Sharp hooks are critical
  |  First Published: September 2015

There’s an old saying in fishing circles that the two most important keys to consistent angling success are a strong knot and a sharp hook. This month, Starlo gets to the point — literally — and examines the all-important subject of hook sharpness.

In my opinion — and it’s an opinion based on more than four decades of on-water experience — the use of hooks with extra sharp points is one of the easiest and most effective ways to instantly boost your catch rate, regardless of where you wet a line or what species you target.

Certainly, there are a few styles of fishing where having a wickedly sharp hook point might not be so critical to success. The most obvious of these are specific bait fishing scenarios where the fish is allowed to completely swallow a baited hook before the angler strikes. In those instances, there’s a reasonable chance that your hook will find its mark and establish a hold, even if it’s not razor sharp.

There’s even one specialised fishing style I can think of where excessive point sharpness might actually prove to be counterproductive. This unusual situation occurs when using a so-called ‘circle hook’ or ‘tuna circle’. These unusually-shaped hooks with their extremely re-curved points are designed to catch around the jaw bone or jaw hinge as they exit the fish’s mouth. They’re best used by simply allowing the line to draw tight gradually as the fish moves away, rather than striking to set the hook. If the point of a circle hook is too sharp (or if it’s offset from the plane of the hook shank and bend), it may catch lightly inside the fish’s mouth or throat and fail to slide into the correct position and lock around the jaw bone, as intended. However, in every other form of angling I can think of, sharp hooks offer significant advantages.

Nowhere is the importance of hook sharpness more critical than in lure and fly fishing, where a fish will often nip, snap, slash or grab at a moving artificial bait, offering the angler a single, split-second chance of obtaining a solid connection. The difference between a missed strike and a solid hook-up when lure or fly fishing typically comes down to the sharpness of your hook points, and this is an area far too often disregarded or under-rated, especially by novice anglers.

Keen, experienced lure fishers regularly talk about the desirability of having ‘sticky sharp’ hooks. When they use this term, they’re referring to the propensity that really keen hook points have of literally ‘sticking’ to any surface they happen to touch, be it your finger, an item of clothing… or a fish’s lip. Sticky sharp hooks can make a huge difference to your day-to-day lure and fly fishing results.

In the bad old days, new hooks were rarely sticky sharp straight out of the pack and committed anglers were forced to spend time touching them up with fine files or sharpening stones. In this modern era of improved metallurgy and ‘chemically sharpened’ hooks (which have been etched in an acid bath to remove the imperfections left by the mechanical sharpening process), most quality hooks are keen enough to use when brand new, without any touching up. However, these very fine points are also highly susceptible to damage and deterioration from corrosion or contact with hard surfaces such as rocks, boat hulls and fish teeth.

Get into the habit of regularly checking your hook points by touching them lightly against the ball of your thumb or dragging them across a fingernail. Really sharp hooks will instantly bite in. If they don’t, change them out or sharpen them… Trust me, you’ll catch a lot more fish if you follow this advice!

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