated by size

The diameter, or gauge, of the wire used in fishhooks has a direct bearing on their intended application. Gauge impacts both a hook’s strength and its ability to sink through the water column. The lightest gauges are used for light line fishing, with delicate baits or in floating applications. Heavier gauges are suitable when fishing for large fish or with quick-sinking baits.

Several factory finishes, providing both corrosion resistance and aesthetic value, are available, though corrosion resistance is not as important in freshwater situations as it is in marine environments. The common bronze-coloured, varnished tint found on many hooks is suitable for most applications and they do provide benefit if a hook breaks off in a fish’s mouth. Studies have shown that in freshwater, standard varnished hooks will break down to the point of being brittle and corroded, though not totally decomposed, within two to three weeks. Stainless steel hooks, alternatively, take an undetermined time to decompose in fresh water, and in fact require several months even in highly corrosive salt water.

When making tackle decisions, hooks should not be overlooked or ignored. They are an important component of a balanced, effective tackle system. Anglers looking to increase their effectiveness on the water would be well served to think specifically about their hooks, matching them with fish size and species, other tackle utilized, and the presentation being used.


Previous Fishing Articles

(1) Small stream BT fishing

(2) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started

(3) In The Walleye Zone

(4) Zoo Trout

(5) Fly Selection for Beginners

(6) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(7) New Waters

(8) Big Bad Burbot

(9) Looking Back

(10) Out of Africa

(11) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(12) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(13) The Browns of Autumn

(14) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(15) Walleye Town

(16) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(17) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(18) Going With The Flow

(19) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(20) Swinging The Fences

(21) A View From The Aerie

(22) Dixieland Delight

(23) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(24) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(25) Montana's Cool Missouri

(26) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(27) Toothy Critters

(28) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(29) Top Ten Flies

(30) Northern Exposure

(31) Home Water Lessons

(32) Chicken Of The Sea

(33) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(34) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(35) Keep It Up!

(36) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(37) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(38) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(39) Hawg Holes

(40) Saltwater Salmon

(41) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(42) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(43) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead

(44) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

(45) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES

(46) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(47) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(48) Fall Walleye

(49) Wet Flies

(50) Versatility the Key to Success

(51) Grayling of the Boreal

(52) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(53) Size Matters

(54) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(55) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(56) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(57) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(58) The Point Of It All

(59) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(60) Fall Fly Fishing

(61) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(62) Big River, Big Fish

(63) Bottom Bonanza

(64) Fishing Small Flies

(65) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(66) Four Seasons of the Bow

(67) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot

(68) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT

(69) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(70) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(71) Edge Walleye

(72) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER

(73) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(74) Four Corners – Four Waters

(75) Chasing Pothole Trout

(76) Springtime Stoneflies

(77) The Torrents of Spring

(78) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(79) Bust Them With Bait

(80) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(81) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(82) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(83) Terrestrials

(84) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(85) Rocky Mountain High

(86) Reading the clues

(87) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(88) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(89) Fly Fishing 101

(90) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(91) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(92) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(93) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(94) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(95) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(96) Trust Your Electronics

(97) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(98) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(99) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(100) Walleye can be Humbling

(101) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(102) Winter Flyfishing

(103) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(104) Hot Fall Pike Action

(105) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(106) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(107) Frequently Asked Questions

(108) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(109) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(110) Deep Water Perch

(111) Post Spawn Brookies

(112) A Fisher's Life

(113) The River's Last Stand

(114) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(115) Coho on the Coast

(116) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(117) Summer in the Mountains

(118) Peak Walleye Season

(119) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(120) Last Ice Rainbows

(121) The Burbot Event

(122) Tackle Matching

(123) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(124) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(125) The Lure of Brook Trout

(126) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(127) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(128) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(129) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(130) The Vesatile Plug

(131) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(132) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(133) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(134) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(135) Daily Fish Migrations

(136) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(137) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(138) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(139) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(140) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(141) The Fun in Ultra Light

(142) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(143) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(144) Never Stop Learning

(145) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(146) Jigging through the Ice

(147) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(148) Rainbows on Ice

(149) The Season of Ice Begins

(150) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(151) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(152) Facts On Cats

(153) West Coast Adventure

(154) June Walleye Frenzy

(155) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(156) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(157) "Northern Exposure"

(158) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(159) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(160) Man Overboard