Tarpon Circle Hooks

HydroHydro Posts: 17 Greenhorn
What is your favorite circle hook for fishing large dead baits for tarpon? What size and model number? I am really looking forward to another tarpon season and I want to improve my hook up ratio. I usually fish either catfish chunks, ladyfish or mullet, dead on the bottom or under a balloon. Thanks!
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Replies

  • swordslayer71swordslayer71 Posts: 398 Officer
    I like using owner mutu light circles in 7/0 or 8/0
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 440 Officer
    I like Owner SSW inline circles, 7/0 or 8/0. I mainly fish pinfish, and the 8/0 is getting a bit thick for pinfish lips but should be fine for larger / dead baits.
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 8,519 Admiral
    With large live baits, you're going to be challenged. Even the best dead baiters I know still lose more than 50% of their fish. We can do (and have done) upwards of 75% with light wire circle hooks in live baiting situations (and experienced anglers), but I've never heard of anyone consistently doing that well with dead bait. Here's my thinking process:

    On the one hand, lighter smaller circles seem to stick much better. Like the mutu light swordslayer suggests, or the Mustad 39951BLN that I use almost exclusively (I use 7/0 for crabs, and 8/0 for 6" threadfins). In my testing (note: entirely live bait), the Mustad has surpassed both the Mutu and the SSW, described below....

    On the other hand, you're likely going to want a larger and heavier hook to deal with the large live bait, like the SSW Owners that NW recommends (most dead baiters I know use a heavier hook). The downside is that the hook will not set as surely nor stick as well -- that certainly has been my experience using those hooks in live bait situations, and I only expect it will get worse when a heavy dead menhaden is attached to the line on the first jump. If you want to try a SSW like hook, I'd go in at least 9/0 and probably 10/0 depending on how and where you're hooking the baits.

    If I were in that situation, I'd go with a larger light-wire circle (9/0 or 10/0), but understand they will straighten even easier, and you'll start to lose fish if you use too much drag. You'll likely have to yank the anchor and give chase.

    All of the above said, you can do like I did -- simply try a bunch of hooks and see which ones stick and which ones don't. Let the fish tell you what works best. Tarpon are a shrewd judge of tackle and technique, and the winner should be clear fairly quickly. Just keep good notes and pay attention to what works and does not work.

    Good luck & hope this helps....Mike
  • BobberBobber Posts: 862 Officer
    I use the Gamakatsu 4X 8/0 circle for deadbaiting tarpon- # 209418. Not cheap, but never had a **** throw that hook once set.
  • BobberBobber Posts: 862 Officer
    I use the Gamakatsu 4X 8/0 circle for deadbaiting tarpon- # 209418. Not cheap, but never had a **** throw that hook once set.
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 440 Officer
    Tarponator wrote: »
    With large live baits, you're going to be challenged. Even the best dead baiters I know still lose more than 50% of their fish. We can do (and have done) upwards of 75% with light wire circle hooks in live baiting situations (and experienced anglers), but I've never heard of anyone consistently doing that well with dead bait. Here's my thinking process:

    On the one hand, lighter smaller circles seem to stick much better. Like the mutu light swordslayer suggests, or the Mustad 39951BLN that I use almost exclusively (I use 7/0 for crabs, and 8/0 for 6" threadfins). In my testing (note: entirely live bait), the Mustad has surpassed both the Mutu and the SSW, described below....

    On the other hand, you're likely going to want a larger and heavier hook to deal with the large live bait, like the SSW Owners that NW recommends (most dead baiters I know use a heavier hook). The downside is that the hook will not set as surely nor stick as well -- that certainly has been my experience using those hooks in live bait situations, and I only expect it will get worse when a heavy dead menhaden is attached to the line on the first jump. If you want to try a SSW like hook, I'd go in at least 9/0 and probably 10/0 depending on how and where you're hooking the baits.

    If I were in that situation, I'd go with a larger light-wire circle (9/0 or 10/0), but understand they will straighten even easier, and you'll start to lose fish if you use too much drag. You'll likely have to yank the anchor and give chase.

