Sea Angling for Beginners – The Anatomy of a Fishing Hook

by David Proudfoot

There are a bewildering array of hook designs available on the market with manufacturers from Europe to the Far East producing constantly changing ranges. Gone are the days when there were three or four main patterns available to the sea angler. In this article we take a look at the terms which are common to all hook producers to clarify just what they mean in their adverts and on retail websites.

Most sea angling hooks are manufactured from large coils of high carbon steel wire. The wire is first straightened, then cut to the appropriate length by machine. After this, the points are ground. A steel chisel is selected to cut the barbs. Bending takes place on a steel mandrel. Following this

, the eye is formed. Plating, or some form of salt water protection, can now be applied to the hook.

Next, hardening and tempering by heating, then cooling in oil takes place, after which the hook is finally cleaned and polished.

Regardless of the work that goes into manufacturing a sea angling hook, many anglers fail to select them with enough care or do not give them adequate attention. No item of terminal tackle is more important than the hook, which finishes up in direct contact with the fish.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook parts


In earlier years, hooks were named for their own distinctive style, after the inventor or the region of origin. They are sometimes called J-hooks because of their shape and to distinguish them from circle hooks. Many of the names have survived through time, to the present day, hence the number of patterns available. Names like Aberdeen, Beak, Carlisle, Kirby, Limerick, O’Shaughnessy, Seamaster, Tarpon and Viking give a variety to choose from. Hook design is still an on-going process with very little being left to chance.

Mustad are still one of the biggest manufacturers of hooks but the sea angler will also regularly use hooks produced by Sakuma, Varivas, Kamasan, Eagle Claw, Gamakatsu, Cox & Rawle or Owner.

Hook Bends

Hook bends are differently shaped for many reasons, but the main one is strength. A hooks strength is its resistance to opening when under pressure. In theory, the perfectly round bend is the easiest of all to open. The hook designer can vary the shape of the bend in order to increase the strength of the hook.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook limerick bendThis however, concentrates the stress in the sharpest part of the hooks bend.

In general bottom fishing, the Limerick type of bend has been proven best suited for sea angling in the United Kingdom. This bend has a distinct bulge. The Limerick pattern hook is suitable with paternoster tackle for cod, ling, pouting and whiting. It is also a good bait hook for peeler crab and other baits which the angler has difficulty in presenting.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook round bendThe Round bend is found almost exclusively on the Aberdeen pattern hook. This hook is tempered, so that when under moderate pressure, will spring back to its original form. Never used with heavy tackle, the round bend Aberdeen hook, is best suited to estuary fishing for members of the flatfish family.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook sneck bendIt also makes an excellent bait hook for prawns and sandeels.

The Sneck bend is most often found on the spade-end hooks used in the manufacture of mackerel feather traces. This squarer bent hook is easily recognised. It is also suitable for haddock fishing.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook sproat bendThe Sproat bend is commonly found on the O’Shaughnessy pattern of sea angling hook. This is a very good hook, used with a ledger rig, and especially suited to heavy duty fishing.


The idea of hook offset is to make it difficult for a fish to hold the hook flat in its mouth. If the hook is held flat it can easily be pulled free by the angler during the strike thereby, allowing the fish to escape. An offset hook permits the point to come into contact with the mouth, thus in theory, securing the fish. Offset hooks are best suited to ledger tackle where the bait is static, i.e. thornback ray fishing.

A problem often arising with the offset hook is spinning, caused by the shape of the hook. This problem can be made worse with large baits as they sink to the sea-bed if not secured to the shank and allowed to slip down to the bend. For this reason the hook designers have, generally, returned to the concept that hook bends do not require to be offset to the shank and where am offset is required by the angler they need to carefully add the twist with the help of pliers.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook offset


Anglers have always been confused as to whether a hook is kirbied or reversed. If the shank is held parallel to the ground, with the point upward and towards the angler, a hook is kirbied if the shank is offset to the right (hook point will be pointing to the left). The hook will be reversed if the shank is offset to the left (hook point will be pointing to the right). To make things more difficult, some hooks are double offset i.e. a bend half on one side of the shank and half on the other side.

Shank Length

A long shanked hook is easier to remove from the mouth of a fish than a short shanked hook. Fish can occasionally free themselves from a long shanked hook by virtue of the leverage offered by the length of the hook shank and the angle of pull. Taking into account the species of fish normally encountered in this country, and a practical angling viewpoint, the best shank length is approximately two and a half times the gape of the hook.

Point Shape

A long sharp point will penetrate the mouth of a fish easily, but can equally be more easily damaged or blunted. In the harder parts of the fish’s mouth the point will only half penetrate, thus the fish can be allowed a chance of escaping. This makes a short, sharp point best suited to the sea angling in this country.

