Fishing For Striped Bass With Circle Hooks

Like it or not, state and federal circle hook gear restrictions will eventually become law with more species. It’s time to learn about circle hooks and perfect your technique fishing with them. While this is mainly focused around circle hooks and striped bass fishing, a lot of the ideas can be used for others.

Because circle hooks require a different approach, a lot of anglers need time to get comfortable. But like anything else, practice and learning from others is the best way to fast track your way to success. This article is for anglers who have never fished a circle hook before. And hopefully it also helps anglers who have some circle hook fishing experience too. Let’s start with the basics and go from there.

What Is A Circle Hook?

A circle hook is a style of fishing hook which is very round with a hook point perpendicular to the hook shank. An inline hook is not offset, meaning the hook’s point, barb and shank are all on the same plane.

Styles of hooks showing a j-hook, circle hook, inline and offset.
Photo: Maryland DNR

How to confirm if a circle hook is inline? Lay the hook on the edge of flat table. An inline hook will lay flat. An offset hook will show its offset bent hook point and not lay flat. Offsetting a circle hook (bending the point to one side of the shank) reduces the conservation benefit of circle hooks.

The benefit of inline circle hooks is they set/catch fish in the jaw and radically reduce deep/gut hooking events. From a conservation perspective inline circle hooks reduce injury to fish and cause far less catch and release mortality.

The benefit of inline circle hooks is they set/catch fish in the jaw and radically reduce deep/gut hooking events. From a conservation perspective inline circle hooks reduce injury to fish and cause far less catch and release mortality.

Choosing The Right Circle Hook

Circle hooks are effective and dependable. But like all hooks, the anglers must choose the right one for the job. Unfortunately the fishing industry lacks a hook sizing standard so it can be confusing to compare hooks. This is especially challenging when looking at different manufacturers’ offerings. It’s always best to have the hooks in hand.

Fishing Hook Terminology & Characteristics:

The various styles of fishing hooks have distinct features which set them apart. Both a hooks profile/shape and the gauge/thickness wire stock used is very important. A hook can be broken down to these parts; eye/ring, shank, bend, gap/gape, throat/bite, point/spear and barb.

Fishing Hook Terminology & Characteristics: How well do you know hooks?
Fishing Hook Terminology & Characteristics: How well do you know hooks?

Circle Hook Size & Gap

When choosing a circle hook be mindful of the bait being used. Due to the relationship of a circle hook’s shank and hook point, the size and its gap must be considered. Always match the hook to the bait. A hook that is too large or too small is no good. Never ever choke the hook’s gap. Blocking the gap prevents the circle hook’s working ability. Both the hook size and hook’s wire gauge are very important.

Circle Hook Gauge Choice

Generally speaking nothing more than a light to medium wire hook is needed for targeting striped bass. A lighter wire hook is used for the easiest hook sets. But lighter wire means lighter line, lighter drag, lighter tackle approach. Using a big reel and a broom stick rod is not the recipe for success when fishing circle hooks. Thicker gauge hooks means more strength but these hooks do not set and penetrate past the barb as easily as medium or light wire hooks. For this reason it’s best to leave thick gauge circle hooks for big game fishing with heavy tackle for sharks, tuna and marlin fishing. Even in some of these cases a medium wire hooks will work better.

This cocktail bluefish ate a light/medium wire circle hook that was rigged up with a live bait for striped bass. Take note that when fishing circle hooks the use of wire leader isn't really necessary due to the lip/jaw hooking.
This cocktail bluefish ate a medium wire circle hook that was rigged up with a live bait for striped bass. Take note that when fishing circle hooks the use of wire leader isn’t really necessary due to the lip/jaw hooking.

The Best Circle Hooks For Striped Bass

All of the top hooks brands make quality circle hooks options. Each one has slightly different variations in design, features and price points. The following are great options for striped bass fishing with bait.

