All About Fish Hooks

Though there are many different styles and sizes of hooks to choose from these days, let's take a look at five tried-and-true hook designs that have been catching fish long before most of us cast our first worm. The most common hook style even today, and one that most all of us start out using, and continue to do so, is the perfectly named J-style hook. Most hooks are actually variations of the J-style.


The J-style is basically the shape created where the bend of the hook turns up to its point. The hook created by this bend looks like the letter J, and this style is one of the most commonly used hooks. It is also one of the most productive hook styles that fishermen can use.

Interestingly, J-style hooks are what most of us have learned to fish with, including setting the hook when you feel the tap of a feeding fish. Some anglers' say this is one of the most enjoyable parts of fishing, and it sure does feel good with you get a solid hookup!

The J-style hook is still the most popular type of hook used by anglers, as it provides the perfect hook for so many different fishing situations and species of fish.


Aptly named, the bait-holder hook is designed specifically to hold bait! The main improvement of this type of hook is the additional barbs found along the shank of the hook. The bait-holder is a J-style hook design with barbs on the shank. Most bait-holder hooks have two barbs along the shank, which helps to hold a worm or other bait in place. Thus the bait doesn't come off during the cast or when a fish begins to nibble.

The simple barbs keep the bait put, and can make all the difference between catching fish or feeding the fish you intend to catch. It's a simple, but devastatingly effective design improvement! Most fishermen start out with this style of hook, as most of us begin our fishing careers by using bait.


Long-shank hooks are necessary in cases where the quarry you're seeking have sharp teeth, or if you're a fly-fisherman who's interested in tying long streamer flies.

A long shank on a hook definitely helps keep a sharp-toothed fish from biting through your line, as the shank itself sticks out of the fish's mouth, preventing direct line-to-tooth contact. Long-shank hooks are also easier to remove from a fish's maw because you actually have something to grab onto.

Another benefit is that most fish don't swallow the entire hook to become gut hooked, though this is not always the case with big-mouthed species.


To get the perfect picture of a short-shank hook, just think of the venerable salmon egg hook. Talk about a hook named for specific bait and type of fishing -- the salmon egg hook is it! Most anglers use this type of hook to catch trout, as trout are known to feed on salmon eggs.

However, the features of the short-shank salmon egg hook make it perfect for holding many types of small baits. The small size of the short-shank hook allows fishermen to hide the hook in the bait. So it is a great hook to use with many species of fish, from panfish to any species with small mouths.

Also, the short-shank hook offers good penetration on soft-mouthed species to boot.


You know the old saying, "saving the best for last." This may be the case with the recently revived circle hook, which was invented more than 100 years ago by Australian commercial fishermen.

Interestingly, circle hooks, which are named for their peculiar, tight-circular shape, first came into vogue with southern California recreational tuna and billfish anglers back in the early 1990s. Since then, circle hooks have become highly popular for all types of fishing situations and species of fish.

One reason is that circle hooks actually hook a higher percentage of fish! Also, you don't set the hook with a circle hook. Instead, you just wait for the line to become tight and then begin reeling in your catch.

On top of it all, the shape of the circle hook means that almost 100 percent of fish caught are hooked in their lips, not their stomachs or gills! This means a higher percentage of fish live if released. It doesn't get much better than that.

All you have to do is to remember not to set the hook. Doing so pulls your bait right out of the fish's mouth. The circle hook has definitely been a welcome and valuable addition to sport fishing. It's amazing to think this type of hook only became popular some 20 years ago.

There you have it, a brief description of the most important part of all fishing tackle -- the hook! Without a hook on the end of your line, you're just like a fish out of water.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You


How to Fish Bottom Bouncers for Walleye

Mark Sak - May 23, 2019

While misunderstood by some, fishing bottom bouncers can be a very productive technique for...


No Kidding: Angler Smashes Record for Lake Trout

Scott Bernarde - May 21, 2019

The Pennsylvania man's trophy fish was more than two pounds heavier than the previous record.

Field Tested: Lightweight Raingear

David Draper - May 30, 2019

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

Multiple time FLW Costa winner Jessi Mizell is no stranger to catching big Florida bass on a popping frog. As he tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, with the new 13 Fishing Omen Black baitcasting rod, the job just got easier.

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Other Freshwater

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper - April 21, 2005

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.


10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Fishing reel maintenance provides a steady stream of business for The Fisherman's Warehouse

Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

See More Stories

More Other Freshwater

Other Freshwater

Minnesota's Muskie Magic

Gary Korsgaden - June 24, 2019

The fish of 10,000 casts is a worthy adversary, and there are plenty of great spots to pursue...


Keep Those Drum and Cook Them

Keith Sutton

Freshwater drum are considered roughfish by some anglers, but these relatives of redfish are...

Other Freshwater

All in the Family: Mom Breaks Daughter's State Record

Game & Fish Online Staff - July 26, 2018

  Brenda Carter (left) broke her daughter Ericka's (right) Wisconsin record for...

See More Other Freshwater

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.