The curved-in point is mostly found in an exaggerated form on a circle hook.

The Dublin point angles slightly outward, away from the shank of the hook. It is found mainly on the hooks manufactured for commercial fishermen, i.e. long-line hooks. This point is most effective when the fish are left to hook themselves.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook points


A hollow point can be found on most medium weight carbon and stainless steel sea angling hooks. Properly sharpened and honed, it will penetrate more easily than any other hook point. It is a highly effective point.

A needle point is ground concentric with the metals’ diameter and is short but very sharp. It can be found on some Aberdeen pattern hooks.

There are many other types of hook point including superior point, knife edge and barbless.

Baitholder Barbs

Baitholder barbs were designed to prevent the bait from sliding down the shank of the hook. They are also an aid to bait presentation and when using artificial plastic worm style lures. The two barbs, usually found on the back of the hook shank, have the disadvantage of reducing the metals strength by up to fifty percent.

Hook Eyes

The eye of the hook is normally the connection point between the fishing line and the hook. For this reason alone it has to be very strong. In sea angling there are two types, the hook eye and the spade-end fixture.

A ball eye (or straight eye) is the most common and favoured eye found in sea angling hooks. The eye loop lies in the same straight line as the hook shank and is closed tightly onto the shank. With certain types of hook the eye is brazed to the shank.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook eyes


The spade end or flatted shank is usually found on the mackerel or sandeel feather hooks and on hooks where delicate bait presentation is required. In order to attach the line a whipping or snelling knot must be used.

A turned down eye allows the hook to lie on the same axis as the line when tied on with a snelling knot. The eye subtly alters the hooking geometry, but in practical terms, this is negligible.

In addition to the hook eyes mentioned above, there are a large variety of alternative designs to choose from, however, many of these are not commonly encountered in sea angling in Europe.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook eyes


Chemical Sharpening

Chemical sharpening is the name given by hook manufacturers to their method of polishing a hook. Before the hook is given its final surface coating, it is passed through a corrosive liquid to remove all the imperfections and blemishes while simultaneously polishing the metal. During this process, a certain amount of the overall surface of the metal is removed including the area around the point of the hook. This leaves a sharper point, hence the name chemical sharpening.

Another added advantage of using this method is that it can increase the hardness of the hook, but if a poor quality steel is used, it can cause brittleness which results in the hook snapping when under pressure.


All hooks are made of round wire. Some hooks are lightly forged (shaped by heating and hammering) at the bend to increase their resistance to opening on the plane of the bend. A forged hook is stronger than a round hook made with the same diameter of metal.


Due to the corrosive effect of salt water on a sea angling hook, it is necessary for some form of protection to be applied to the surface of the metal to prevent rusting. Stainless steel hooks are the only exception. There are a variety of methods available to the hook manufacturer offering different degrees of protection and cost.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook cadmiumBlueing is an oxidation process which offers a minimum of protection.

Bronzing is a lacquer which is applied to the hook. It is cured in an oven. The bronzed hook has limited protection against rusting.

Cadmium plating is a metallic finish, and although on the expensive side, is highly effective. Usually, only the larger sizes of hook are cadmium plated.

Nickel plating is only as good as the preparation given to the hook before the plating process. If properly carried out, it is not only an attractive finish, but also a tough and durable one. It resembles chrome in coloration but is not as bright.

Stove enamel is a black finish which was at one time called Japanned. The process is similar to that of bronzing. Black enamel is cured in an oven to give a tough and quite distinctive finish to the sea angling hook.

Tinning is one of the best types of finish and protection available. A thin coating of tin is applied to the bare metal of the hook. Although not as attractive as some finishes, it is however, effective but is little used these days.

Care and Attention

Before the angler ties a hook onto a line it is necessary to inspect the eye of the hook to ensure that there is no rough plating in the eye. This can cut through the line or be the first signs of corrosion. If the hook eye is not properly formed, the knot, no matter how well it is tied, can slip free. The eye should also be checked for ‘burrs’ which will cut the line.

Next, look at the point of the hook. This should be properly formed and there should be no bumps in front of the barb. The barb should not be too deeply cut, especially the baitholder barbs on the shank. Deeply cut barbs can cause the hook to break on contact with a fish. If any of these defects are found on a hook it should be discarded.

Lastly, check that the hook is sharp as a new hook is not necessarily sharp. Give the point a quick rub on a small honing stone to sharpen it. Remember that honing can also remove the finish on a hook point and give start to corrosion. At the end of an angling trip, if not being dumped, wash the hook in clean, fresh water. Oil it lightly after re-sharpening and store it away from new hooks. This should stop everything from going rusty, and never store used hooks with new hooks.


