Fishing Hooks: How to Choose the Right Size and Style

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Fishing Hooks: How to Choose the Right Size and Style

Fishing Hooks Beginners Guide

Let’s be honest: Selecting the proper fishing hook can be a real challenge. If you don’t have much experience on the water, it can be downright daunting. There are so many options, designs, colors, sizes, etc.

As a child, fishing was fairly easy. If my dad and I were fishing for muskie, walleye, or saugeye, we would buy lures that came pre-packaged with hooks.

Likewise, if we were fishing for crappie or panfish, we would grab a pack of #6 Mustad or Eagle Claw hooks, some live bait, and hit the water. Most anglers we knew did well for themselves using only the small selections of baits and tackle that were available at the local shops or marinas.

In recent years, however, in a world with seemingly endless options, things have become a lot more complex. Sure, people have been using fishing hooks for over 10,000 years, but there are just so many options now.

Do you often find yourself struggling to choose the right fishing hook for bass, crappie, walleye, bluegill, catfish, etc?

If so, we hope this handy, helpful beginner’s guide may be of assistance.

Fishing Hook Size: How to Choose the Right Hook

While the graphic above is not perfectly to scale, it does illustrate something you probably know already: fishing hooks come in a wide array of sizes!

Even more so, the chart doesn’t seem to make much sense. The 8/0 hook is bigger than the 1/0 hook, but the 1 hook is bigger than the 16.

The big question, then, is what size fishing hook do you need?

As is the case with most open-ended questions, the answer is: it depends.

Choosing the right hook largely depends on what you are fishing for, where you are fishing for it, how you plan to fish for it, and what you intend to use for bait.

Before determining what size fishing hooks you need, however, it is important to understand how sizing works.

Most hooks will range in size from 12/0 (pronounced twelve-aught, which is the largest conventional-sized hook) all the way to a 30, which is the smallest. The vast majority of hooks used by anglers will fall closer to the middle, however.

If that is confusing, let’s look at the following breakdown:

  • Aught-Sizes: Ranging from 12 (being the largest commonly-used size) to 1 (being the smallest), the higher the number, the larger the fishing hook. The sizes will be written in the following format: number/0 (number, slash, zero). There is no zero or zero-aught hook size, so 1/0 is the lowest (and smallest) aught-size fishing hook.
  • Standard Sizes: Conversely, standard-sized fishing hooks range from 1 (being the largest) to 30 (being the smallest). These are often styled as #number (i.e. #2, #6, #8, etc.). If the hook size does not contain an aught, then the lowest number (1) is the largest, while the highest number (30) is the smallest.

Still confused? See the short fishing hook sizing hierarchy below:

12/0 > 11/0 > 10/0 > 9/0 > 8/0 > 7/0 > 6/0 > 5/0 > 4/0 > 3/0 > 2/0 > 1/0 > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 6 > > 8 > 10 > 12 > 14 > 16 > 30

Note: Some companies produce size 20/0 hooks, but that would be used for absolutely monstrous saltwater fish. If you don’t already know that you would need such a large hook, you don’t need one.

The Parts of a Fishing Hook

Parts of a Fishing Hook

While there is variety in the style of fishing hooks, most hooks have the same core components and functions.

As you can see in the graphic above, these parts are:

  • Point: This is the sharp, triangular-shaped tip of the hook, which penetrates a fish’s mouth.
  • Barb: Shaped similarly to the point, the barb faces in the opposite direction and is meant to keep the hook in place once it has penetrated the fish’s mouth. Some districts and divisions have banned barb usage, so be sure to check these requirements before hitting the water.
  • Bite: This is the section of the hook where most fish will usually strike. If you are using a worm, minnow, or other live bait, that bait will likely present within the bite.
  • Shank: This is essentially the spine of a fishing hook. The shank provides shape and stability. It also is responsible for connecting the eye to the bend. Length with vary depending on the size and style of fishing hook.
  • Bend: This is the curved section at the bottom the hook which connects the bite and the shank.
  • Gap: This is the distance between the shank and the point. Some anglers choose hooks with a wide or extra-wide gap. The gap length is determined in part by the type of bait being attached and the jaw size of the fish being targeted.
  • Eye: This is the small hole where the line, leader, or swivel connects to the hook.

Popular Types of Fishing Hooks

Spend enough time in an outdoor retailer and you will find that there are a seemingly endless array of fishing hook makes and models. In reality, roughly two dozen different types of hooks are used on a regular basis if you include specialty jig hooks.

Only about half of those are used with high frequency.

As this is more of an introductory article, however, we will look at some of the most popular and commonly used styles. Keep in mind that certain specialized techniques may call for fishing hooks not listed below.

First, we’ll look at two major categories of hooks, followed by specific styles.

