Circle Hooks - Buyer's Guideby Capt. Terry Rand
There are a multitude of hook styles to choose from in the fishing retail world. The common “J” style hook is still the most popular hook on the market but the circle hook has dramatically gained great attention in the last ten years. Anglers have discovered that, when used properly, circle hooks greatly increase fish survival when caught and released.
The circle hook is designed to hook a fish in the corner of the mouth 95% – 100% of the time. Even if the fish has completely swallowed the hook, the mechanics of the hook allow it to slip through the gullet without catching on the soft tissue. Once the hook hits the corner of the mouth it kicks over allowing the hook point to catch and penetrate.
The trick to a proper hook set while using a circle hook is not to set the hook at all. This is where most anglers go wrong the first few times using circle hooks. The instinct to set the hook is so well ingrained in most anglers’ minds that they have a hard time overcoming that urge to rear back fast and hard when feeling a strike. The result is always the same: a failed hook set.
The proper hook set while using a circle hook is to simply start reeling slow and steady when you feel a bite. As you reel, the hook will find its way to the corner of the mouth and the line will become very tight as the hook begins to penetrate. When you feel the fish fighting against the hook slowly lift your rod tip into the fighting position and continue to fight the fish. It is actually a very simple process but the urge to set the hook must be overcome to succeed when using circle hooks.
These hooks work best when using either live or dead bait. Choose the appropriate size hook for the bait you are using. You want there to be plenty of hook point exposed so the bait does not interfere with the rotating action of the circle hook as it pulls against the jaw of the fish.
To get a better understanding of exactly how a circle hook works mechanically, tie a 24 inch piece of fishing line to a large, saltwater circle hook. A size 5/0 or larger will work perfectly. Next, raise your hand in front of you and make a “V” with your thumb and the rest of your hand. While holding the line, drop the hook on the palm side of your hand with the line lying across the “V”. Picture the hook is inside the fish’s mouth and the “V” is the corner of the mouth. Slowly, pull the fishing line drawing the hook up your palm towards the “V”. As the hook makes contact with the skin between your thumb and forefinger watch the hook. You’ll see the hook actually start to rotate towards the hook point, exposing the point to your skin. After doing this demonstration, you will have a far better understanding of how the hook works and why a traditional hook set will not work.
Circle hooks also resist being shaken loose by fighting fish much better than a “J” hook since the closed design of the hook doesn’t easily allow the hook to back out of the fish’s jaw. This is just one more advantage to an already fantastic hook design. So, give it a try and learn to resist the urge to set the hook. You’ll save money on hooks lost to gut hooked fish and you’ll be doing your part to help sustain your fishery by giving released fish a better chance for survival.