The size of a sea angling hook is usually determined by its pattern. Hooks are given a number by the designer or manufacturer to designate their relative size. Most of the world’s fishing hook manufacturers now use the British (Redditch) Scale to indicate the size of the hook but each producer has a different idea of what each size should be and is only a guide to other sizes in that particular range.

Hook sizes Redditch Scale


This scale of numbers ranges from the small hook of size 24, 22, 20, 18 gradually increasing in size through 6, 4, 2 to size 1 when the number is suffixed by a forward slash and a zero (pronounced “oh” or “ought”) starting from 1/0 up to 15/0 or 16/0. A 9/0 Mustad’s O’Shaughnessy is roughly 80mm in length and the size 8 version is approximately 17mm long.

In general the sizes relate more to the gape of the hook than its length and should only be used as a guide and it is more important to match the size of the hook to the bait being used.

A size 1/0 hook is a good, general sea angling hook and the 16/0 is reserved for big game fishing (marlin, shark, tuna, etc.). Some of the large shark hooks are sold by their gape size in inches, i.e. 1 inch (25 mm) to 6 inches (150 mm.). Slight differences in hook size occur between different patterns.

Hook Patterns

There is an extensive variety of hook patterns for the angler to choose from. Many have their own particular use and style and a competent angler should carry a selection of different hook sizes and patterns in the tackle box. At present hooks are generally referred to by the manufacturers name or product number such as Sakuma Manta, Mustad Viking, Varivas Bigmouth or Kamasan B940, rather than the hook pattern and size. This makes it easier for the newcomer to discuss hook selection with others.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook kamasan Anatomy of a Fishing Hook sakuma manta


In addition to the variety of single hook patterns, the angler can also chose from double (or twin point), treble and barbless hooks.  A double hook does not have many practical applications in sea angling other than on lures of in competitions where the number of hooks used is limited. The treble hook (available in sizes from a small 20 to the very large size 8/0) can be found on pirks and spinners although the current trend is to use single or assist hooks on lures. As the name implies, the barbless hook does not have a barb behind the point. It is easy to remove from the mouth of a fish and is used when conservation of species is the anglers main concern.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook treble double

In general a fine wire hook should be used for small species such as flatfish, a medium wire hook for codling and bass and a forged hook for conger and shark.

Most manufacturers produce an Aberdeen pattern hook which is generally used for smaller fish including members of the flatfish family. This hook is also used for bass, cod, haddock, mackerel and whiting. It makes a good bait hook for sandeel and prawn and is available in various thickness of wire, the thinnest of which can be bent back into shape if deformed by a snag.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook mustad viking Anatomy of a Fishing Hook varivas big mouth


A Limerick pattern hook, such as the Kamasan B900c hook, is generally used with a paternoster rig but it also makes a good bottom fishing hook. Bulky baits, such as peeler crab will not hide the hook point due to its wide gape.

The O’Shaughnessy pattern hook is best suited to heavy duty, bottom fishing particularly for such species as conger eel, ling, thornback ray, tope and members of the wrasse family.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook sea masterThe Mustad Sea Master is a big game pattern hook with a short shank length and medium gape. Made from thick, strong wire it is best suited to species such as marlin, members of the shark family, tuna, etc.

A Viking pattern hook, the best known of these is made by Mustad, is a general, all round sea angling hook. It is also the pattern chosen by many manufacturers for their uptide fishing hooks. Good with bulky baits for species such as bass and cod.

Varivas Big Mouths and Sakuma Manta hooks are now widely used and are a round bend Aberdeen style hook that are available with various wire thickness and shank lengths. They are a suitable hook for cod and ray fishing and having a wide gape can fish large baits.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook ms=ustad circleTogether with the Mustad Vikings and Varivas Big Mouths, the Sakuma Manta range incorporates a pennel hook for twin hook rigs. The Mustad version has a turned down eye and the Sakuma eye is turned upwards.

Increasingly, conservation minded anglers are using circle hooks which have an exaggerated in turned point. These hooks, originally designed for long line commercial fishing, are used with a fixed line and only hook up when the fish turns to move off with the bait. Hook ups are almost always in the corner of the mouth which prevents deep hooking. They are most suitable for fish baits, cut or whole, or live baits.

Many lure anglers now use an offset worm hook for their plastic baits. These hooks have an offset in the shank behind the eye allowing the worm to sit in a straight line between the eye and the hook bend with the point of the hook located in or close to the body of the plastic bait.

Anatomy of a Fishing Hook wormAnatomy of a Fishing Hook worm baited


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