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.
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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