Circle Hooks for Catfishing

Despite their relatively recent introduction into “modern” fishermen’s tackle boxes, circle hooks have been used almost as long as man has been fishing.  Ancient circle hooks carved form shell or bone have been found in archeological digs in Japan and Polynesia.  From there, they were used on long lines in the oceans, then to rod and reel sea fishermen.  Only in the last 10-15 years have they started being used for inland freshwater fishing, limb lines and trot lines and eventually rod and reel.  Now they are one of the most used styles of hooks for catfishing.  Circle hooks have increased in popularity among catfishermen dramatically over the last few years.  They are a top choice for catch and release fishermen due to the fact that they rarely hook a fish in the gut or gills.  They have been said to improve hook ratios dramatically over other hook style.

Gamakatsu Octopus Circle Saltwater Hooks with Offset Point - Black - 6/0
Many people that have a first look at a circle hook, just can’t see how they could possibly catch fish.  There are a few things to be aware of when using circles that will make using them more productive.  First we need to understand the mechanics behind the design. A circle hook by definition, has a deep bend that that ends with the point at a 90 degree angle in relation to the shank.  The design is based on the fact that many species strike their forage and turn away.  With the hook point directed at the shank it will only catch on an exposed surface.  When a fish takes off with a bait, the hook is pulled from gut and gill area  and most of the time, will catch at the lip bone or corner of the mouth.

Using Circle Hooks

When using circle hooks the number one rule is do not set the hook! The action of setting the hook with a swift yank will most often pull it out of the fish’s mouth. This can be a hard habit to break for long time fishermen.  Many fishermen that regularly use circles like a rod with a soft tip and a good solid rod holder, this allows a fish to take a bait and “load” the rod pulling the hook gently into place.  Once the rod is loaded, simply reel down on the fish and it is hooked.  Many of my rods are a bit on the stiff side for this to work 100% so, here is another couple of things to try out.  If you have a reel with a bait clicker option, you can set it in free spool.  When a fish makes a run and the clicker is screaming, pick up your rod and apply gentle and increasing pressure to the spool.  This will serve the same basic function as a nice flexible rod tip.  Once you are confident the fish is hooked, begin reeling.  This works well when you are fishing without solid rod holders.  It does take some trial and error as far as timing but, it is not hard to get used to.  Another method that works well when you are using rod holders is to utilize your drag.  Set your rod in the holder with the spool engaged, clicker on, and  begin backing the drag off while pulling line at its natural angle down towards the water.  You want be able to pull line out with moderate pressure.  When a fish bites, the drag will allow the fish to take line from the spool under pressure,  thus pulling the hook out to the fish’s mouth.  Again this can take some trial and error to get just right but, after a few trips you will be able to judge where the drag should be set by pulling the line and  watching the bend in your rod.

I personally have had great success with circle hooks once I learned to use them.  I believe that my catch rates have increased dramatically since then and I have had far fewer gut or gill hooked fish.  You either love em or hate em.  If you have not used them before, give em a try and see if they work for you.  Not sure about circle hooks?  Here are some other great hooks that are commonly used to catch catfish: Hooks for Catfishing.

SHOUT OUT: Do you use circle hooks for catfishing?  Do you believe your hook ratio has increased since you started using them?  What is your favorite circle hook?  Leave us a comment below and let us know!

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5 Responses to “Circle Hooks for Catfishing”

  1. A.J.
    March 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

    I started using circles a few years ago and my hookup ratio has gone way up. I primarily target flathead catfish in shallower streams having water less than 10 feet deep throughout. I have watched these cats in clear water during nesting as they would take a live sunfish or freshly cut bait presented close to their bed. More often than not they will take the bait and mouth it more than eat it. It became habit for me to wait to set the hook even after a strong pull on the rod as often the fish would not have really taken the bait yet. I would wait until the rod went down and stayed down to set the hook on these fish. It was a tactic that produced more giant catfish for me than most guys in the region, even those fishing on the big rivers and lakes. The unwanted side effect was many cats hooked deep after having swallowed the bait. I decided to try circle hooks in an attempt to reduce mortality on these trophies. It worked like a dream. Now I still wait, but the fish usually hooks himself with the first steady pull. I tried many different brands and prefer the lightest wire designs with a slight offset. VMC has proven the best for me. I have also found I can go much smaller with these hooks than I anticipated often using a 2/0 VMC circle with cut bait to land fish in the 25-40 lb. range. I have caught hundreds of big catfish on these hooks and once hooked have never had a fish come unbuttoned. Better yet I’ve not hurt a single one of these prized cats as all of them have been hooked solidly in the gristle at or near the corner of the mouth.

    • Catfishadmin
      March 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

      Excellent AJ, Thanks! That may just be one of the best comments to date!!

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