Carbon Steel — Thin, Yet Strong
And that’s one of several reasons that many manufacturers have gotten away from producing stainless-steel hooks. In fact, it’s illegal to use stainless hooks in some fisheries these days.
Enter carbon-steel hooks. The wire bodies on this type of hook contain carbon — and while these hooks will rust, the higher the carbon content, the harder the metal alloy becomes. “If you have two hooks of the same diameter,” explains Pierce, “the carbon-steel hook will be stronger than the stainless-steel hook. It’s more likely to bend under heavy strain, while a stainless-steel hook might break.”
Because carbon steel is a stronger base material than stainless, the wire is proportionally thinner — and that can be a real plus when it comes to hooking fish.
“If you don’t think a thinner diameter is important, ask your nurse for a bigger needle the next time you get a shot,” jokes T.J. Stallings, director of marketing at TTI-Blakemore Fishing Group, which owns the Daiichi hook brand.
The process of making a carbon-steel hook is not overly complicated, and these hooks are actually much less expensive than stainless. Straight lengths of wire are cut into pieces, and a point is honed on one end and an eye formed on the other. The wire is then bent around a cam, forming the hook’s ultimate shape.
“The wire is really soft at this time,” says Shitanishi. “You can usually bend it with your hand.”
To strengthen the metal, hook makers often cold-forge or compress saltwater hooks. And then they’re tempered, or heat-treated. This is the most crucial stage of hook making. The tempering molecularly alters the metal, concentrating the carbon and removing impurities.
“Depending on the hook size, type and wire gauge, there’s usually an optimum temperature,” says Shitanishi. “It’s something of an art.”
The hooks are then carefully cooled and intermittently dipped in oil. Then, once cool, the carbon-steel hook is ready to be plated.