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Fishing Hook Basics-Anatomy and Terms

Many fisherman give much thought to the type and size of a hook being used for a particular type of fishing but few have bothered to learn the basic terminology of a hook's parts. In this discussion I will give an overview of the basic terms and save in-depth descriptions of specialized hooks and their uses for another article.

First, a few words concerning hook size designations. Unfortunately, there is no uniform system of hook measurements currently in place and considering it is a tool dating back to the stone-age, I highly doubt one will be implemented soon. Although attempts have been made to set a standard by measuring the hook in fractions of an inch, the system has never been successful. Visual familiarity and experience with the various hooks and makers is the only viable method for the serious angler to gauge hook size. Hook sizes are basically arranged numerically with a #32 being the smallest fly hook ranging to a mammoth 20/0 hook reserved for the largest of ocean fish. As sizes increase from a #32, the numbers decrease until reaching size 1 hooks. Thus a #2 hook is larger than a #8. This pattern holds true until reaching a #1 hook. After a #1 size hook, manufacturers then designate the ascending size with a "/0" designation. A 1/0 hook is larger than a #1 hook. An 8/0 is larger than a 6/0, etc. This method increases numerically until reaching the big 19/0 and 20/0 hooks. Remember, a #4 is larger than a #10 yet a 4/0 is smaller than a 10/0. It is not as confusing as it sounds and most anglers are familiar with this quirky sizing system. However, as stated above, there is some variance between hook makers. For example: a 4/0 Owner SSW hook is slightly smaller than its identically numbered Gamakatsu brother. Again, experience with the products is the only way to have a firm grasp on precise sizing. I tend to fish Owner hooks and have become quite familiar with the sizes that are right for a particular application.

Now that I've touched on the vagaries of sizing, lets go over the various parts and related terms of a typical fishing hook.


The point is the sharpened end of a hook that is designed to penetrate a fish's mouth. Basic design parameters dictate that the point penetrate with the least amount of pressure and maintain a sharp and durable point for as long as possible. There are many different types of points and sharpening techniques used in modern fishing hooks. The different point types can aid in species and technique specific fishing and will be addressed in my more detailed series pertaining to specialized hooks. We are looking for the perfect balance of sharpness and durability.


The barb can be defined as the projection extending backwards from the point that secures your catch from unhooking during the fight. The angle and elevation of a particular barb affects the hooks performance. Many anglers opt to use barbless hooks. This can be for a more sporting angling experience or in many cases, when mandated by law for catch and release and conservation initiatives. Check your local regulations concerning hook barbs for particular species and bodies of water.


The shank is the leg of a hook extending from the bend up to the eye. Hook shanks are manufactured in many different shapes. The most commonly used are straight shank, curved shank, and sliced shank. Specialized hooks, such as those designed for jigs and soft plastic baits for bass, have shanks with various bends and angles. Again, look for details in the upcoming specialized hook series.


The eye of a fishing hook is the ring, hole, or loop at the end of the shank through which the line or leader is attached. There are some variations in eye types including; open eye for aftermarket attachment to lures and ringed eye for tying heavy leader to smaller hooks when typically bait fishing. Eye position is another relevant variation between different types of hooks. A turned down eye (like the example in the attached image) is turned down from the shank. A turned up eye is the opposite with the eye turned up and away from the shank. An in-line or parallel eye is just as it sounds with the eye being in-line with the shank.


The bend of a hook is the curved portion of the hook that connects the hook shaft to the point. Although the hook bend is curved, the hook point and shaft are generally straight portions of metal that run parallel to one another.

Gap or Gape:

This is the distance between the point and the shank and is known as the gap or gape. The gap of a hook is the vertical distance between the shank and point of the hook. The size of a particular hook is generally determined in accordance with the size of the hook's gap.

Throat or Bite:

The distance from the apex of the bend to its intersection with the gape.

In conclusion: I hope this helps with understanding the basics of hook terminology. Though not a substitute for time on the water and trial and error, knowing a hook's basic parts and proper names will aid in choosing which hook is right for you given a particular type of fishing.