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As anglers have become more and more conservation-minded, the use of circle hooks has become more and more common for those tossing bait. No doubt this is a good thing, since circle hooks can be used to snag fish right in the corner of the jaw and eliminate or dramatically reduce the incidences of gut-hookings. However, all circle hooks are not created equally and there are some surprising factors that can influence just how effective they are. Before you choose your next hook, consider:
That hook did its job, even though this fish swallowed the bait and kept on going.
- How effective they are or are not at jaw-hooking a fish is often dependent on getting hook size right. In many cases, for example, using a circle hook that’s too small will still result in some gut-hooked fish. Going to large can result in fewer bites than you might otherwise get, but as a general rule of thumb err on the large side and you’ll harm fewer fish.
- Circle hooks work best in a moving tide when fish are feeding hard. On dead tides when there’s no current and the fish are more apt to slowly slurp up a bait and just sit there, they often swallow the whole affair all the way down their gullet before tension ever gets applied, so gut-hooking becomes more frequent.
- Know the difference between offset and non-offset hooks. Using offset circle hooks is often not much different from using J hooks, and if you consider conservation important, a non-offset hook will always be the best choice. Usually the package will tell you which is which but when in doubt simply lay the hook on a table with the eye hanging off. A Non-offset circle hook will always sit flush against the table while a hook with an offset will curve up off the table.
- We’re going to assume you already know not to set a circle hook but instead to come tight and simply start reeling. But what many people don’t realize is that you’ll get more reliable hook-ups if in addition to eliminating that eye-crossing swing, you apply tension gently at first, and then slowly increase it as your rod begins to bend—the slower the better.
- Never try to bury a circle hook in a bait. Doing so prevents that inward-facing point from turning and gaining a purchase. If you often miss bites while fishing a circle, there’s a good chance this is why.