Inshore: All About Hooks - The Fisherman

Inshore: All About Hooks

Knowing your hooks will provide you with the knowledge for when which style is what situation.

A breakdown of 7 different hook types commonly used by anglers.

Some anglers have difficulty understanding hooks—sizing, terminology, design, and use—because so many variations are on the market. Here’s an overview of hooks to help you understand them and catch more fish.

The system of numbering hooks is counterintuitive. Small hooks range in sizes from 1-32, but they’re numbered “backwards,” meaning, “32” is smallest and “1” is the largest. Medium to large hooks are labeled with a “0” (pronounced “aught”) appearing after each number, such as 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, and up to 27/0. These progress in “correct” numerical sizing, meaning, 1/0 is the smallest and 27/0 is the largest, with 1/0 being at the midpoint of the scale; thus, a size 6 hook is 10 times smaller than a size 6/0 hook. Sizes 20/0-27/0 are massive and intended for giant predators like tuna, swordfish, and sharks. Those can range in price from $20 to a staggering $210 each.

A hook’s shape determines its size, which causes dimensions to vary. The size of the hook is measured by its gap, which is the distance between the point and the shaft. Another key dimension is its throat or bite, which is the area between the point and hook bend. Hooks with larger dimensions in gap and throat create deeper penetration of the point and better holding power because the weight of the fish rides higher on the center of the hook’s bend.

Sharpness depends on the type of hook point and how it’s achieved in production. Some hooks have cutting-edge or spade-shape points, but all hooks have tradeoffs. A cutting point grabs quickly and penetrates tough jaws because the cutting edges slice though the toughest part of the mouth for a deep and solid hook set. The potential tradeoff is that the hook leaves a bigger hole in fleshier parts of the mouth, which could cause the hook to slide out during vigorous head shakes. However, they are precision-designed to create the smallest hole possible, so the incision can repair more quickly for released fish.

Conversely, conical tip or needle-point hooks create smaller holes, and in some cases may hold better than cutting-point hooks. So, you may opt for cutting points for rugged jaws like those of blackfish and bluefish but needle points for soft mouths like fluke or weakfish. Here is a snapshot of some of the most popular hook types:


Treble hooks consist of 3 hooks stemming from a single shank. Trebles are primarily used with diamond-style vertical jigs and with most plugs. Trebles grab and hold fish better than single hooks, but they are more difficult to unhook. When deep jigging, they also snag more easily. Use extreme caution (for personal safety) when handling a fish caught on a lure featuring multiple trebles, as it’s easy for a flopping fish to stick you with a free-swinging hook.


Baitholder hooks are specially designed for holding bait such as seaworms, shrimp, squid, and baitfish chunks. This hook usually features a long shank, a down-turned eye (for snelling), and a chemically-sharpened point to effortlessly skewer bait. They also feature two or three reverse barbs on the shank to help hold soft baits in place higher on the hook and help reduce bait theft.

Jig Hook

Jig hooks typically have a 90-degree bend, a round offset eye, and a razor-sharp point with a barb. They’re available in various styles like wide-gap jig, weedless, flipping, heavy wire, and light wire. They’re equally popular in fresh and saltwater applications. The jig usually consists of a colorful lead head with the hook molded into it, and the hook shank is usually covered by layers of bucktail or a soft plastic skirt.


Circle hooks feature a point with a pronounced curve inward toward the shank. They’re designed to slide out of a fish’s throat, roll, and grab in the corner of the mouth, which is popular—and sometimes required—in catch-and-release fishing. Anglers must set circle hooks gradually to prevent them from sliding out a fish’s mouth before they can lodge in the jaw.


Octopus hooks look like a modified circle hook. They’re available in both traditional and circle styles. Primary distinguishing differences from a circle hook are the eye of an octopus hook bends backward, and the hook has a more tapered and narrow point. Octopus hooks are used primarily for baitfishing when minimal hook weight and size are essential for a natural presentation. They’re the new go-to hook for pro blackfish anglers. They’re sometimes difficult to unhook, due to their short shank.

J Hook

A J hook is the most versatile, classic, and common hook style; and it’s shaped like its name. You can use J hooks in almost any fishing application, and the long shank allows for easier unhooking because there’s more available leverage. The quintessential J hook is an O’Shaughnessy. Siwash are popular J hooks for bait and lures, too, but feature a longer point with a shorter shank.

Super Hook

Newly created “super hooks” are produced for professional-grade construction and performance. Top anglers routinely change out the factory hooks that come standard on their lures with super hooks. One popular example is the Owner ST-66 4X-strong tinned treble hooks. They are incredibly sharp right out of the package, and it’s impossible for a big fish to straighten them.



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