Buying a new fishing hook may seem like a straightforward process, or at least that’s how many new anglers often see it. After all, you’re shopping for a fish hook, a piece of fishing equipment that even non-anglers know fairly well. But they soon find out that this isn’t always the case. As soon as they step into the shop, they are greeted by rows and shelves of varying fishing hook types, designs and sizes. And although having a variety of choices to choose from may seem like a good idea, it also breeds confusion for the uninitiated angler.
One of the things that confuses many people when it comes to fishing hooks is their size, and although the shop may have a large hook size chart hanging on the wall, it doesn’t seem to help the confused angler that much. After all, fish hook sizes aren’t labeled in the same way as many other fishing gear and items are. For example, you won’t find hooks labeled as “Small” or “Medium” or “Large”. You also won’t find hooks in ranked alphabetical order with “A” being the smallest and “Z” being the largest. Oh, yes fish hooks do have a numerical ranking, but even this can sometimes be confusing (a #20 is smaller than a #1, but a #1 is smaller than a 20/0).
So to help clear up some of the confusion regarding this topic, we have here a guide about fish hook sizes, including thickness and gauges and others. We also threw in some tips about how to choose the right size of fish hook for your particular fishing activity. But before we get to that, let’s first take a look at the basic anatomy of a fish hook. This is somewhat important since some of these parts will have an influence on the size of the fish hook.
Anatomy of a Fish Hook
Regardless of design and type, most fish hooks will have the following parts:
- Hook Point. This is the sharp end that penetrates the fish’ mouth. It is available in a variety of designs including needle point (round and tapered), knife edge (two flat sides), and others.
- This is a reverse point at the tip of the hook point designed to keep a fish on the hook after the fish bites. Some hooks are barbless for easier removal.
- This is the hole at the other end of the fish hook where the line is tied using various fishing knots. The design of hook eyes is varied, with specific designs intended for specific applications.
- This is the whole part between the hook point and the eye. Shanks are available in three sizes namely “Short” (used extensively when fishing for small fish species) “Medium” (used for most game fish in a wide variety of presentations) and “Long” (used for large predator species, especially those with sharp teeth).
- Gap/Gape. This refers to the space between the hook point and the shank. The gap of a hook varies greatly depending on the size of the fish hook.
Fish Hook Size
In general, fishing hooks are categorized by “sizes” and “aughts” as indicated by numbers and symbols. For many beginning anglers though, these numbers and symbols can be rather confusing. However, this system of classifying fish hook sizes is actually pretty simple, and even non-anglers should be able to understand how it works.
A Closer Look at “Sizes”
Fish hooks under “sizes” are designated with the “#” sign followed by a “number” (e.g. #10, #5, #1, etc.). Sometimes the “#” sign is omitted from the product’s package or label, depending on the manufacturer or brand and replaced with the word “size” (e.g. size 10, size 5, size 1, etc.).
What you need to remember when choosing or buying fish hooks classified under “sizes” is that the higher the number, the smaller the hook. For instance, if you look in a hook size chart, you will see that a #10 hook is much smaller than a #1 hook.
A Closer Look at “Aughts”
For fish hooks under the “aughts” measurement system, the size is designated with a “number” followed by a “/” sign and a “zero” (e.g. 1/0, 5/0, 10/0, etc.).
With “sizes” the hook size grows bigger as the number dwindles, but the opposite is true for fish hooks under the “aughts” measurement system. That is, the higher the number, the bigger the hook will be. For instance, a 1/0 fish hook will be smaller than a 10/0 fish hook.
“Sizes” and “Aughts”
If you look at a regular hook size chart, you will see that fish hooks classified under “sizes” are smaller than those under “aughts”. For example, a #15 hook will be very, very small compared to a 15/0 hook. To illustrate, a #15 fish hook is used mainly when fishing for bluegills and other minute or small fish species. On the other hand, 15/0 is so large that it is used by fishermen targeting large marlins, swordfish or tuna.
Lack of Standardization
While many fish hook manufacturers adhere to this basic sizing and numbering system to indicate the increase or decrease in the size of their hooks, there are still quite a few who doesn’t. This is where all the confusion comes in. You may experience buying what you thought to be a #5 hook from one manufacturer, but then you see that it is smaller (or bigger as the case may be) than the #5 hook you bought earlier from another manufacturer. Thus, it is highly recommended that you do your research first before putting your money down for a fish hook. You can go online and look at the manufacturer’s fish hook size chart to see the specifications of the hook you intend to buy.
Fish Hook Thickness and Gauge
Fish hooks are generally made from wires of varying thicknesses or wire “gauges” which refer to the diameter of the hook wire. They can be made from very thin wires to thick wires and are classified as “Fine Wire”, “Heavy Wire”, “2X Heavy”, “3X Heavy” and so on.
Needless to say, the thinner wires are lighter and are easier to hide and the thicker the wire becomes, the more visible it is to the fish. Although it may seem then that the thinner wires are the better option, thick wire gauges are also necessary especially when catching larger fish species since they can resist bending or straightening when imbedded in the fish’ mouth. That said, the choice of wire gauge will generally depend on the type or size of the fish you’re after. If you’re targeting large fish that require a lot of dragging or using maximum force to pull the fish out of the water, you’ll definitely want to use thicker fish hooks, even if they’re much more visible (and often less attractive) to the fish.
“Extra Strength” Fish Hooks
There are also fish hooks which are marked with “2X Strong” or “3X Strong” (not to be confused with “2X Heavy” 3X Heavy”). The “2X” mark means that the hook is made from wire as thick as the next size up while a “3X” hook is as thick as a hook two sizes up.