    All of the above said, you can do like I did -- simply try a bunch of hooks and see which ones stick and which ones don't. Let the fish tell you what works best. Tarpon are a shrewd judge of tackle and technique, and the winner should be clear fairly quickly. Just keep good notes and pay attention to what works and does not work.

    Good luck & hope this helps....Mike


    Excellent info there Mike. I tend to fish with a relatively heavy drag, and tarpon sometimes bend the SSWs a little on me, but not enough to fail yet. I've also bought, but not used: Gami octopus (seems too thin/weak just from handling it), owner tournament mutu and super mutu (both seem way too heavy for live bait), and Daiichi circle chunk light (despite its name, also very heavy).

    Also bought some of the Owner Mutu circle lights, and comparing them side by side, the wire size on the 8/0 is about the same as the SSW 7/0 (the SSW 8/0 is heavier though). Maybe I'll give those a shot. I kind of like the wider bend (and possibly wider gap) of the SSW (I was thinking that the bait could move around on it more easily), although the shape of the Mutu circle lights might give them more strength for the same wire size.

    Have you ever bridled tarpon baits (or heard of anyone doing it)? It might be good for a larger live bait, or a dead bait, to get maximum hook exposure.
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 8,519 Admiral
    I used to use heavy drag, and in certain circumstances (bridge fishing) I still do, but I have found through quite a bit of trial and error that the lighter wire hooks simply set and stick much better -- as in 25% better landing chance from the bite to the touched leader. Now you might think that fight times go way up, but I've not found that at all. I do lose the occasional fish near the boat, after the first 10 minutes or so I tend to put a lot of heat on the fish to get them to the boat fast and let them go green, but with some experimentation I've figured out how much heat you can and cannot put on them with these lighter hooks. It took me about a dozen fish to get a feel for it, and we were doing very well by the time we started the 2nd dozen.

    The problem I had with the SSW (a hook I really love in the needlepoint J hook with the bent eye), is that you miss too many on the take. Once the hook sets, it sticks pretty well, but I've missed more than on other hooks during the take. Why, I can't say for sure -- it could be the heavier wire, it could be the shape of the hook -- but it was notable. That said, I know more than a few guys who swear by that hook -- I could just never get past the thump, wait a second, reel up, and nothing....too many times for my liking. The ratio of landed fish on the SSW hovered just below 50%.

    I never really had good luck with the Mutu light circles. Had problems bending them out, breaking them, and not sticking. The heavier ones were also a comedy of errors. Frankly, I did just as well with a J hook.

    Do me a favor, and this year, buy a pack of 39951BLN Mustads. Back off your drag a nudge and try them for yourself. [And props to Capt. Jim Lemke who turned me on to them.] We've been landing between 66 and 75% of the fish that eat -- and that's impressive by my estimation, as I can remember many years of being satisfied with 1 for 3 on J hooks.

    I have never bridled live or dead baits.
  • tilemantileman Posts: 1,055 Officer
    quick tip...take a pair of pliers and crimp down the barb, no matter what hook used
    Here's at swimn' with bowllegged women!
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 8,519 Admiral
    p.s. here's some early experimental evidence of the 39951BLN and what happens with successively heavier drags:

    original.jpg

    The fact that they bend out is actually now an advantage. For big fish, I typically don't even touch them. I get the leader in hand (or in the rod tip), and lock down bending (or sometimes breaking) the hook. A very quick release that's much easier on the fish, IMO. The smaller fish (or beach, back-bay or bridge fish) I'll try and get DNA samples, but the large adults (particularly in and around the shark-ridden passes) get a very quick release as described above.

    If you look closely, you will also notice that I use a very simple knot -- a 3 turn clinch knot (except for one knot Harold tied 2nd hook from left in 2nd row). Works like a champ in 80 fluro and you can tie it blindfolded. Even better, I've never had it break.

    Hope this helps...Mike (man, tarpon season can't get here fast enough)

    p.p.s. all of the above is live bait, I do not pretend to be anything but the complete novice when it comes to fishing with dead bait, so take the above FWIW with respect to the original question asked.
  • anglingarchitectanglingarchitect Posts: 1,480 Officer
    You guys are a wealth of knowledge, thanks for sharing it.:thumbsup

    I'm just happy when bait and fish are sized for the hook and few jumps is good.
    Tugging on them at the end is not all it's cracked up to be.
    I already tricked them to biting and I'm going to let him go anyway if they get off it's fine.

