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April 09, 2014

A Vicious Circle

Pick the right circle hook for success in today’s sea of options.

Your Style Guide

“The thinner your hook, the better your penetration and the faster the hook will set itself,” says Cyrille Mathieu, VMC Hooks’ vice president of sales and marketing. But not all species are caught on light-wire hooks; different species and tactics require distinctive styles of circles.

“We offer a wide variety of circle hooks,” says Mathieu, “from fine-wire to 6x-strong wire gauges, smaller and larger hook gaps, offset and nonoffset hook shanks, and even regular and large hook eyes.”

The different characteristics of a hook hint at how the bait is rigged and what species it can handle. Giant marlin often require a 6x-strong, heavy-duty 16/0 circle hook such as the VMC 9788, says Mathieu. To catch tournament ­sailfish, use a lighter 6/0 to 8/0, wide-gap, nonoffset tournament circle, such as model 7385.

There are no hard-set rules, so it’s better to use your judgment and some basic guidelines when you’re not sure which circle hook to buy. Sometimes picking a hook is as easy as reading the description on the package. The basic live-bait principles below help clear up some confusion:

> Short-shank circle hooks interfere less with the bait presentation, while longer-shank hooks are used with larger baits. Light-wire hooks are ideal for stealthy and realistic ­presentations, such as when you’re casting delicate live shrimp.

> The heavier the gauge of the hook, the more drag pressure the hook can handle. However, a thicker-gauge hook shank requires a larger bait that can stay alive and will present properly. Heavy-gauge or larger-size hooks often come with larger hook-eye openings to handle thicker leader, wire or cable material. A short-shank, heavy-gauge circle hook is about as strong as you can get, used to catch trophy-class fish such as bluefin tuna.

> Wide-gap circle hooks offer the best hookup ratios, which explains why many billfish anglers use them when tournament sailfishing. But wide gaps are also more likely to bend or snap under a heavy load. The best bet is to find a happy medium that suits your style of fishing.

As circle hooks evolve, showing the inveterate advantages extolled by so many captains, anglers must be able to select the right size and style hook for their method of baitfishing. Don’t let the fish run circles around you.

Circle-Hook Mettle

Circle hooks are designed for conservation and catch‑and-release fishing, so it makes sense that hook materials must be strong yet able to rust from a fish mouth. Most manufacturers now produce their hooks from premium high-carbon or Vanadium steel, says Matt Gray, of Eagle Claw. Sometimes a black-nickel finish is added to increase sharpness and encourage corrosion, depending on the manufacturer. In fact, some ­manufacturers, such as VMC Hooks, recommend that stainless steel and other highly noncorrosive ­surfaces be banned as finishes because they inhibit rusting.