(The downsides to circle hooks)
(what few there are)

There is a lot of positive hub-bub rotating around the fishing industry about circle hooks. A good bit of this information is accurate, but some of it is seemingly hype. I have been using circle hooks in live bait applications for striped bass and hybrid bass for a year. I have tried several sizes, styles and makes and continue to use circle hooks for my guide service and personal fishing. Here are some of the drawbacks I've run across:

Smaller Hook Gap Opening. This becomes a big problem when using large baits which must be hooked in the back. Smaller baits like threadfin shad and small gizzard shad under 8 inches in length are easily hooked in the nose. However, large skipjack herring and shad which can be over 2 lbs for bait cause some problems for the puny gap of a circle hook. The end result is that you must compensate for the small gap by using an oversized hook. Any live bait fisherman knows that heavier hooks mean restricted movement of your bait. Where a 1/0 'old style' hook would once fit, you find yourself using a much heavier 3/0 or even 4/0 circle to do the job.
Hook manufacturers have tried to compensate by making "wide gap" circle hooks which have a noticeably larger gap between the point and the shank of the hook. I have found in using these hooks that gut hooking a fish is nearly as common as with regular hooks.

Hook Set Not Required. I know this is a premium advertising slogan for circle hooks, but let's face it, what in fishing is more fun that feeling that tap tap or that BANG, reeling down and slamming the hook home? I mean, what happened to "jerkin' jaws?" They may have to introduce a new school for bass fishermen who want to use circle hooks, "How to NOT set the hook 101." I've had plenty of fish lost due to experienced anglers who are used to setting the hook through a fish's brain who go and jerk on these circle hooks.

No Gut Hooking? Eagle Claw claims, "95% lip hook rate." If you do the math, that is 19 out of 20 fish hooked in the lip. I find this claim to be untrue. Especially with small bait or fish which tend to gobble the bait very quickly. A circle hook will do exactly what any other hook will when swallowed: hook the fish's throat or stomach tissue. I documented two days last year when we landed seven and eight big stripers, respectively, all over 20 lbs and three fish on each day got it in the gut.

Hook Test Positive! If you've fished with circle hooks, you've had one in your finger. They are a cross between a steel-jaw bear leghold trap and a chinese finger trap. It will definitely demonstrate to you the holding power of a circle.

That is all of the drawbacks to circle hooks that I could muster up. As far as the catch and release fishermen should be concerned, this should the the only style of hook in your box. Great for beginners to experts, circle hooks' benefits far outweigh their drawbacks. I will continue to use them and catch and release for our future generations of anglers

Copyright Shawn McNew 2001


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