You can find a hook in a size and style to catch anything from a minnow to a marlin. Hooks even come in a lot of different colors. Although the range of styles of hooks is huge, and there are myriad sizes of hooks in each style, a few basic sizes and styles will serve most of your fresh-and saltwater fishing needs.
The most important feature of a hook is how sharp it is. Some are extremely sharp when you purchase them but others need to be sharpened. A dull hook will not work well and will cause missed strikes and lost fish. No matter which type or size hook you use, make sure it's sharp.
Hook size is based on the gap between the shank of the hook and its shaft as well as the length of the shaft. It's expressed as a number and the larger the number, the smaller the hook — up to a point. A #22 hook is tiny and used for tying flies, a #6 hook with a quarter-inch gap is about right for bream. The size rule is consistent until you reach a #1 hook. The next bigger hook is a 1/0 and it goes up from there. A 2/0 is a good size for plastic worms for bass and a 10/0 is big enough for shark.
The length of the shaft of the hook is fairly standard, too. A #6 hook usually has a shaft about five-eighths to seven-eighths of an inch long. If the number of the hook is followed by another number and an x, that means the shaft is longer or shorter than normal. For example, “#6 2× Long” means this #6 hook has a shaft the length of a hook two sizes bigger. A #6 2× Short has a shaft the length of a hook two sizes smaller.
You choose a hook size based on the size of the mouth of the fish you want to catch. Although a five-pound carp and a five-pound bass are basically the same size, you use a much smaller hook for the carp because it has a much smaller mouth than the bass. You must also consider the size of the bait you're putting on the hook. Live minnows require a bigger hook than earthworms even when fishing for the same kind of fish because the gap in the hook needs to be large enough to allow the minnow to move.
Hooks are made in different shapes for different kinds of fishing. Some have a very wide gap between point and shaft to make it easier to use a thick plastic worm and still have a bit of a gap for the bait to fill when you set the hook on a fish. Some have barbs, special bends, and even small coils of wire to keep plastic worms or prepared bait on them. And they can be made of very heavy or very light wire, specialized for different kinds of fish.
A few styles of hooks include:
Aberdeen hook: A round-bend light wire hook with a slightly turned-in point, used in many freshwater applications from live-bait fishing for bream to bass.
Bait Holder hook: A hook with barbs on the shaft or a small spring attached to it, to help hold prepared bait on the hook.
Egg hook: A short-shanked hook with a wide gap used for fishing with salmon eggs, dough balls, corn, and other prepared bait.
Offset Shank hook: A hook with a shaft that bends in an L shape, mainly used to hold plastic worms on the hook.
O'Shaugnessy hook: A strong round-bend hook that is used in a lot of saltwater applications like fishing live bait.
Sproat hook: A widely used hook with a stronger parabolic bend rather than a round bend.
Weedless hook: A hook with a wire or plastic weed guard running from the eye of the hook to the point to keep it from hanging up in weeds or debris.
9-1: A Sproat hook. 9-2: An O'Shaugnessy hook. 9-3: An Aberdeen hook (shafts are bent for making lead head jigs). 9-4: An Egg hook.
Hooks are also made as double-and triple-gang hooks, meaning two or three hooks on one shaft. These hooks and have special uses and are very common. Take notice, the sizes on treble and double hooks can be different from single hooks. For example, a #4 treble hook won't always have the same gap as a #4 single hook.
A treble hook.
Most hooks have a barb below the point to keep it from coming back out of the fish's mouth after it goes in. Some hooks are made without this barb and some waters have rules requiring the use of barbless hooks. You can make a hook barbless by mashing the barb flat with a pair of pliers.
Most hooks are made of some kind of steel ranging from iron to stainless steel. Saltwater hooks generally are made of material that resists rust, while freshwater hooks don't need that protection because they don't rust as fast. Certain alloys help the hook stay sharp and others make it very tough so it will not bend when fighting a big fish.
Stainless steel hooks don't rust in your tackle box and they don't rust in a fish's mouth. When a fish is hooked deep in its throat many fishermen cut the line and leave the hook if they are releasing the fish, but that's a mistake with stainless steal hooks. A stainless steel hook may not deteriorate fast enough for the fish to live.
A Snelled hook is any kind of hook with a leader tied to it in a special way. The line is not tied to the eye of the hook but to the shaft. Some Snelled hooks don't even have an eye; they have a spade-type foot at the end of the shank. The line is wrapped around the shaft of the hook and tied so it pulls in a straight line.
Snelled hooks have some advantages over regular hooks. The knot attaching the hook to the line is very strong and makes contact with the hook in more than one place, reducing the chance that it will break. And the way it's attached puts a more direct pull on the hook, giving you a better hook set and more control during the fight. The other end of the leader is usually tied in a loop so it can be quickly attached to your line with a loop knot or snap.
A Snelled hook.