Paternoster part 2: hook choice
  |  First Published: July 2012

Last month I covered some line and knot choices for use in tying up your bottom bouncer paternoster rigs. This month we look at the hooks you can choose to put on the end of your dropper loops.

A lot of debate is waged between those who prefer single hooks and those that swear by gang rigs. Next month I’ll cover gang hooks; this month is all about single hooks.

There are many advantages of using single hooks on your paternoster rig. Using one hook at a time per dropper makes it a cheaper deal when you loose a rig. If you’re using single hooks on a double dropper rig, then it’s only two hooks lost if you hang the whole lot up on a ree). In comparison, if each of the two droppers has a three hook gang rig on it then that is good-bye to half a dozen hooks.

It’s not so much the cost of the hooks that influences most anglers, it’s more the fact that you only have a box of 25 hooks and it may not be long until you’re out of hooks. Buying hooks from your best mates can get pretty expensive offshore!

Also some hooks such as chemically sharpened varieties, circles, and wide gaps are generally not suited to ganging. This is either because of their shape, function, or the brittleness of their metal wire.


The most important thing when using circle hooks is that you need to let the fish load up the line and the rod rather than striking at the fish. The circle hook has to rattle around in the fish’s mouth and when the fish goes to swim away, the hook will move around until it locks into the corner of the mouth.

If you strike with the rod before the hook is lodged securely in the corner of the jaw then the mostly likely outcome is the hook and bait pulling out of the fish’s mouth and you’ll be rueing another missed opportunity.

Circle hooks are not for happy hookers, particularly if you are old school and have been fishing J hooks all of your life. If you are an old school ‘hook setter’ then get yourself a longer and softer rod to start out using circles. When you are learning to wait for the fish to take it, the softer rod will lessen the impact of some of your violent strikes.


A wide gap hook is a cross between a J hook and a circle hook. From my experience they consistently keep the fish on the hook longer than standard J hooks. If you’re a happy hooker, then these wide gap hooks are a great way to get some of the benefits of the circle hook design while still offering you some success when you strike from time to time.

The only unfortunate thing with wide gap hooks is that they are generally only available in medium to light wire strengths, and you generally need to use 7/0 hooks if you want to get dropper loops made from double 80lb mono through the hook eye.

These hooks are very successful on pan-sized snapper and red throat emperor.


I love red chemical sharpened Mustad Tarpon hooks in 5/0 – or larger if your dropper loops are too thick – for smaller reef fish like hussar, Moses perch and the like. It really pays to replace your hook quite often throughout the day because the point starts to become ineffective in the hook-up process.

A lot of crews use these for single hook rigging of pilchard pieces and half pilchards. One reason is that the hook goes into the bait with very little force and therefore you mash the bait up less before you put it out in the water. Therefore the bait stays on the hook longer.

If you’re using single hooks with flesh baits then I recommend using a small cube of bait or a triangle strip that the hook is only passed through once or twice at the most, and done in a way that the bait doesn’t bunch up on the hook and choke the gape.


In deeper water such as red emperor country from Fraser Island north along the Great Barrier Reef or the 90m depths off Moreton Island or the Sunshine Coast where amberjacks, Samson fish, and yellowtail kingfish inhabit, you’ll often need bigger hooks to handle the full power of the 80lb braid to control the fish.

For livebaiting using 24kg or 37kg tackle and a paternoster rig made from 80-100lb leader, you need a big strong hook. For a live baiting hook I'll generally use either a big circle or a Deep V hook.

When using a demersal fish as a livie, a single large livebait hook passed up through the upper nose of the livie will allow the baitfish to still open and close its mouth. This keeps water flowing over the gills and will keep the baitfish alive.

For pelagic type live baits, I’ll pass the hook cross ways through the membrane that is just in front of the eye of the upper jaw of the fish.

When using the favourite fish head as a big fish bait, I’ll use the same hook that I use for livebaiting. I run the Deep V down through the top lip and bottom jaw of a fish head. This keeps the mouth closed and reduces the tendency of the bait to spin. A tip to remember is to crush the head to get the juices flowing out but not enough to pop the eyes and make the bait spin.


If I am fishing a double dropper I'll often have a small hook on the bottom dropper to catch hussar or live baits, and a Deep V hook on the top dropper with a fish head on it. I have a theory that a live bait on the bottom hook will attract larger reef fish to your rig and they seemed just as inclined to eat the head that is oozing juices.

I may also have a specific live bait outfit rigged with a big circle hook looped onto a single dropper paternoster. This rig has a bigger sinker to keep the live bait in the strike zone once you get it down there.

At a pinch I'll take both of the hooks off a double dropper and slip on just one big hook of any description.

Most of the hooks are about the same for hooking ability but circles and Deep V hooks stay in the fish better and you pull less hooks during the fight. Just remember that you can't strike when using these circle hooks and you should let the big fish take the bait rather than pulling it away from him.

Next month we’ll finish this paternoster series by covering multiple hook options such as gangs and stinger rigs.

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