When it comes to fishing tackle rigging a lot of time gets invested in talking about knots, different types of rigs and such, but little time gets spent actually talking about the very first point of contact between you and the fish, your hook. If you have a nice sharp hook you increase your chances of a good hook-set; if you have dull hook it could mean the difference between a fish of a lifetime and losing a fish of a lifetime.
I have spent a lot of time at fishing seminars, reading articles and as importantly a lot of time on the water exterminating through trial and error when it comes to hook selection and hook sharpening. In this piece I will share with you have I have learned about hook sharpening.
One of the first things you should understand is the different parts of the hook. If you are an expert at this, skim over the below diagram and move on. If you are not so familiar with the parts of a hook spend some time looking at the below diagram so you are familiar with the terms as we continue.
Easy Method to Check your Hook Sharpness
The first thing to check is to see if your hook is sharp. Most hook manufacturers provide you with a very sharp hook right out of the package, but its worth checking just to make sure. An easy way to check and see if your hook is sharp is to gently draw the point of the hook across your fingernail. If the point digs in and leaves a mark it is sharp and you can tie the hook on and get that line in the water. If the hook does not dig in to your nail then you need to spend a few seconds sharpening it or you risk not getting a good solid deep hook-set, making the difference between “hooking” and actually “landing” your fish.
Tools to Sharpen your Hook
The first thing you are going to need is a good file. I used to use a simple knife sharpening stone that you can pick up in any hardware store. I also had a small retractable stone/file that they sell in many tackle shops, it is about the size of a sharpie pen, give or take an inch or two in length. The stone worked better for me then the retractable file/stone because it is easier to hold and has more surface area.
Recently my friend Wild Bill showed me a very nice file that he has been using which does the trick better then any of the sharpening devices I have used so far. It is made by DMT and is called a Diafold Diamond Flat File. They make folding ones, which I currently have in a coarse single sided version, as well as regular handled ones. What coarseness you get is up to you, but anything less then fine (they make a superfine) will probably not perform all that well. The next one that I am going to get is the DMT Double Sided Diafold Diamond Whetstone Course/Extra Fine. I want the extra fine just to make a stroke or two as a finishing stroke. Regardless of the brand file you get, just make sure it is course enough as well as durable enough to withstand the harsh conditions of living in a tackle box.
How to Sharpen your Hook
One of the myths about sharpening hooks is the length of the “sharp” area on the hook. Only the very tip of the hook point needs to be sharpened. Only the very tip of the hook is what penetrates the fish’s jaw, the sharper the better.
The reason you do not want to sharpen your hook very far beyond the very point is that as you file higher up on the hook you decrease the diameter of the medal making up the hook point which reduces the strength of the point. If you have a really sharp hook that has a weak point you can actually bend the point when setting the hook possibly resulting in missing the fish all together. I have seen and experienced this myself. Remember, in general, the jaw of a fish where the hook generally sets is very hard, sometimes you get lucky and the hook-set in a soft area where you get a good set, but a lot of the time you are setting the hook into a very hard area, so think short very sharp points when you are sharpening.
Here’s how to sharpen your hook:
1) Firmly hold your hook
2) Draw your file across the barb toward the point. Repeat this stroke several times while making sure you hold the file at the same angle each time.
3) Repeat the same strokes on the other side.
4) Make a few final strokes on the bottom of the point. This will form a triangular point.
5) Test the hook for sharpness by running it across your finger nail as described earlier.
Remember, sharp hooks can make the difference between “hooking” and “landing” fish.