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Know Your Hooks

Know Your Hooks A successful day on the water can be won or lost by a poor hook. But which hook should you use for each bait?

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http://www.bassresource.com/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/media/images/fishing-26/375952-1-eng-US/fishing-2.jpg Fishing hooks

One of the most important links between a fisherman's success at catching fish is the hook that is used. A successful day on the water can be won or lost by a poor hook. Whether you're a casual fisherman, an avid weekend angler, or a diehard tournament fisherman, overlooking your hooks can make a big difference in having an average fishing day or one that is remembered for a lifetime.
   These days of high pressured fishing waters, bites sometimes come less often, making it more important than ever to ensure that we make every strike count. The best way to catch every fish that bites is to use the proper hook for the type of bait you are using and to make sure the hook is sharp.
   Through the decades hooks have continued to evolve. And the current decade is no exception. Using special materials and modern technologies for creating the sharpest hooks ever produced and offering styles for every fishing situation, manufacturers have honed our present day hooks into a precision tool for hooking and catching fish.
   There are as many hook styles available today as there are types of fish. Hooks have been specifically designed for every type of fishing from panfish to sailfish and everything in between. It's great there is such a myriad of hooks available today. No longer do we need to settle on using a few types of hooks for the many types of baits we fish with. Unfortunately though, as with every good thing, there is the downside. With all the styles available, how do we know which style and size is the best to use? The best way to know what hook is best for each individual application is by familiarizing yourself with all of the styles available and the advantages of each.

Hook Styles

Hook style relates to the overall shape of the hook. I believe the multitude of hook styles can be broken down into a few basic categories - Live bait hooks, Artificial (soft plastic) bait hooks, and Manufacturer use hooks. No matter what a hook looks like it will almost always fit into one of these three categories. And while there are a multitude of styles to be found in each category, I'll only mention some of the most popular styles.
    Manufacturer hooks are those hooks used for making artificial flies, jigs, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits. While some hobbyists may use these for making their own lures or for tying flies, most anglers don't have a need for them, so I won't go into them here.
   Hooks in the Live bait category usually includes Octopus style, typically used for rigging live minnows, cut bait or Salmon eggs; O'Shaughnessy, and Straight shank styles used for Minnows and cut bait; and Aberdeen style used for live worms and night crawlers. Most live bait hooks can be recognized by the barbs on the hook shank. These barbs aid in keeping the bait firmly on the hook. Live bait hooks can also be purchased "snelled" meaning they are pre-rigged with about 6 to 12 inches of monofilament with a loop on the other end for tying directly to the anglers line.
   The artificial bait hook category typically would include offset worm hooks for rigging plastic worms and soft plastic jerkbaits; Aberdeen, and Sproat are commonly used for plastic worms and the newer Kahle style hooks are becoming popular with fisherman using a variety of soft plastic baits. Some of these hooks also come with shank barbs to help keep the bait securely on the hook.

Hook Points

There are a variety of hook points available, but which type is most effective may be best left up to the individual's discretion and his pocketbook. The more standard points like the spear point and tapered piercing points are mechanically sharpened. They are the most economical and can be easily re-sharpened for reuse with a file or stone. The newer chemically sharpened points are as the name implies. They are sharpened chemically. These are typically much sharper than the mechanically sharpened hooks, but are much more expensive as well. Unfortunately though it is impossible to regain a satisfactory point after they have been dulled. Thus having a shorter life span.
   If you have always had trouble sharpening your hooks properly to your satisfaction, or have never wanted to take the time to do so, the latter may be what you are looking for.

Hook Gaps

Hook gap is the area between the shank and the hook point. While the gap of a hook has only recently been addressed by hook manufacturers, anglers have been aware of the benefits of wider gap hooks for some time. The larger the bait typically dictated the size hook because of the amount of gap needed for the bulk of the bait. In the past, in order to have a large enough gap meant using a larger hook size. Now with the advent of the newer wide gap hooks, a smaller, less obtrusive hook can be used and not dissuade from the hooks effectiveness.