    In the old days when we live baited them in "the" BGP we always broke them off.
    A quick fight and quick release, them fish seemed happy about it.

    I caught my first one in the mid sixties, I remember many epic battles.:fishing
    rent my beach house
  • FTLSnooKnPoonManFTLSnooKnPoonMan Posts: 39 Deckhand
    First of all... I am a BIG fan of using monster ladyfish and mullet as fresh/dead bait. Using the proper circle hook is a big deal! In general, I love the Gamakatsu octopus circle hook models (for snook, bass, snapper, etc.), but, NOT for Tarpon. The 2 most important things to make sure you do when chosing a hook for tarpon is to get the in-line models (not offset), and get the hooks with the more narrow gap. Someone may need to correct my terms, but I believe the gap is the distance between the shank and the hook point (you want this to be narrow, eventhough it looks like it would be more difficult to get a hook-up this way). Having the hooks in-line willl reduce the chance of snagging into "soft tissue" ... and having the narrow gap is really good at making a perfect fit in the corners of the mouth. I kind of think of it like the gap is just big enough that even if it didnt penetrate, it would still grip the sides of the mouth as they are just thick enough to fit in there snug. Of course, you also have to make sure you picking a "meaty" hook with no chance of bending/flexing under extreme pressure. As far as models go, I have been using the Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp, Live/Chunk bait circles, L2004G 9/0 for most applications. If the bait im using is really excessive (like the head half of a 14" ladyfish), I will bridle the hook (as they dont make a 10/0) through the boney part of the upper and lower lips so the hook is "floating" about an inch in front of the bait.
  • HydroHydro Posts: 17 Greenhorn
    Lot's of great information here guys thanks for sharing. I used the Owner SSW circle in 10/0 last year with mixed results. I understand why a lighter hook is better for a live bait presentation and penetration, I did have some concerns about hook failure. Even the SSW does not seem like a very strong hook. I have a couple dozen of the Eagle Claw L2004, I like them for tuna so I'll give them a try on the tarpon. Has anyone used the 3X or 4X Mustad Demon Perfect Circle hooks (39943BLN)? How about the Owner Super Mutu? These two are much heavier hooks and I'm not sure if I'll get the penetration with them. Keep the suggestions coming- still a lot more to learn before the tarpon show up!
  • HydroHydro Posts: 17 Greenhorn
    Tarponator wrote: »
    p.s. here's some early experimental evidence of the 39951BLN and what happens with successively heavier drags:

    original.jpg

    The fact that they bend out is actually now an advantage. For big fish, I typically don't even touch them. I get the leader in hand (or in the rod tip), and lock down bending (or sometimes breaking) the hook. A very quick release that's much easier on the fish, IMO. The smaller fish (or beach, back-bay or bridge fish) I'll try and get DNA samples, but the large adults (particularly in and around the shark-ridden passes) get a very quick release as described above.

    If you look closely, you will also notice that I use a very simple knot -- a 3 turn clinch knot (except for one knot Harold tied 2nd hook from left in 2nd row). Works like a champ in 80 fluro and you can tie it blindfolded. Even better, I've never had it break.

    Hope this helps...Mike (man, tarpon season can't get here fast enough)

    p.p.s. all of the above is live bait, I do not pretend to be anything but the complete novice when it comes to fishing with dead bait, so take the above FWIW with respect to the original question asked.

    This is some great info Tarponator! Were all these hooks bent on tarpon? What is very interesting is how some of the hook points are bent, like they were driven into rock. If these were bent by tarpon it really illustrates how hard their mouths are. Thank you for sharing the results of you testing.

