When deciding which terminal tackle to use, remember that you can judge a hook by its cover. A hook's metal plating (also called finish or coating) determines its life expectancy in the brine.
The variety of coatings on the market today covers every type of angling situation. Conservation-minded anglers prefer to rig live and dead baits on bronze- or nickel-plated hooks that dissolve rather quickly if left in fish; aficionados of artificials hang lures with hooks protected by long-lasting finishes such as Eagle Claw's Sea Guard or Mustad's Duratin. Eagle Claw's nickel-Teflon finish is designed to help hooks slide into position and facilitate penetration.
"Stainless-steel hooks seem to last forever," says Pierce, "so I don't recommend them for bait fishing. They're perfect for saltwater fly tiers who don't want hooks to rust out from under complicated, time-consuming patterns."
Research continues to provide alternative metals for hook manufacturers. In addition to its complete line of high-carbon steel hooks, VMC offers hooks containing vanadium. Swanson says vanadium's combination of lightness and strength makes it perfect for live-bait and circle hooks.
Offset hooks feature a point that bends slightly to one side rather than lining up with the shank (kirbed points bend to the right and reversed points bend to the left). The angled point increases the likelihood of a solid hookup, especially when using live bait.
Pierce feels saltwater anglers sometimes exaggerate the importance of hook style when the crucial factor actually lies in hook strength. "A standard-wire hook won't do the job if you expect to be wrestling 20-pound black drum away from dock pilings," he says. "You're better off using double- or triple-strength hooks, no matter what the style."
The staggering variety of hook shapes, sizes and finishes can be overwhelming, yet it seems somebody always finds room for improvement. According to Pierce, Mustad produces over 100,000 different hook-size/style combinations, "and anglers still bring us new ideas for specific applications!"