Selecting Hooks

Now that you know all about the different types of hooks and their features, you're all ready to go out and purchase what you need, right? Well, not quite yet. While knowing what style and size needed is very important, there are a few other tips you should know in order to be assured that you are getting a quality hook that will hold up to your needs.
   As with all products on the market, not all hooks are created equal. Each brand has its own quality level, and before you make your purchase, you need to be sure that the one you choose will hold up in the field. First check the eye of the hook to be sure it is closed all the way. A hook with an eye that is not crimped all the way could allow your knot to slip off the hook while fighting a fish. Also make sure the eye is smooth or isn't full of paint that could nick or fray your line after it is tied on.
   Next look at the point of the hook. You need to check it for sharpness. Even though you are buying new hooks, that doesn't necessarily mean they are sharp. A quick test you can use is to drag the tip of the hook across your thumbnail. If the tip digs into your nail, the point is sharp. Make sure it looks like it is formed properly and has a smooth taper, and is not too thin. A point sharpened too thin could bend when making contact. Also make sure the barb is in proportion to the size hook and is formed properly.
   Now take the hook and hold it by the shank in one hand. Wrap the point of the hook with a piece of cloth or handkerchief and carefully hold it in your other hand. Gently flex the hook to check the temper. A hook should have a certain amount of spring or flex to it, but return to its original shape after taking off the pressure. Similar to a spring returning to its original shape after it is pulled open or compressed. If it doesn't return to its original shape, it's not tempered. If it breaks after bending it slightly, it's tempered too much. Avoid the hook if either of these happen.
   Now you're ready to make your selection. And as with most products, price will be relative to the quality of your selection. So use the same judgment as you would with your rod, reel, or line. Don't buy the cheapest, but you may not necessarily need the most expensive. Put your money down on the hook you think is giving you the most for your money and you shouldn't go wrong.
   Your hook is one of the key links between you and your prize. And after being on the water all day long, you don't want to be questioning your purchase when the bite of a lifetime comes. After all, they call it fishing but the goal is catching!

Hook Gaps

Hook gap is the area between the shank and the hook point. While the gap of a hook has only recently been addressed by hook manufacturers, anglers have been aware of the benefits of wider gap hooks for some time. The larger the bait typically dictated the size hook because of the amount of gap needed for the bulk of the bait. In the past, in order to have a large enough gap meant using a larger hook size. Now with the advent of the newer wide gap hooks, a smaller, less obtrusive hook can be used and not dissuade from the hooks effectiveness.

Selecting Hooks

Now that you know all about the different types of hooks and their features, you're all ready to go out and purchase what you need, right? Well, not quite yet. While knowing what style and size needed is very important, there are a few other tips you should know in order to be assured that you are getting a quality hook that will hold up to your needs.
   As with all products on the market, not all hooks are created equal. Each brand has its own quality level, and before you make your purchase, you need to be sure that the one you choose will hold up in the field. First check the eye of the hook to be sure it is closed all the way. A hook with an eye that is not crimped all the way could allow your knot to slip off the hook while fighting a fish. Also make sure the eye is smooth or isn't full of paint that could nick or fray your line after it is tied on.
   Next look at the point of the hook. You need to check it for sharpness. Even though you are buying new hooks, that doesn't necessarily mean they are sharp. A quick test you can use is to drag the tip of the hook across your thumbnail. If the tip digs into your nail, the point is sharp. Make sure it looks like it is formed properly and has a smooth taper, and is not too thin. A point sharpened too thin could bend when making contact. Also make sure the barb is in proportion to the size hook and is formed properly.
   Now take the hook and hold it by the shank in one hand. Wrap the point of the hook with a piece of cloth or handkerchief and carefully hold it in your other hand. Gently flex the hook to check the temper. A hook should have a certain amount of spring or flex to it, but return to its original shape after taking off the pressure. Similar to a spring returning to its original shape after it is pulled open or compressed. If it doesn't return to its original shape, it's not tempered. If it breaks after bending it slightly, it's tempered too much. Avoid the hook if either of these happen.
   Now you're ready to make your selection. And as with most products, price will be relative to the quality of your selection. So use the same judgment as you would with your rod, reel, or line. Don't buy the cheapest, but you may not necessarily need the most expensive. Put your money down on the hook you think is giving you the most for your money and you shouldn't go wrong.
   Your hook is one of the key links between you and your prize. And after being on the water all day long, you don't want to be questioning your purchase when the bite of a lifetime comes. After all, they call it fishing but the goal is catching!

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