Fishing can be frustrating, that’s part of the game. But I think a lot of frustration among anglers comes when we experience failure coming from something that easily could have been prevented. If we don’t wind fresh monofilament on our spools and the line breaks on a good fish, we get frustrated. If we forget to put a net in the boat and we lose a fish, we get frustrated. There is a long list for sure, but one that gets overlooked in the heat of battle is sharpening a hook.
When you do everything right and get a fish to hit, not much makes our blood boil more than not feeling the hook point sink in deep. Hook points get dulled easily from bumping against rocks or sand or blow down. They even get dull when we’re on a hot bite as the repeated fish-catching process makes an otherwise sharp point blunt.
There are a tremendous number of specialty hooks to choose from, but they generally fall into one of two basic categories.
High-carbon steel: High-carbon steel is commonly used in freshwater hooks and are easy to sharpen. These hooks are strong and their size, shape, weight and configuration are designed for a specific fishing purpose. Light-weight hooks help dry flies float, snelled hooks keep bait from falling off, and trebles make a stickbait swim properly.
Stainless: Common saltwater hooks also come in a variety of sizes, shapes and weights, all of which are designed for a particular purpose. We use circle hooks for baitfishing, single hooks for flies, and treble hooks for plugs. Stainless are highly rustproof, and the softer material need regular sharpening, much of it coming from the harsher environment. Saltwater gamefish oftentimes have cartilaginous mouths, and the sharper the hook the better the hook set.
Here are some pointers for getting the most out of your hooks.
1. Sharpen all hooks regardless if they are out-of-the-box new. Use coarse files for big trebles, medium grit for average-sized hooks, and fine hones for small hooks.
2. A combination of all three files and hones results in a hook that is so sharp it could be used in surgery – which is what you want when a fish strikes.
3. Change hooks based on use. Hooks get brittle from lots of use and when they get brittle, they break.
4. When fishing, check your hooks frequently, particularly if you get hung up on some blow-down or are casting in a rocky area. It doesn’t take much to dull a point – and a dull point doesn’t properly hook fish.
Tom Keer is a freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He regularly writes for over a dozen magazines, and is the contributing editor of Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America and a columnist for The Upland Almanac. His book a “Flyfisher’s Guide to the New England Coast” was published by Wilderness Adventures Press in 2010. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com.