    A comment on your knot- I agree that in heavy flouro a three turn cinch or a three turn uni is a very effective connection. With circle hooks I prefer to either use a ringed hook (very popular on the west coast) or use a loop knot. A circle hook sometime needs to rotate and/or move freely to set properly. Heavy stiff mono/flouro tied directly or snelled to a circle hook IMO may prevent the hook from setting properly in some cases. If you are open to it experiment with a loop knot and see if your hookup percentage increases. I'd be curious to hear of your results.
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 8,519 Admiral
    The 2 most important things to make sure you do when chosing a hook for tarpon is to get the in-line models (not offset), and get the hooks with the more narrow gap. Someone may need to correct my terms, but I believe the gap is the distance between the shank and the hook point (you want this to be narrow, eventhough it looks like it would be more difficult to get a hook-up this way). Having the hooks in-line willl reduce the chance of snagging into "soft tissue" ... and having the narrow gap is really good at making a perfect fit in the corners of the mouth. I kind of think of it like the gap is just big enough that even if it didnt penetrate, it would still grip the sides of the mouth as they are just thick enough to fit in there snug.

    That's a very interesting point you make about a smaller gap. Got me to thinking, so I pulled some hooks and laid them down side by side. The Mustad 39951 had the narrowest gap of them all. Coincidence? Not if what you're saying is true (and it makes perfect sense to me).

    When I get some time (been in real short supply lately), I'll take some measurements and a picture or two.

    Fascinating observation! Thanks for sharing, FTL.
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 8,519 Admiral
    Hydro wrote: »
    This is some great info Tarponator! Were all these hooks bent on tarpon? What is very interesting is how some of the hook points are bent, like they were driven into rock. If these were bent by tarpon it really illustrates how hard their mouths are. Thank you for sharing the results of you testing.

    Hi Hydro, Thanks for the kind words -- and you are most welcome. :)

    Yes, all these hooks were the result of tarpon lost, landed, or broken off boatside -- I was at the time trying to figure out the right drag setting. I took those pictures in 2006 after a few days vacation down in Boca when I started experimenting in earnest looking for a better hook (got frustrated with the SSW J hook on the beach and in the pass) and fine-tuning the technique.
    Hydro wrote: »
    A comment on your knot- I agree that in heavy flouro a three turn cinch or a three turn uni is a very effective connection. With circle hooks I prefer to either use a ringed hook (very popular on the west coast) or use a loop knot. A circle hook sometime needs to rotate and/or move freely to set properly. Heavy stiff mono/flouro tied directly or snelled to a circle hook IMO may prevent the hook from setting properly in some cases. If you are open to it experiment with a loop knot and see if your hookup percentage increases. I'd be curious to hear of your results.

    I'm always open to experimentation! FWIW, I have tried loop knots on the light wire hooks, and noticed lower results. But to be truthful, the sample size was not large enough to draw a firm conclusion (a few knots here and there). I know a few guides who swear by them (coincidentally both love SSW circles, Tommy Z and Rhett Morris). I will try again this season and even out the sample size and see what happens. Thanks for the tip!

    Have fun....Mike
  • NauticalWheelerNauticalWheeler Posts: 440 Officer
    Mike, have you measured the drag settings you are using with a scale (drag scale, spring/digital scale, etc)? I'm curious as to what kind of drag you're using. I have only caught a few tarpon, but so far have been using drag in the range of 12-18 lb. (I had my rod set to closer to 18 at first, but my wife picked up the rod and nearly got pulled out of the boat, so I've been backing it down after that.)
  • FTLSnooKnPoonManFTLSnooKnPoonMan Posts: 39 Deckhand
    When I was fishing for Tarpon in school (I went to vet school in the caribbean), the island I was on had nothing for fishing tackle. Only circle hooks I could find were BIG mustad hooks (locals said they used them for tuna?) ... they were 12/0 and had an EXTREMELY narrow gap. I was skeptical... and never felt "at ease" while fishing with them, but it was all I had. So... 125lb leader, 12/0 circles, and 12-14" ladyfish for bait... next thing you know I was catching all the local tarpon the locals were breaking off with their hand lines. I must say... my hookup ratio was AMAZING... 11 of 13... much better than I was previously used to. So now I look for narrow gaps, but for some reason I still (instinct) dont get the most narrow gap hooks I can because it just feels so wrong to me. I made a compromise between what I used to use (Gamakatsu Octopus which are awesome but suck for poons) and what I used in the island (some BIG Mustad model 12/0 with NARROW gap)... the compromise were the eagle claws mentioned above. I do think the hooks I was using in the island however had the best hookup ratio I have ever had, and, also the most narrow gap I have ever seen or used. They literally looked like you couldnt fit the tip of your finger in there, which is very strange looking for such a massive hook. I reasoned this by noticing that they all ended up in the SIDES/CORNERS of the mouth... which even on a massive tarpon are relatively narrow... it just makes sense that the narrow gaps latches on there so well (eventhough all of mine did in fact penetrate). Haven't heard this mentioned before, but like you said, it makes perfect sense.
  • FTLSnooKnPoonManFTLSnooKnPoonMan Posts: 39 Deckhand
    Tarponator wrote: »
    That's a very interesting point you make about a smaller gap. Got me to thinking, so I pulled some hooks and laid them down side by side. The Mustad 39951 had the narrowest gap of them all. Coincidence? Not if what you're saying is true (and it makes perfect sense to me).