J Hooks

Unsurprisingly, the term J-Hook derives it’s name from it’s shape. Since these largely resemble the capital letter J, it is a fitting name for an entire category of fishing hooks.

While it should go without saying, make sure that any J-Hook you purchase is, in fact, a fishing hook. Numerous other hooks in this shape also assume the name.

We haven’t tried, but we’ll assume the J-Hooks you use to support wiring won’t help you catch many fish…

Circle Hooks

While the J-Hook clearly takes resembles the letter, the Circle hook is not perfectly round.

That said, it will be pretty obvious that the bend and point of a circle hook are more rounded than its counterpart. There are a variety of styles that classify as circle hooks, but considerably fewer than there are J-Hooks.

Now, we will look at some of the different styles of fishing hooks:

Siwash Hooks: A Great Alternative to the Treble Hook

A J-Hook with a thick wire, the siwash can be used as a bait-holding hook. Because it is so thick, however, there is a chance that it will damage the bait. If you are using thinner or fragile live baits like crickets, red worms, or even minnows, the siwash is not the best option for you.

Instead, many anglers prefer to pair their siwash hooks with fishing lures. For those who do not like treble hooks (more on those shortly) for any reason, the siwash makes for a functional alternative. Likewise, if a particular district does not allow multi-hook setups, the siwash is the most common replacement.

Spoons and spinners are common lures that see the siwash as a replacement hook.

Some other key features and benefits of a siwash fishing hook include:

  • Lower risk of injury to fish
  • Lower risk of injury to anglers
  • Reduces chance of snag (when compared to a treble hook)

Some Popular Siwash Fishing Hooks Include:

Aberdeen Hooks: A Basic Hook That is Excellent for Smaller Species

The aberdeen is one of the most commonly used J-Hooks on the market. It is an extremely popular staple for crappie fishing. Many anglers will also use it when targeting panfish.

Unlike shorter styles, the long shank on the aberdeen often makes removal from the mouths of smaller fish easier. Conversely, this can also become more troublesome if the fish swallows the entire hook.

Closely resembling the siwash hook, the aberdeen is popular for holding baits because it has a much lighter wire. This helps prevent awkward and troublesome puncturing.

While many anglers use standard live baits like minnows and night crawlers on aberdeen hooks, they also pair well with smaller and more fragile baits like wax worms, maggots, crickets, and red worms.

Some Popular Aberdeen Fishing Hooks Include:

Treble Hooks: Highly Effective with More Chances to Land a Fish

If you’ve fished for long enough, you will certainly have encounter a treble hook.

The standard for almost all pre-packaged, fish-shaped lures, each treble hook contains three converged J-Hooks. Most mass-produced fishing lures contains between one and two treble hooks, with some longer baits containing a third.

This means that a fish can essentially strike a lure from any angle and still wind up with the hook in its mouth. Compare this to the siwash, where the single hook may be easier to evade.

While the treble hook may sound like the ultimate fishing hook, it does have setbacks. Some of these include:

  • Increased risk of injuring the fish, often via foul-hook
  • Heightened chance of injuring the angler
  • Incredibly easy to get stuck, tangled, or lodged into skin, clothing, carpets, or other soft materials
  • Likely to get snagged on weeds or other structure

Some Popular Treble Fishing Hooks Include:

Baitholder Hooks: Keeps the Bait in Place

While the baitholder fishing hook (or sometimes simply called bait hook) comes in a variety of styles, it serves a simple purpose: to hold bait in place.

Almost always a variation of the J-Hook, a baitholder will resemble both the siwash and aberdeen hooks. The difference, however, is that the baitholder will usually have small barbs protruding from the shank.

These barbs allow the baitholder hook to keep longer worms from squirming and breaking off.

Some Popular Baitholder Hooks Include:

Octopus Hooks: Versatile Bait Hook for Smaller-Mouthed Fish

When it comes to fishing hooks, sometimes the shape or function explains the name.

That said, the majority of people using this hook are not looking to catch an octopus.

Similar to some of the other hooks mentioned, the octopus hook has a wider gap than the siwash or aberdeen hook, but is not as curved as the circle hook.

If you plan on fishing for anything in the salmon or trout family, including steelhead, then this might be a good choice for you. Conversely, if you are looking for larger-mouthed fish, this might not be the best bet.

Some Popular Octopus Hooks Include:

Circle Hooks: For Maximum Catch-and-Release

As we mentioned above, a circle hook is not perfectly round. It is, however, more rounded than J-Hooks.

Considered one of the more humane and efficient hooks, the circle hook is designed to avoid getting lodged deep within the throat or abdomen of a fish. Unlike J-Hooks, which penetrate as they lodge deeper into a fish, the circle hook is designed to catch the fish in the mouth on its way out.

While circle hooks can be used for a variety of species, they are especially popular when targeting catfish.

Some Popular Circle Hooks Include:

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