Forging hooks represents a traditional and widespread practice throughout the industry, yet manufacturers have never faced charges of counterfeit or fraud. In this case, the forgers are machines that apply pressure evenly to both sides of a hook, causing the wire to flatten slightly. Pierce compares the process to "running a rolling pin over cookie dough," - and the result is a tougher cookie. Forging imparts an additional measure of rigidity, making hooks stronger in a "straight-pull" situation (hence the popularity of forged hooks among big-game fishermen).
Knowing that strong steel becomes useless if it can't penetrate a fish's jaw, manufacturers strive to produce hooks that come out of the box treacherously sharp. Three basic methods exist for creating points: cutting, grinding and forging.
"Cutting the wire at an angle to form a hook point represents standard technology that's been around since the beginning," says Pierce. This process costs less than grinding and results in a stronger point because it removes less metal. On the downside, it's difficult to make cut-point hooks razor sharp when dealing with large-diameter wire.
Grinding away material to form a fine point (often referred to as "needle-point" technology) delivers improved sharpness at the expense of durability. Such hooks offer unsurpassed penetrating ability but may be ruined when collisions with rocks or coral bend the point back on itself.
VMC has developed a method of creating needle-sharp hooks without sacrificing point strength. Sales manager Zack Swanson explains, "Rather than removing material to form a point - like sharpening a pencil - our Needle Cone Point process maintains the steel's integrity by forging wire from many different angles to compress it into a point."
Mustad's new Ultra Point technology puts hooks through a three-step process that provides needle-point sharpness while removing less material than traditional methods.
Chemical sharpening refers to an additional step that can be applied to points formed by any of the above techniques. To phrase it delicately, hooks undergo an acid bath that removes a thin layer of metal to improve sharpness. This chemical treatment also increases a hook's ability to accept and hold metal plating.