    When I get some time (been in real short supply lately), I'll take some measurements and a picture or two.

    Fascinating observation! Thanks for sharing, FTL.

    I just looked it up... Mustad 39960D Tuna Circle Hooks... they just dont look right! Ideally, or should I say instinctively, I want a hook to be a little less meaty, have the bent eye designed to be snelled... but... these hooks and their excessively narrow gaps worked great! You do need bigger tackle for them though, I had 2 penn 8500 spinners (one with 60lb braid, and the other 80lb braid) to 100-125lb leaders. Interesting...
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 8,519 Admiral
    Mike, have you measured the drag settings you are using with a scale (drag scale, spring/digital scale, etc)? I'm curious as to what kind of drag you're using. I have only caught a few tarpon, but so far have been using drag in the range of 12-18 lb. (I had my rod set to closer to 18 at first, but my wife picked up the rod and nearly got pulled out of the boat, so I've been backing it down after that.)

    I have done it, but not recently (been more than 5 years). These days, I just go by feel.

    I'd guess the following: When using circles along the beach or in the pass, it's set at about 6lbs to start. After the fish settles down after the first run or three, I'll crank it up to about 8 or 10, and use my hand/finger to put even more late in the fight once the fish is winded, and to land the fish.

    Early in the fight, I just let the fish do it's thing. In my experience, it doesn't really matter if you have high or low drag, most fish will get tired out just the same -- and heavier drag earlier in the fight just chafes the leader too much, IMO. We use 80 or even 60 sometimes because of the clear water along the beach, and generally 80 in the pass when the water is off color. But if you get much above 10lbs of drag and those light Mustad 39951bln hooks straighten.

    You might guess that fight times would go up, but they really haven't. Once the fish gets winded, I try and get the boat close and get a quick release. Generally, we don't like to fight them too long at all -- fifteen or twenty mins max, and quite often less than 10. Sometimes we have a rookie on board (or every once in a while a fish that has a wild hair) that messes that up though.
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 8,519 Admiral
    I just looked it up... Mustad 39960D Tuna Circle Hooks... they just dont look right!

    You can say that again! That is narrow....and heavy gauge.

    1014763_1.jpg
    Ideally, or should I say instinctively, I want a hook to be a little less meaty, have the bent eye designed to be snelled... but... these hooks and their excessively narrow gaps worked great! You do need bigger tackle for them though, I had 2 penn 8500 spinners (one with 60lb braid, and the other 80lb braid) to 100-125lb leaders. Interesting...

    Now, you've really got me thinking. Going to try and find some light wire hooks with an even narrower gap, and experiment a bit.

    Hmmm.....
  • monoxidemonoxide Posts: 1,094 Officer
    I wonder how those mustad 39960d would work for shark fishing. I want to try to start using circles more but every time I do I miss a hook up. Last fish I got on a circle hook was a sand bar and he got hooked in the anal fin some how.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    ted.gif
    ted.gif
  • FTLSnooKnPoonManFTLSnooKnPoonMan Posts: 39 Deckhand
    Tarponator wrote: »
    You can say that again! That is narrow....and heavy gauge.

