Circle hooks are a dream come true

It’s ironic in this era of super-sophisticated fishing equipment (everything from feather-light magnesium fishing reels, GPS satellite-controlled navigation systems, and invisible fluorocarbon fishing line) that the technological fishing spotlight should be focused so firmly on one of the oldest and most basic pieces of tackle—the humble hook.
For certain it is a “can’t-do-without” Sunset Country angling item that has been around since the dawn of time. It also something most of us thought could never change.
Well, never say never.
Hooks have come full circle. In fact, you’re square these days in many places if you’re not using circle hooks. Especially if you like to fish with minnows, leeches, crawlers—heck, any live bait for fish such as walleye, bass, and trout.
Circle hooks are revolutionary. They’re also old hat—that’s another of the ironies.
For years, circle hooks have been popular with commercial tuna catchers. And river rats, who ply the muddy, flowing waters of the American south for flathead, yellow, and channel catfish, also have long favoured circle hooks for their trotlines.
After they bait the hooks, they tie their thick twine lines on stumps and semi-submerged trees and come back the next day—like fish trappers—to check what they’ve caught.
As the name implies, circle hooks are round and shaped like hoops. The tip of the hook swings in toward the shank—like an exaggerated talon on an eagle or osprey.
Instead of looking like a sure thing, though, the first thought that crosses your mind when you see a circle hook is, “How in the world am I ever going to set this thing into a fish?”
Well, the answer is, you don’t. As I said, ironies abound.
Circle hooks are designed so that you never set the hook. Now that’s efficacy in design. That’s why when you see or feel a fish take your bait, you simply keep pressure on it and reel it in.
Better still, circle hooks tend to catch fish in the corners of their mouths—a rarity when you cast, drift, or troll live bait using standard hooks. So, from a conservation perspective, they’re a godsend.
And once pegged, walleye, bass, trout, pike, perch, crappies—and, oh yes, let’s not forget those tuna and catfish—stay pinned.
Indeed, you rarely lose a fish. That’s because the point of the hook is turned in and there is so little space between the tip and the shank that once buried, a circle hook stays put.
Matter of fact, usually you need pliers to pull it out of the cartilage around the corner of a fish’s mouth.
So what’s the downside? Strangely enough, it’s the fact that you don’t, or can’t, set the hook when you feel a fish take your bait. That simple piece of instruction sounds easy enough, but it goes against the grain of everything we’ve been taught since we were small fry.
Yet it’s the reason commercial tuna fishermen and catfishing trotliners have favoured circle hooks for years. When a fish takes your bait, it swims away with it, sometimes deep in its mouth, but the hook doesn’t stick.
Instead, as your line pressure increases, it slides to the corner of the mouth and starts to pull out the hook.
But as the tip of the weirdly-shaped circle hook meets the corner of the mouth, the point makes perfect contact, rotates, and buries itself into the fish’s tough, cartilage lip.
For this reason, kids, casual anglers. and anyone who neglects or forgets to set the hook are virtuosos—immediate fishing wonders—with circle hooks. Without any instruction, they simply reel in the fish.
And it doesn’t matter that they’re using less than sensitive equipment, and trailing a mile of line behind the back of the boat, or that a fish picked up their bait five minutes ago.
They catch them one after the other.
The so-called pros, on the other hand, with expensive rods, reels, and lines so sensitive they can feel an angel land on the tip to rest its wings, sweep-set their rods with ferocity, or leap off the casting platform to drive home the hook, and miss every single fish.
It’s so comical to watch—except when you’re the one being humbled.
Most hook companies, including the famous names like VMC, Gamakatsu, and Daiichi, now manufacture circle hooks.
About the only caution is that when you see number 4 or 6 circle hooks, which are standard sizes for Sunset Country walleye, sauger, perch, bass, crappie, and trout in normal hook shapes, they will look much too small to work.
Disregard your first impressions. Circle hooks are a live-bait angler’s dream come true.