Have you ever taken on a major jigsaw puzzle and really labored to find a few specific pieces, only to learn that those pieces weren’t in the box at all? Whether lost to the dog or the vacuum cleaner, missing pieces can be a real source of frustration, and that truth isn’t unique to puzzles. To do a lot of things properly, you need the proper pieces.
Many catfishing situations are best approached with specific techniques and rigs, and those rigs are composed of assorted pieces of terminal tackle. Much is often said about where to find the catfish and set up for them and even about the rigs to use. We’re going to focus on the pieces, because if you don’t have the right pieces to tie the best rigs, your ability to present baits effectively and to hook and land the fish that do bite can be seriously hampered.
It matters little if you have the ideal bait placed in the perfect position if you are unable hook a catfish and keep it hooked until it is in the boat or on the bank. With that in mind, the hook may be the most critical component of your terminal tackle, and hooks vary in shape, thickness, materials and size.
For starters, you can leave the fine-wire hooks at home for most catfishing applications. Cats are tough customers, and many catfish baits are thick and meaty, making heavy-duty hooks the best tools for the job in almost all cases. Given today’s factory hook-sharpening processes and the stoutness of rods and line normally used for cats, you don’t need fine wire to get good hook penetration.
Many hooks commonly used for catfishing use the most basic “J hook” shape, with no fancy bends for weedless rigging, extra long shanks, bent eyes for snelling, weed guards or other special features. Some anglers do prefer a small barb or two well up the shank to help hold bait in place, but that is about it. A good J hook for catfishing is strong, sharp and simple.
In addition to basic J hooks, circle hooks have gained tremendous popularity in catfishing circles. These odd-looking hooks, with extreme bends that almost turn full circle, were first touted for their conservation value. They rarely get swallowed and most commonly hook fish in the corner of the mouth, making for much easier releases. It wasn’t long, however, before many catfish anglers determined that they hooked and landed more fish when they used circle hooks and began favoring them for many applications, whether or not they intended to release the fish.
From a practical fishing standpoint, the major difference between traditional hooks and circle hooks is that with a circle hook, no hookset is involved. When the line is reeled tight or the fish pulls it tight, the hook naturally turns into the fish’s lip. Trying to set the hook actually snaps the whole thing out of the fish’s mouth. For some anglers and some approaches that’s considered a disadvantage. Many anglers, however, believe they hook and land more fish with circle hooks once they get used to the approach.
The Team Catfish Double Action Hook was designed specifically with catfishermen in mind and offers a “best of both worlds” appeal. This modified circle hook is still designed to hook most fish in the mouth, but anglers can effectively hook fish by setting the hook or by simply tightening the line and letting the hook point turn into the fish’s mouth.