For instance, if you have a 1/0 fish hook marked as “2X Strong” it means that it has the wire thickness (and consequently the strength) of a 2/0 fish hook. Alternatively, if you have a 1/0 fish hook marked as “3X Strong” it means that it has the wire thickness and strength of a 3/0 fish hook. But what’s the point in all of these you may ask?
Well, the idea behind these extra strength hooks is to allow anglers to use smaller but stronger hooks. These hooks are generally used for fishing scenarios where a stronger hook is required, but the angler wants to use a smaller hook in order to make it less visible to the fish. These smaller yet stronger fish hooks are also often necessary when using lures, where using a bigger hook would kill the action of the lure and make it less attractive to fish.
Fish Hook Shank Sizes
Another common “X” marking used in fishing hook sizes is with regard to the length of the fish hook’s shaft. These are indicated by markings like “2X Long” or “3X Long”. What this basically means is that a fish hook with “2X” mark will have a shank that is twice as long as that of a “normal” hook of the same size. Conversely, a “3X Long” hook will have a shank that is thrice as long as that of a “normal” hook of the same size.
An advantage of using fish hooks with longer shanks is that it provides more space between the hook point and your line. Sometimes, anglers fishing for toothy fish species experience having their lines cut off as large mouthed fish takes the bait and accidentally swallows the whole hook, along with the line tied at the hook’s eye. By putting more distance between the hook point and the eye, it is less likely for the fish to bite through (and consequently cut off) the line. It is also easier to remove long shank hooks with or without the use of fishing pliers.
So should you be using fishing hooks with longer than usual shanks all the time? Not so. See, the longer the shank, the more visible it is to the fish.
Fish Hook Gape Sizes
A less common but nonetheless an important fish hook size consideration would be the gape size. A “Wide Gape” hook is one where the gape or the distance between the hook point and the shank is wider than a ‘normal’ hook of the same size. These are marked as “2X Wide” which means that the gape is twice as large as a ‘normal’ hook of the same size. Some manufacturers though use a different system, where a “2X Wide” would mean that the gape size is the same as the next hook size up (e.g. a “2X wide” 1/0 hook would have the same gape size as a standard 2/0 hook).
Again, there is very little standardization for this and manufacturers will have different definitions and design considerations in this area. Thus, consult the manufacturer’s website for more information to avoid buying the wrong size.
Importance of Using the Right Fish Hook Size
Now that we’ve cleared much of the confusion regarding fish hook sizes, let’s take a look at the importance of using the right size of hook for fishing.
As can be gleaned from the above paragraphs, there are both pros and cons to the various sizes, wire gauges, and shank lengths of fishing hooks. For instance, a bigger and thicker hook is stronger than a smaller and thinner one; however, it is also more visible to the fish, which can spook them away and leave you empty-handed. A longer shank is also better in order to prevent toothy critters from cutting off your line, but again its size makes it easier for the fish to spot and avoid.
So how then do you go about in choosing the right size of hook for your fishing adventure?
Consider Your Target
Naturally, the first thing you’ll want to consider is the type of fish you’re targeting. If you’re going after trophy-sized fish or angling for a marlin or a swordfish then you’ll want a fish hook that is large enough to match the power and aggressiveness of this fish. Otherwise, if you’re simply taking your kid out on a trip fishing for bluegills, then you’ll want to bring along smaller hooks in your tackle box.
Think of Your Bait
Another thing to consider (and this goes hand in hand with the consideration above) is the type of bait you’re going to be using. If you’re going to be using a cricket or a worm as bait, then you’ll want to use a smaller fish hook. If you’re planning on packing a three pound mackerel at the end of your line though, then you’ll obviously want a larger hook.
Bigger Is Not Always Better
As was mentioned in the earlier parts of this article, a bigger or thicker or longer fish hook isn’t always ideal since it is more visible to the fish. However, there are other reasons why you’ll want to avoid using larger fish hooks unless necessary.
For one, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a bigger hook will stay in better in the fish mouth. There are many anglers who tried using a larger than necessary fish hook while angling, only to find that their potential catch has swam away. What happens in such situations is that the mouth of the fish is too soft, and when the battle between man and fish became too wild, the hook literally ripped the fish mouth, leaving the fish with a torn lip and the angler with nothing. This is a terrible scenario more for the fish than the angler, as the wound may become infected or the fish may have difficulty eating, both of which can lead to its demise.
Use the Smallest Hook Possible
One of the most common mistakes that many people who are just getting started with fishing commit is using a fish hook that is too big for their needs. This kind of mindset is propelled by the idea that in order to hook a big fish, you need to have a big hook. That is somewhat true in many cases since landing a humongous fish will require a large hook that won’t straighten out during the battle. However, many anglers know by experience that this isn’t always the case. Some anglers are able to land a large pound trout using a fish hook that’s smaller than what other anglers usually use.
That said, always try to for the smallest hook you that you can get away with. This will make sure that you can conceal your hook as much as possible, which then increases the chances of the fish taking your bait. It is also good to use a small hook that is thicker and stronger. This way, not only is it less visible to the fish but you also don’t have to worry about your hook straightening out while fighting with the fish.
Globo Surf Overview
Fish hooks are available in a range of sizes, each of which are designed to catch anything from a tiny sunfish to a gargantuan marlin. Despite being one of the most basic piece of fishing equipment, many people still find themselves confused when it comes to choosing the right size of fish hook to use. If you identify yourself as belonging to this group, we hope that the factors and pointers above has helped make the process easier for you. So take some time to familiarize yourself with the different fishing hook type and sizes by looking at and studying a hook size chart or by talking to a seasoned angler. By doing so, you are more likely to end up with the right hook size that will make your fishing trip more successful.
- A Guide to Fishing Hook Sizes and Types, Bad Angling