Over the centuries, fishing hooks have been made of wood, animal and human bone, horn, shells, stone, bronze, and iron. Today, fishing hooks are manufactured from either high-carbon steel, steel alloyed with Vanadium or stainless steel. Hook types can be named after the design of the point, barb, eye, shank, bend or size.
Points on a Fishing Hook
The point of a fish hook is the sharp end that penetrates the mouth or flesh of a fish. The profile of the fish hook point and its length determine how well the point penetrates.
Point types can be used to describe a certain kind of hook: straight, kerbed (offset to the left), reversed (offset to the right), needle point, rolled-in, hollow, spear, beak, mini-barb, semi-dropped and knife-edge.
Barbs on Fishing Hooks
The barb on a fishing hook is the projection extending backwards from the point that keeps the fish from unhooking. The length of the barb determines how much pressure is required to penetrate the point and hold the fish on the hook. In other words, how deep you need to set the hook.
Barbless fishing hooks make hook removal and fish release less stressful on the fish, especially if you're doing catch-and-release fishing.
Fishing Hook Eyes
The eye is the part of the fish hook that's used to connect the hook to the line or lure. Hook eye design is usually optimized for strength, weight and/or presentation.
Fishing hook eye types can be used to describe a certain kind of hook: ring or ball eye, brazed eye (the eye is fully closed), tapered eye (to reduce weight), looped eye (traditional on Atlantic salmon flies), needle eye and spade end (no eye at all, but a flattened area to allow attachment of the leader to the hook).
Fishing hook eyes can also be positioned one of three ways on the shank—up-turned, down-turned, straight, ringed or lopped.
Bend, Shank and Shape of Fishing Hooks
The bend and shank is that portion of the fishing hook that connects the point and the eye. The shape of the hook shank can vary widely from merely straight to all sorts of curves, kinks, bends and offsets. And can contribute to better hook penetration, better fly imitations or better bait-holding ability.
Many fishing hooks intended to hold dead or artificial baits have sliced shanks, which create barbs for better baiting holding ability.
Shank length can be used to describe a certain kind of hook, as in standard, extra-long, 2XL, short, etc. Shape names include Aberdeen, Sproat, Model Perfect, Limerick, Kirby, Carlisle, O'Shaughnessy, Pennell, Eagle Claw and Keel.
Fishing Hook Sizes
Fishing hook sizes are generally referred to by a number from the smallest (size 32) to the largest (size 19/0). For hook sizes from 32 to 1, the larger the number, the smaller the hook. For fish hook sizes from 1/0 (called a one aught) to 19/0, the larger the number the larger the hook.
Fishing Hook Types and Names
In general, there are three types of fishing hooks: bait-cast hooks, fly-cast hooks and bait and spin-cast lure hooks. But within these broad categories there are countless types of fishing hooks for different species of fish and different fishing methods .
Fishing hooks can be named for their general purpose (bait-cast, fly-cast and bait and spin-cast lure hooks). They can also be named for one or more of their physical characteristics (point, barb, eye, bend, shank and size.) or for a particular species of fish.
Finally, fishing hooks can be named for a combination of characteristics. Truth is, it can get a little confusing. So always ask for a translation.
Single, Double and Treble Fishing Hooks
Single fishing hooks have a single eye, shank and point. But the eye, shank, point and bend characteristics can be combined to create hundreds of different hooks for different types of fish and fishing methods. Most sport fish are caught on some sort of single hook, whether it's a hook with bait attached, a hook attached to a lure or hook with a fly.
Double fishing hooks have a single eye merged with two shanks and points. They're formed from a single piece of wire and may or may not have their shanks brazed together for strength. Double hooks are molded into some artificial lures and are a traditional hook for Atlantic salmon flies. Otherwise they're fairly uncommon.
Treble fishing hooks have a single eye merged with three shanks and three evenly spaced points. They're formed by adding a single, eyeless hook to a double hook and brazing all three shanks together. Treble hooks are used on all sorts of artificial lures and for a variety of bait applications.
Circle Fishing Hooks
These fishing hooks are becoming more popular with catch-and-release anglers. They are designed to result in less damage by hooking the fish in the lip or the corner of the jaw. This makes it easier to unhook and release the fish. With a circle hook, it’s important to let the fish take the bait and turn away before setting the hook. Choose the right size hook to allow room for the bait and the fish lip. And make sure the hook is exposed and not buried in the bait.
Typical Fly Fishing Hook Shapes and Names
Typical fly fishing hook shapes include Sproat, Sneck, Limerick, Kendal, Viking, Captain Hamilton, Barleet, Swimming Nymph, Bend Back Model Perfect, Keel and Kink-shank.
There are two basic types of fly hooks. Dry and wet. Fly hooks are also named for insects they simulate (nymph, swimming nymph, scub, pupa, mayfly) or by traditional shapes (Sproat, Sneck, Limerick, Kendal, Viking, Captain Hamilton, Barleet, Bend Back, Model Perfect, Keel, Kink-shank.).
Go to the Fly Fishing section for more information on fly fishing gear.
To learn about different types of freshwater fishing rigs visit our next section.