    1014763_1.jpg



    Now, you've really got me thinking. Going to try and find some light wire hooks with an even narrower gap, and experiment a bit.

    Hmmm.....

    Hey Tarponator, you ever try the 39950 ? I think the next time I tarpon fish, I will try using these (http://www.fishingtackledepot.biz/Mustad-39950BL-Demon-Circle-Hooks-p/ms39950npbl100uv5.htm) .... when compared to the 39960 hooks I HAD to use in the islands, these 39950NP-BL hooks have a SMALLER gauge while still fitting into the category of non-bendable. Both models have the narrow gap, and something else I noticed from the manufacture's website that is interesting, these hooks share the fact that they both have hook points that bend beyond 90 degrees (http://www.mustad.no/productcatalog/na/product.php?id=49) ... The way I think about it, if you picture this hook sliding into the corner of the mouth when a fish takes the bait (regardless of whether or not the point actually penetrates) you have a situation where the gap is hugging the side-jaws firmly, AND!, the point of the hook (being bent over 90) will only want to slide more ON to the jaw instead of OFF (picture it hooked up). Just a thought... we might be on to something here... lol.
  • HydroHydro Posts: 17 Greenhorn
    monoxide wrote: »
    I wonder how those mustad 39960d would work for shark fishing. I want to try to start using circles more but every time I do I miss a hook up. Last fish I got on a circle hook was a sand bar and he got hooked in the anal fin some how.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    Monoxide- I have used them for shark with good results. I think for shark (if your using circle hooks) you want a larger gap between the hook point and the hook shaft; I had more success with sharks when I carefully bent open the hook slightly to increase the size of the gap (note-I only do this for sharks and only with this hook). I like circle hooks for sharks and I like using the Mustad Tuna Circles for them because they are strong, effective and cheap. I also have much better luck when I hook the bait lightly (or bridle) rather than bury the hook with the point exposed like you can with a J-hook. I think the ones I have been using are 14/0. What hooks have you had the most success with?
  • monoxidemonoxide Posts: 1,094 Officer
    Hydro wrote: »
    Monoxide- I have used them for shark with good results. I think for shark (if your using circle hooks) you want a larger gap between the hook point and the hook shaft; I had more success with sharks when I carefully bent open the hook slightly to increase the size of the gap (note-I only do this for sharks and only with this hook). I like circle hooks for sharks and I like using the Mustad Tuna Circles for them because they are strong, effective and cheap. I also have much better luck when I hook the bait lightly (or bridle) rather than bury the hook with the point exposed like you can with a J-hook. I think the ones I have been using are 14/0. What hooks have you had the most success with?

    i have used 11/0 vmc j hooks.
    ted.gif
    ted.gif
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 8,519 Admiral
    Hey Tarponator, you ever try the 39950 ?

    Nope. Worth a try though.
  • outforpoonoutforpoon Posts: 87 Deckhand
    39951NP-BN (old ref. 39951BLN)
  • outforpoonoutforpoon Posts: 87 Deckhand
    I switched to that hook last year Capt. Roy String Turned me on to them and I love It!! My hook up ratio went way up! I do a lot of night bridge fishing with live lady fish or mullet and this hook is great! It is the only hook I use now and I used to hate circle hooks too!
  • HydroHydro Posts: 17 Greenhorn
    outforpoon wrote: »
    I switched to that hook last year Capt. Roy String Turned me on to them and I love It!! My hook up ratio went way up! I do a lot of night bridge fishing with live lady fish or mullet and this hook is great! It is the only hook I use now and I used to hate circle hooks too!

    What size do you like to use?
  • outforpoonoutforpoon Posts: 87 Deckhand
    Hydro wrote: »
    What size do you like to use?

    10/0
  • kmagnusskmagnuss Posts: 2,514 Captain
    Bumping this thread because it's awesome.
    Tarpon... everything else is just bait.
    2017 Tarpon Count: 109/431
    Captain Keith Magnussen - Crooked Rod Charters
    Instagram is @crooked_rod_charters
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