Fishing hooks have been around for centuries; playing a vital role in providing food and commerce. Throughout time, hooks have been made from bones, shells, wood, stone, bronze and steel. The oldest known hooks were recently unearthed by archeologists in a Jerimalai cave in East Timor, Australia. Through radiocarbon dating of the surrounding soil, scientists have estimated that these relics are between 16,000 to 23,000 years old. Since then, we’ve come a long way in hook design. Here’s a guide to the popular fishing hooks on the market and what situations and species they can be used for.

Worm Hook

Species: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Speckled Trout, Redfish The best all-around bass hook, this versatile performer is used to rig plastics in any number of ways. From Tex-posed to Texas worm rigged or for pitch’in and skipp’in, this hook will do it all. Because of its rigging versatility, it can be used in weeds, rocks and timber.

Flipping Hook

Species: Largemouth Bass These super heavy-duty hooks are thick-bodied to absorb jarring, short distance hook sets. The gap width determines which baits they’re best suited to. Narrow gaps excel on thinly bodied baits. Wide gaps excel on thickly bodied baits.

Plastic Frog Hook

Species: Largemouth Bass Plastic frogs have become very popular lately. Frogging hooks have a spring wire on the front that screws into the frog’s nose. Once secured, the bait remains free to pivot in any direction when the hook is set. Of course, the frog rig excels in lily pads and other thick vegetation.

Mosquito Hook (Drop Shot Hook)

Species: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass A slow, methodical, light-line finesse presentation calls for a small hook. Light wire construction allows the hook to penetrate on gentle, light-line hook sets.

Weedless Wacky Worm Hook

Species: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass Wacky worms were the rage a decade ago. Today, they still catch fish consistently when skipped under docks, thrown over vegetation, or dead-sticked during cold fronts.

Carolina Rig Hook

Species: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass First introduced in the 1970s, Carolina Rigging is an exceptional way to boat both largemouth and smallmouth bass. To be successful, the hook must be as light as possible to allow the bait to float above the bottom. A light wire, wide gap hook penetrates large lizard and creature baits commonly thrown rigged Carolina style.

Bait Holder Hooks

Species: Bass, Trout, Walleye, Panfish, Catfish These versatile hooks are some of the most commonly used. Designed with multiple barbs on the shank, they keep the bait from sliding down the hook.

Treble Hooks

Species: All Gamefish Trebles share three points with a common eye. Trebles are most commonly used on artificial lures, however, they excel when cut bait is called for.

Siwash Hooks

Species: All Gamefish With the recent ground swell in popularity of catch-and-release, the single Siwash hook has gained enormous exposure. Siwashs replace treble hooks on article baits; damaging fish less than trebles. Most come with the eye “opened” for ease-of-use when replacing trebles.

Aberdeen Hooks

Species: Panfish, Perch These live bait hooks are made from light wire. Fine wire inflicts minimal damage to bait, keeping it lively longer than bait holder hooks. Aberdeens excels in thick cover where a snagged hook flexes easily, pulling free of hazards.

Circle Hooks

Species: Large Salt/Fresh Water Gamefish If there was ever a fish-friendly hook, it is the circle hook. The unique circular design eliminates gut hooking fish even when the bait is swallowed. As the fishermen pulls on the line, the hook slides forward until it reaches the fish’s mouth. Once there, it lodges in the side of the mouth. These hooks are popular in the saltwater world, but are making their way into the freshwater side as well.

Octopus Hooks

Species: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Perch, Panfish Not too unlike Mosquito hooks, Octopus hooks are designed for live baiting. These small hooks excel with diminutive, fragile baits like leeches or small minnows.

Jig Hooks

Species: All Gamefish This specialty hook deserves recognition as it is one of the most common hooks in use today. The acutely angled shank aligns the hook’s eye and the point for consistent hook-ups.

Weedless Hooks

Species: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Pike These versatile hooks keep baits snag-free. Light gauge wire guards are most common, with plastic guards and monofilament guards also in use. These can be used for live baiting or for rigging soft plastics when you need an exposed hook that won’t get snag in vegetation or structure.

Trailer Hooks

Species: Bass, Muskie, Pike, Walleye Short strikes are the bane of many fishermen. Trailer hooks increase hook-ups when attached to standard hooks. Typically a soft rubber tube is placed over the trailer hook’s eye. The rubber keeps the hook in place and always upright, ready to strike.

Dressed Trebles

Species: Bass, Muskie, Pike, Speckled Trout, Redfish These hooks are adorned with brightly colored dressings (i.e., feathers, marabou, deer hair, etc.) to add flash and another level of seductive action.

Keeper Hooks

Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Speckled Trout, Redfish Light spring wire appendages mounted to the hook’s eye grabs the soft plastic independently of the hook itself. The spring wire keeps the bait secure and off the shank of the hook for better hook sets.

Weighted Hooks

Species: Striped Bass, Tarpon, Redfish, Speckled Trout, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass By adding weight to the hook, instead of on the line, finesse baits appear smaller and less clunky. Weighted hooks are far more weedless as they eliminate the sliding weight which can snag in vegetation.

Swimbait Hooks

Primary Species: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Speckled Trout, Redfish, Muskie, Tarpon These hooks are a combination of a weighted hook and a keeper hook. A keeled weight on the hook’s shank keeps large bodied swimbaits swimming straight while a spring wire keeper secures the bait.

Salmon Egg Hook

Species: Trout The round bend matches the profile of a single salmon egg. When a salmon egg is placed on one, the hook is cloaked from a fish’s view.

Snelled Hook

Species: Trout, Panfish, Perch These hooks, with their built-in leaders, reduce break-offs as the hook is tied without sharp angles. Direct hook attachment keeps the bait from spinning or tumbling for a natural presentation.

Weighted Snag Hooks

Species: Paddlefish, Mullet Many unhappy fish have been introduced to these reapers. Used to catch fish sans bait, weighted treble hooks are thrown and snatched through the water, hoping for a chance encounter with a fish. Of course, this method of fishing is only legal in certain regions for certain fish.

Notes on Hook Anatomy

Hooks all share common components. Eye: Line is tied directly to the eye to hold the hook in place. Shank: The relatively straight portion of the hook which extends from the eye to the first bend. The length of the shank helps determine physical weight and the distance from the eye to the hook’s point. This distance helps determine the length of bait that can be used with a certain hook. Gap: Narrow gaps are best suited for live baiting, when hiding the hook is important. A wide gap excels when used with thick-bodied baits where penetration through the baits body and into the fish is required. Point: This is the business end of the hook. In recent years manufacturers have been in a race to develop the “newest and best” point. Whether chisel, trocar, needle, knife edge or rolled–they must be sharp to land the big ones. Barb: Assuming the hook’s point penetrates the fish’s mouth, the barb precludes the hook from backing out.

Gone Fishin’ blogger Dr. Todd Kuhn explains 21 essential fishing hooks. Match your fishing situation and your target species to the right hook.