Gamakatsu 2214 Octopus Inline Circle Hook

This mid-wire octopus inline circle hook is forged for strength. The bent is some what flat allowing for a little more are for a chunk bait to sit. It’s turned up eye is great for snelling and offers the best presentation. This is one of the best hooks for chunking and live bait fishing for striped bass! Gamakatsu Octopus Inline Circle Hooks

This is one of the best all around inline circle hooks for saltwater fishing

Owner 5179 Octopus Inline Circle Hook

This mid-wire hook has a straight eye, round octopus like bend and a large gap. It’s a great hook for both striped bass, redfish and billfish. There is also the 5114T which features Owner’s elongated “Mutu” style shape. It’s said that this elongated more oval like than circle helps increase the jaw hook ratio and has more strength once the hook is seated. Owner Octopus Inline Circle Hooks & Owner Mutu Inline Circle Hooks

Here’s two great hooks from Owner. On the left the all purpose “octopus style” 5179. On the right the “mutu style” 5114T.

Mustad 39951NP Med/Hvy Inline Circle Hook

The Mustad 39951NP is a medium/heavy wire hook (shown in the photo below) that is good for anglers looking to chunk bunker or any extra large baits with heavy tackle. For bunker chunking use the 9/0 or 10/0 size. Mustad also have some other great inline hook options. The Mustad 39928 is an Ultra Point mid-wire forged in-line circle hook has an octopus style shape which features a very round profile and a turned up eye. The Mustad 39944 is also a great hook which has a better price point, slightly shorter shank length, straight eye and is not forged.

Photo: Mustad 39951NP Circle Hook

BKK Inline Circle Hook

The BKK Hybrid Heavy Inline Circle Hooks feature a medium gauge wire inline circle hook that has a turned back eye, great for snelling. The hook shape has a very round curve, similar to the Owner 5179. BUT the BKK Hybrid Heavy Circle has a shorter shank and also taller rise from bend to barb giving the hook more throat. This offers two key advantages. One, more throat allows the hook’s bend to better accept bait without choking the gap. Two, once a fish is tight and hooked up it is much harder for fish to shake off these hooks, delivering a great hook-to-landed ration. BKK also has a proprietary “Super Slide” finish and coating that enhances hook penetration performance.

BKK (Black King Kong) is a fairly underground hook maker, really only know within the jig and pop crowds until recently. With the rise of Nomad Design Lures (all outfitted with BKK hooks) the brand has grown in popularity. One thing is for sure… they make some of the world’s best hooks!

Eagle Claw L2196PG Baitholder In-line Circle Hook

This is the Baitholder In-Line Circle Hook that is perfect for fishing clams and worms. The barbs are on the shank so it is very important that the angler does not bait up and choke the gap. Do not use this hook with large chunk baits! The L2004 is a very popular hook for the billfish and guys. It too is good for striped bass in the 6/0 – 10/0 sizes.

Eagle Claw Baitholder Circle Hook

VMC 7385 In-Line Circle Hook

This mid gauge wire forged non-offset circle hook is great for all purpose saltwater use. Featuring a unique elongated bend (similar to the Owner Mutu) with an extra large gap, straight eye and a small barb.

Also check out the VMC 7385LKCB. It’s a new idea, sort of specialty hook with a “B-Lok” (bait lock) stopper. The stopper, keeps the bait properly in place at the bottom of the hook bend and prevents the bait from creeping up the hook shank. This ensures the bait doesn’t choke the hook gap. In essence reduced the chances of missing a fish due to the impeding the hook up.

The VMC 7385BL B-Lok features VMS’s patented bait lock stopper to keep baits in the right place all the time. This extra wide gap, forged inline circle hook is great for chunking baits for striped bass.

Better Fish Circle Hooks – Blog Coming Soon

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Author: FishHead.Greg

A Long Beach Island native with life long experience fishing and navigating the local waters, Greg is a distinguished Master Captain (the highest qualified operator license), holding a US Coast Guard Masters 50T Near Coastal License with Towing Endorsement. Raised in and now managing his family's bait and tackle business, Fishermans Headquarters (Since 1962, The Saltwater Fishing Bait & Tackle Experts) Greg is daily immersed in fishing. He is the Chief Contributor of FishingLBI.com (Long Beach Island's best fishing report blog) as well as the Admin for the shop's social media pages (on Instagram and Facebook). Be sure to follow!

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