Just the Tip

Ask The Experts

FSF Staff April 25, 2017

I’ve always been a fan of sharpening my hooks to a needlepoint tip, but now that I mostly fish with circle-hooks I was wondering what’s the proper sharpening procedure, if any treatment is needed at all? – Paul McWright

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For years, anglers have conditioned themselves to routinely check the sharpness of a hook’s point before deploying a bait or lure into the spread. Seasoned deckhands know this relatively simple task can be the deciding factor between a short strike and a solid hookup. The more efficient a hook is at piercing the easier it will be for the point to catch. Additionally, sharp hook points leave a smaller hole, which provides less of a chance of the hook chafing a large hole and eventually working its way out.

Although it is still very common and acceptable to fish with J hooks, anglers chasing a variety of game fish across an array of venues have turned to circle-hooks for their inherent hooking efficiency and associated conservation benefits. Many of the newest hook manufacturers utilize impressive technologies like chemical and laser sharpening to produce tack sharp tips right out of the box, but there are certain scenarios where you should touch up the tips.

Non-stainless, light wire tournament approved circle-hooks are affordable and easily replaceable, so it’s not recommend-ed to attempt sharpening. However, larger and older circle-hooks that cost a few dollars a piece and still have a place in your tackle box deserve more attention. After a few consequential catches with hook point meeting bone or bill you’ll find the need to sharpen the tips. Billfish, tuna and big bottom fish have very hard and bony mouths that can really dull a hook point to extreme ineffectiveness. Touching up the point of a chemically sharpened hook is a good idea, but you won’t ever be able to get them as sharp as they were out of the box and they won’t hold a point as long. However, it is definitely worth the effort and if you do it right you’ll be able to keep hooks in rotation longer.

To correctly sharpen a large circle-hook you’ll need a sharpening stone or file that has a very fine edge. You want to draw the file in the direction of the tip and always use the same stroke angle. Depending on the size and orientation of your file you may choose to place the hook in a vise rather than hold it between your thumb and forefinger. It may also be difficult to reach the tip with the file depending on the size of the hook’s gap. Whatever the case, you should only make three to four strokes along the three outside edges of the tip. Do not sharpen the inside of the hook. Less is more and with a few strokes on each side you should have a restored point that’s needle sharp.

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