Hooks are the most important items of an angler’s tackle and yet, all too often, they are not chosen with enough care. Admittedly the range of hooks available is bewildering to the beginner, but in order to enjoy consistent success a reliable hook is indispensable.
Kinds of hooks
Freshwater hooks fall into three categories: eyed, spadeend and ready tied to nylon. The first are tied to the line by the angler, who can use a variety of knots. The important thing is to be sure the knot holds, as this can easily be the weak point in your tackle which will fail when most needed. Spadeend hooks, as the name suggests, are flattened at the top end and are whipped to nylon. Ready tied hooks are bought already whipped to a short length of line, nowadays nylon.
There are many variations as to bend, length of shank and so on, but these are mainly variations on the three main kinds of hook. Double and treble hooks are mounted on plugs and spinners for pike, perch, chub, trout, and salmon. Stewart tackles comprise two single hooks set a couple of inches apart.
The basic requirements
The essential requirements of a hook are the same for all kinds. It should be welltempered and thin in the body (or ‘wire’); the point and barb should be sharp; the barb should be set close to the point and not stand out at too great an angle from the body.
The thickness of the ‘wire’ is very important. The weight of a thick hook can cause a bait, especially a light one such as maggot or caster, to sink too quickly when ‘freelining’—using no float but allowing the bait to sink naturally down to the fish. An additional disadvantage of a hook that is too thick is that it can burst a bait instead of entering it cleanly.
The barb is most often the trouble,spot in a hook. Most are cut too deep (stand out too far from the body), which causes weakness at that point. This, coupled with the common fault of the barb being set too far from the point, means that undue force is required to drive home both point and barb, sometimes causing the line to break. If the strike is less forceful, a hook of this sort will not fully penetrate the fish’s skin, particularly if it is a hardboned and toughskinned species like the pike, perch or barbel. A big, deeplycut barb may look effective but is not. The eyes on eyed hooks should be examined. The size of the eye will depend on the gauge of the hook but always try to pick one which will just take the thickness of the line you intend to use.
The length of the shank is important where some baits are concerned. For crust, paste, lobworms and sweetcorn a long shank is best; for maggots a short one. For casters, the variety with a long shank, known as a ‘caster hook’, is favoured. It should be remembered, however, that the longer the shank relative to the eye, the smaller will be the angle of penetration. This means that the hook will penetrate more easily but to a lesser depth. With shortshanked hooks it takes a stronger strike but the hook will drive home deeper.
Hooks to nylon should always be treated with caution. First, see whether the whipping reaches the top of the shank. On some hooks it is too short, thus causing the hook to turn over when making contact with a fish and preventing proper penetration.
Sizes and patterns
The size of hooks is indicated by even numbers on a scale from 230, the lower the number the larger the hook. A number 2 is about fin long, a 12 is 1 in and a 20 is £in. Hook sizes, unfortunately, are not yet standardized. The ‘Goldstrike’, for example, is one size bigger than most other brands.
Choice of hook pattern
The angler will sometimes use a different pattern of hook to suit particular circumstances. The ‘Crystal’ is a combination of curved and angular, which requires little force to drive home but which, because of its sharp bend, is weakened and not recommended for strong, fighting fish such as carp or tench. The ‘Round Bend’ has a curve with plenty of ‘gape’, and is preferred for use with lobworms by many anglers. The famous ‘Model Perfect’ hook, which was developed by Allcocks, had a round bend and an offset point with wonderful holding power. Many modern hooks are based on the design of this classic hook.