Best Hooks For Catfish: An Intro To Hooks

Video treble hook for catfish

There are many shapes of hooks out there, but as far as catfish hooks go, there are only a few categories we need to worry about. In this article, I’ll talk about circle hooks, J-hooks and treble hooks. I will also go into what sizes to use depending on what catfish you are going after. This article should give you the confidence to choose the best catfish hook for your situation, and get you catching more cats!

The Short Answer:
  • Catfish under 5 pounds: 3/0 to 5/0 circle hooks.
  • Catfish over 5 pounds: 6/0 to 8/0 circle hooks.
  • Dip and punch bait: Treble hooks or J-hooks with a dip worm.

Those are the short answers, but if you really want to have the confidence that you have the right hook matched with the right bait and for the right fish, then I recommend reading further.

The Anatomy of The Fishing Hook

Best Hook Types For Catfish

The most common hook types for catfish are J-hooks, circle hooks, and treble hooks. These four hooks all have very different shapes for very different purposes. They can all catch catfish, but choosing the right hook will depend on your bait, method, and style.

J-Hooks For Catfish

The J-hook is the most common image we have in our minds when we hear the word fishing hook. As the name suggests, it is shaped like the letter J.

These hooks will hook into just about anything they slide up against. Which for the most part is a good thing. But at the same time this means it is easy to get snagged on the bottom. Try to keep these hooks away from snags, and if you are bottom fishing don’t let it drag along the bottom at all. Just cast out, tighten the slack in your line and let it sit.

How To Use a J-Hook

When fishing with J-hooks you should always watch your rods closely. If you start getting a bite and wait too long, the fish will get hooked deep down in it’s throat and you can cause a lot of damage to the fish and likely kill it. If you plan on keeping all your fish, then this isn’t a big deal, but it can still be a chore for you to get the hook out so you can use it on the next fish.

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J-Hooks should also be “set” by the angler. When a fish bites your hook, yank the rod tip up and towards you to really drive the hook into the fish’s mouth. The hook set is fun and exciting, but can be challenging for young and new anglers. Next I’ll talk about Circle hooks, which are designed to set themselves.

Circle Hooks For Catfish

Circle hooks are recognizable by how the very point of the hook is bent inward at nearly 90 degrees to the shank.

The Benefits of Circle Hooks, And How They Work

That 90 degree bend in the hook has a number of advantages. For one, it helps to prevent gut hooking the fish. If a fish swallows the bait before swimming off, the bent hook point prevents it from snagging into any flesh. But once that hook gets pulled out to where the eye and shaft begin to exit the fishes mouth, the hook is allowed to turn and the point can dig into the fishes lips.

Circle hooks almost always result in hooking the fish in the corner of the mouth. This is very beneficial if you are practicing catch and release. Gut hooking fish will cause a lot of damage and often times kill the fish. By using a circle hook, you’ll almost completely eliminate gut hooking. This was actually the main goal in the design of the circle hook.

The second major advantage to using circle hooks is for the fact that the fish hooks itself. When you use a J-hook, the angler usually has to rip the rod back to set the hook when they feel a bite.

However, when fishing with circle hooks, the rod can be left in the rod holder and the fish will still get hooked. In fact, you are more likely to lose a fish if you try to set a circle hook by ripping your rod back. The hook needs to be slowly dragged to the corner of the fishes mouth where the hook can turn and that point can find a spot in the corner of the mouth.

How To Use Circle Hooks

When you see your rod tip start bouncing with a bite, be patient and wait for that fish to swim off before you pick up the rod and start reeling. In other words, you’ll see your rod tip go down and stay down. That’s when you should start reeling.

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A third benefit to circle hooks is that fish are less likely to spit out the hook. The sharp 90 degree bend of the point helps to lock that hook in. And remember when you remove the hook you have to do so with a turning motion rather than just pushing the hook down into the fishes mouth as you would with a J-hook.

Treble Hooks For Catfish

Treble hooks are basically three J-hooks welded together at the shank.

These hooks are generally seen on trout and bass fishing lures. If a fish gets a treble hook in its mouth, it’s almost guaranteed to get hooked.

There are a few downsides to treble hooks. For one, they can really tear up a fish. If you plan on practicing catch and release, then stay away from treble hooks. These hooks will usually hook a fish deep in the throat and make it very difficult to remove the hook without doing a lot of damage.

Treble hooks are difficult to remove with your fingers. You’ll want a pair of needle-nose pliers. With three sharp hooks sticking out you are likely to hook yourself when trying to remove it from the fish by hand.

Negatives aside, treble hooks have some great benefits for catching catfish. Besides hooking fish, the major benefit of treble hooks is their ability to keep bait on the hook. If you are fishing with punch bait, dough bait, or dip bait, trebles are almost a requirement.

You can even get treble hooks with a wire spring spiraled around the shank which helps to hold dough baits on the hook.

How To Use Treble Hooks

As I mentioned above, treble hooks are for stink baits and dough baits. When using punch baits and dip baits, just dip the treble hook into the bait and mix it around. When you pull the hook out, it should be well covered in bait. For dip baits you’ll also want to use a catfish dip worm.

When Using dough baits, smash the bait all around the treble hook forming a ball. If it is a slow dissolving dough, then make sure you keep the hook points exposed or only slightly under the surface of the bait ball.

What Size Hook To Use For Catfish

Quick answer: Use 3/0 to 5/0 for catfish under 5 pounds. use 5/0 to 8/0 for anything bigger.

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Hook sizes can be a little confusing. If I ligned up a few hooks from smallest to biggest, the sizes would be …8, 6, 4, 2, 1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0… and so on. For catfish, you’ll generally be in the 3/0 to 8/0 range. But you can go bigger or smaller depending on the size of fish and the type of bait you are using.

To Understand what size hooks to use for catfish, you should first understand something about the catfish’s mouth… Catfish have a large jaw bone which you have to make sure your hook is big enough to fit around. Therefore catfish anglers will use relatively big hooks with wide gaps.

Most circle hooks have a wide gap and J-hooks will usually specify if they are wide gap. Each brand has different shapes and even sizes. But generally anything over a size 3/0 will be good for catfish.

If you are targeting catfish less than 5 pounds then something around a 4/0 will be good. If you are going for only bigger fish, then something around an 8/0 is better.

Another consideration when choosing the right size hook for catfish is what bait you are using. If you think about the importance of the wide gap, you’ll understand that it is also important to keep that gap open and clear. If you are using a hotdog as bait and that gap is completely closed up, then you won’t hook the fish.

In the picture above, you can see that the hook on the left is way too small for the hotdog. If a fish takes the bait, you’ll likely pull it right back out of its mouth.

What Brand Makes The Best Hooks For Catfish?

The top fishing hook brands that you can’t go wrong with are Gamakatsu and Owner, But there are plenty of great hooks out there by other companies as well.

When it comes to hooks, the most important thing to look at is the sharpness of the hook. And if you are going after big catfish, make sure it’s plenty strong.

Some other good hook brands as far as catfish hooks go, would be Mustad, Eagle Claw, and Team Catfish. You can even look at the salt water fishing section for good catfish hooks.

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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 >>