Since running a fishery and being involved with Angling Lines Carp Fishing Holidays, I see a large number of UK carpers during any given year. One aspect of current UK fishing seems to be the use of small hooks. Now by small I mean N° 8’s and below. Now I’ve always been a fan of big hooks, based on the premise we are after big fish, and I have seen a good number of anglers lose fish by using what is, to my mind, insufficient tackle for French fishing.
Many anglers coming over the channel for their first taste of carp fishing in France will not have had a chance to land fish over 30lb, so may be unaware of the power, strength and mouth size of some of these specimens. So what are the pros and cons of these two opposed strategies?
Small Hooks Pros:
1) Sharper, therefore better penetration.
2) Lighter so less detectable to the fish when they suck in the bait. They should then theoretically go into the mouth more easily and be less likely to be rejected.
3) Their size is more adapted to smaller baits, which at times have an advantage of large baits.
4) A smaller hook and bait can assist long distance casting and aid with point 1) of hook sharpness and hooking fish at range.
Small Hooks Cons:
1) Finer wire = less strength. On a big fish they open far easier. To me the major shortcoming of a small hook.
2) Smaller gape hooks a smaller flesh area on a big fish. Fish of 30lb plus have big mouths…
3) Smaller hooks really mean using smaller baits. Personally I prefer 18mm and 20mm boilies. In this case my hook choice would be size 6 to size 2.
4) These hooks are not adapted for snag fishing.
Large Hooks Pros:
1) Thicker wire = higher strength. On these big French carp lakes especially on waters like the Orient, which is very weedy, or the River Seine which is very snaggy, you really do need the strongest hooks possible to land these fish. Fine wire hooks just aren’t man enough for the job. I certainly wouldn’t want a size 8 in the mouth of a large carp in these situations.
2) Bigger hooks are better adapted to larger baits. I have often found a larger bait will select the bigger fish. Double baits, and snowman rigs on a size 4 hook are often harder for a carp to eject than a single 10mm bait on a size 8 hook.
3) I fell too it’s a confidence factor that is important. If you are terrified your hook hold is tiny, you may be unwilling to excerpt the kind of pressure necessary to turn a fish from a snag.
4) To my mind these hooks are better adapted to big fish situations.
Large Hooks Cons:
1) Well thicker wire will give a less sharp hook… Ok in the past I agree with this, but modern chemically sharpened hooks in any size are sticky sharp, so I don’t think this is and issue.
2) They are heavier and therefore less discrete and easier to detect by the fish. Well again I’m not sure that if you rig and set up is right this should be an issue. A buoyant or snowman hookbait set up can be balanced critically to allow the hook’s weight to be cancelled out.
3) Not adapted for smaller baits. Here I would agree, but this takes it for granted that you’ll want to use small baits.. Again personally I prefer larger boiles so for me it is not a problem.
4) They cut down on casting distance. Well yes here I suppose when used in conjunction with a correctly sized boilie the do. But if you are fishing at distance and there is any snag or weed then the smaller size of the hook could negate the benefit of hitting the distance as you’ll not be able to land the fish.
To sum up then, I can accept that the use of smaller finer tackle will ultimately get you more takes and possible get you to hook more fish. I suppose then you are playing averages… Can I get away with this to land the fish? You’ll have to accept that losing more fish is part of the equation. I personally can’t accept that anglers should build losing a certain number of carp into their game plan. I want to land everything I hook, so I build my game plan to do just that. As I’m targeting big carp, I want everyone I hook to give me the best chance possible to land it. This is why I have always been in the ‘big hooks’camp.
Oh! and my favourite hook of all time? The Drennan Continental Boilie hook Size 4. A classic hook pattern. Strong and sharp and has never let me down.
If you have an opinion on this matter please feel free to leave your comment.