When should you replace the hooks on your favorite bait?

FLW winner Jason Lambert at Kentucky Lake in 2016, holding a Heavy Metal Spoon with Kitana Hooks. Photo by Matt Pace.

Turn on any fishing tourney and someone out on the water is going to tell you the secret to their catches is replacing the hooks on their crankbait, jerkbait, or another favorite lure. This continual shuffling of hooks may sound like an easy and cheap way of gaining an edge, but for modern baits like all of Castaic’s, it’s impractical and unnecessary.

The reason is how the hooks are sharpened. Many hooks on the market today are mechanically sharpened. Meaning they get forged in a factory and sharpened similar to the kitchen knives in your home. That is effective for making a physically sharp hook, and sharp hooks are critical to good hook sets, but they become brittle. Like your kitchen knives or any other metal, hacking away at it with another rough or fine piece of stone or metal leaves chips, nicks, and other imperfections.

Those micro-cuts and breaks lead to fracture. Small gaps form where water rests, too, and that leads to rust and soon brittle, weak hooks.

Hooks like our Kitana Hooks series are chemically sharpened. It sounds like spin when we say they “never need replacing”, but the truth is they only need replacing if you accidentally drop them in the water or behind your workbench.

Chemical sharpening is done after the hooks are forged in a factory, heat-treated, then dipped into an acid bath. This makes the hooks smooth and void of microscopic imperfections. The acid effectively “eats” away at the outer edges of the hook, but does so more at the thin points of the hook — like the barb and ends.

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This process is time-sensitive and done at the factory under tight conditions. Dip the hook in the acid bath too long, and it’ll blunt the end of the hook and the metal tips will just break off. Don’t hold it under long enough and it doesn’t have time to work.

Blacksmiths’ tricks of the trade

Chemical sharpening is not new. Blacksmiths were using buckets of urine for cleaning and sharpening metal files in the 18th and 19th centuries. Faced with a problem of how you sharpen the tools that sharpen other tools, urine was readily available. Collected from farm animals nearby and stored in buckets in the corner akin to fire buckets, the potassium nitrate in urine helped clean and smooth imperfections in metalworking.

We assure you the acid our manufacturing process uses is not urine. It is far more stringent and dangerous. The chemicals produce noxious, deadly fumes and require intense ventilation systems.

Improvements to the sharpening process

Years ago the knock against chemically sharpened hooks was they frayed at the ends, almost as if they were too sharp for their own good. We avoided this trend altogether and switched to chemical sharpening only when we found a metal combination that held together and an acid bath process that worked. The result is a stronger, more durable hook that is sharper than any we’ve ever made.

Parts of a typical fishing hook, featuring the Kitana 5/0 EWG hook.

There are other benefits to chemically sharpened hooks. You get a smaller barb size, or a sharper back angle on the hook, or hooks with greater detail in their curves and bends. With a mechanical sharpening process, barbs could only be as small as you could fit a small file under them to sharpen the ends.

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For all the attention we pay to barbs today, it’s worth noting barbs were originally designed not to hold fish on after a hookset, but to stop the bait from coming off. You may find this helpful the next time you slide a jig head on to your next Jerky J Swim.

More benefits to chemical sharpening

Chemically sharpening hooks also gives hooks corrosion-repellant properties. Saltwater fishermen know all about this because salt water tears into the micro-fissures of mechanically sharpened hooks and rip them apart.

With any Castaic, Reaction Strike, or BD Baits lure with Kitana Hooks included, you do not need to sharpen them before use. You do not need to sharpen them during use or after ten or one hundred uses, either. If you do, you’re more likely to damage the hook and wear off the protective coatings and reduce the lifespan of the hooks.

The best thing you can do to protect your hooks is to store them in a temperate, dry place and avoid placing them in the scorching summer heat.

The finer the point, the more easily it will pierce soft tissue and do less harm to the fish. If you insist on sharpening your hooks or can’t imagine a fishing trip without taking a file to your hook points, recognize you won’t get the hook to as fine a point as it was originally done through chemical sharpening.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>