Better Hooks for Bait Anglers

The best thing most bait fishers can do is give up on snelled fish hooks. Why use 4# or 6# test when the hooks of choice are snelled with rather stiff and usually cheap #10 test?

Three factors are important here. Hook size, hook type and length of home-tied snell and the like.

HOOK SIZE

Hook size is easy. Check out the average mouth size of the fish you catch and you have the upper size limit. Look at the size and shape of your bait, and you can focus in on size. Smaller, lighter hooks are almost always better as they permit more natural presentation and are easier to set, and sometimes less expensive. Dry fly hooks are usually good. British bait fishing hooks can be better. Barbless hooks are, for most applications the choice for better hook sets and, where indicated releases.

If you really think fish and "throw barbless hooks" try sticking a hook into some non-vital body part and attempt to wiggle free. As a fly flinger who has put hooks in ears, eyelids -- ouch -- and yes, even in my lip I know you don't need barbs and that it can require a pair of needle-nose pliers to free hooks.

HOOK TYPE

Do, check bait size, orientation in the water and, in the case of live baits, movement to fine-tune both hook size and type, and, since natural baits come in a variety to sizes consider a hook a size up and a size down from your average choice, and change to these as you bait selection indicates.

Baits radically effect Minnows for example swim with their body level in most cases, so this suggests a short, light hook for lip rigs or dorsal hooking. Worms wiggle rather and ball up with a tail hanging down. So try a long-shank hook -- these come in 3X, 4X and up to 6X longs with the number designating times the usual hook length is multiplied. Long-shank hooks, particularly if not offset -- hooks come with inline and offset barbs -- so it runs without spinning are particularly good choices for trolling.

Note that the fly fisher's nymph hooks are often about 1.5X and a good choice when fishing life nymphs such s stonefly larvae.

Hooks with very short shanks and wide gaps do offer advantages for baits like small crabs and some types of crustaceans. You'll find a vast number of sizes and types available through shops and mail order. It's worth it to stock up.

SNELL AND LEADER LENGTH

The distance between your float or weight and the hook can be critical -- as can the strength and diameter of your leader. As a rule you're better off with a leader or snell that's about half the pound test of your main line so you only lose a small piece of gear when things break.

Distance means more lively action with live baits and a rather more natural drift even with dead baits in moving water. Minnows, for example, lightly lip hooked with a couple of feet of leader to the weights below a float move well, where minnows six inches from a dragging weight may not.

At the other side of the problem, with sensitive floats you may need a very light indicator shot near the bait so the float will "grow" or rise slightly in the water. As with hooks, the minimum size float and weight that can control distance generally work best.

All of these factors can and should be adjusted at the stream.