Carp Fishing Hooks and Hook Sharpening Guide
Hooks are most definitely an item that play a vital role in your ability to catch carp.
To the beginner or relatively inexperienced angler, hook selection can seem a little daunting and even overwhelming with so many different kinds of hooks available.
There is a massive selection to choose from in all shapes and sizes developed by a whole range of tackle companies who all claim to manufacture the best and sharpest hooks.
Choosing the right hook for the right rig, bait and situation you are fishing is most important. For example, there isn't much point in having a big size 4 hook with a single piece of sweetcorn on it.
To help clear the confusion and help you decide which carp fishing hooks are best for you, I have put together this basic guide for selecting the most commonly used hooks in carp fishing. There's also a section on hook sharpening to make sure you're getting the most out of your chosen hooks at all times.
Hook Anatomy Basics
Hooks that feature an eye to allow line to be threaded through are usually found in the "big fish" angler's tackle box, whereas the spade variety hook is more commonly used by match anglers.
For carp fishing, eyed hooks are my suggestion. Generally, there are 2 types of eyed hook: an in-turned eye and an out-turned eye.
Hooks with an out-turned eye are best suited to mono and stiff link materials. On the other hand, hooks with an in-turned eye are more associated with braided hooklink material.
The type of point you select depends largely on the type of bottom you are fishing over:
Straight points are better suited for weedy swims as they are less prone to snag on debris.
Beaked points are better for a gravel bottom as they withstand the gravel better and are slightly harder to blunt.
A long point is a good choice for hooking those old warrior carp with the firmer mouths.
Wide gape hooks are more commonly and much better suited for use with larger baits such as large pellets or boilies, whereas narrow gape hooks tend to be favoured for use with side hooking smaller baits such as maggots.
Some time ago most hooks use to be bright or silver in finish but nowadays, more so with carp anglers, it has become somewhat of an obsession to make all end tackle blend in with the lakebed as much as possible.
So, many of today's carp fishing hooks are finished in a dull colour and often coated with teflon for extra durability.
Best Carp Fishing Hook Types
Long Shank Hooks
Long Shank hooks are perfect for use with bottom baits. If you opt to fish with particle such as sweetcorn or tiger nuts, then a long shank hook suits the job perfectly.
There is a possibility of the bait being pushed to far away from the point of the hook but trapping the hair on the bend of the hook will resolve this potential issue.
Curved Shank Hooks
Curved Shank were at one time more widely used in fly fishing. Traditionally, carp fishing hooks had a more straight shank design.
However, carp anglers soon realised the advantages of using a curved shank hook. The main one being that the fish finds it much harder to get rid of it once it has sucked it in.
Stiff Rigger Hooks
Stiff Rigger hooks are an ideal hook for use with fluorocarbon or monofilament hooklinks.
These materials have improved massively over the years but for some time they were thought to weaken when tied to an in-turned eye hook with a knotless knot.
A lot of modern carp anglers favour the chod rig and these hooks are the perfect choice for the rig.
Wide Gape Hooks
The wide gape is possibly the most widely used and classic hook there is in carp because this is a great all-round versatile hook.
They are perfect for bottom baits and equally suited, if not slightly better for buoyant baits, such as pop ups and surface baits.
Wide gapes are often chosen due to their high strength to size ratio.
The large gap / gape (the distance between the point and the shank) improves the chances of the hook catching hold as the fish tries to eject the hook.
Probably one of the main attributes to successfully landing a carp is a good hook hold. what I mean by "hook hold" is having the hook embed into the carps mouth and stay there.
The only way you will achieve a good hook hold is if the hook is ultra sharp in the first place. Believe it or not just because you have opened a brand new pack of hooks it doesn't mean they are sharp.
While the hooks may well be very sharp, they probably aren't as sharp as they could be. For this reason, learning how to sharpen your own hooks is a good idea.
Sharpening your hooks begins with having the right tools. You can buy a hook sharpening kit like the one below very cheaply; it includes a handheld hook vice, sharpening tool and a little pouch to store them in.
Once you have the tools for the job, you just need to learn how to sharpen the hooks effectively and you're all set.
Take a look at this video of top carp angler Jim Shelley explaining how he sharpens his hooks:
If you are serious about keeping your hooks sharp then it is well worth giving them a little sharpen each session when you have caught a fish.
Another good practice is to renew your hooks after every session and change them for new re-sharpened hooks, you’ll be surprised how much damage can be done to a hook just by reeling in.
Barbed vs Barbless Hooks for Carp Fishing
The barbed versus barbless debate, this is another one of those debates that many anglers will never agree on.
Although, it is becoming increasingly common for fisheries to take that choice away from you by only allowing one hook type. Some will specify that only a barbed hook may be used whilst others enforce the rule that only barbless hooks may be used.
There are, of course, still many fisheries that do not specify a particular hook that may be used and allow anglers the choice of either.
So what are the grounds for this big debate?
Simply put, it comes down to fish health and well-being, which is excellent. However, there are anglers arguing for each side so it is difficult to determine the best approach.
Some anglers believe that a barbless hook will move around a lot whilst penetrated into the carps lip. It is believed that this movement of the hook is mainly during the fight to land the fish and is thought to damage the carp’s mouth.
On the other hand, there is the argument that a barbed hook becomes much harder to remove from the carp’s mouth so damage is caused on the bank during removal. This is also true if your line breaks and leaves the hook inside the mouth of a fish.
A lot of fisheries have banned leaders, with evidence of carp becoming tethered and dying as a result of a strong leader. If the carp were able to eject the hook more easily, due to it being barbless, those deaths may not have occurred.
Aside from fish health, anglers also argue in favour of a barbless hook as they believe the initial hook penetration is better as there is no barb to impede it.
On the contrary to this, barbed hooks are thought by some to be a better choice of hook as when they have penetrated past the barb, either by the fish trying to eject it or by an old-fashioned “strike”, the hook is thought to have a far better hold as a result of the barb. Thus, resulting in less movement in the fish's mouth during the battle to get him to the net.
My thoughts on using barbed or barbless hooks?
I have fished waters where I have landed a fish with some very bad mouth damage but I personally don't think the barb itself is the culprit.
From what i have seen, the majority of the damages seems to come from anglers who don’t know how to remove a barbed hook from a carps mouth properly. Once the hook is embedded past the barb it can be tricky to remove but there is a method to remove them with minimal fuss. Here is how it can be done as outlined on Frenchcarpandcats.com, Click here to read the whole article on unhooking and weighing carp:
“If the hook is neatly in the bottom lip or the scissors then you should be able to apply pressure to the end of the eye with your thumb (back towards the point), then roll the hook out, following the curve of the point.
A finger next to the point with pressure on the floor of the carp’s mouth will help stop the carp’s lip from following the direction of force applied from the eye.
You should hear a small pop as the barb comes free and you’re done. If the hook is too far back or you don’t have the finger strength then a solid pair of forceps (like these ones) clamped onto the shank of the hook may be necessary. If using forceps apply pressure in exactly the same way as you did with your thumb, then roll the hook out.”
It is becoming more common that the fishery rules will dictate your hook choice now but, at the end of the day, your hook preference should not compromise the health of the fish. So, make sure you're using proper unhooking techniques. You can also apply an antiseptic spray to the carp's mouth to aid healing.