Home West Central General Fishing & The Outdoors

Favorite Tarpon Hook

I've done quite a bit of experimentation over the years testing out different hooks when fishing for tarpon. I've not yet landed on a hook that I am in love with yet. Here are my findings, what does everyone else use for tarpon and what are your experiences?

Live bait

Owner 6/0 SSW Inline Circle- Decent hookup ratio. Roughly 45% landing ratio. You can put a lot of pressure on the fish and the hooks will not snap, they will bend slightly. Failures occur mostly in pulled hooks. Most of the fish landed the hook is lodged in the roof of the mouth or hooked in the button.

Owner Mutu Light - Poor hookup ratio for larger fish. Roughly 35% landing ratio for small/med fish. Hook will bend in a hurry if too much pressure. All fish landed are lodged in the roof of the mouth.

Mustad 7/0 39951BLN (Ultrapoint) - Great hookup ratio. In open water situations I get roughly a 60% landing ratio. Fishing around structure or in deep water roughly 30% landing ratio. The hook is great other than it bends terribly. You cannot horse a fish around a bridge or pull it up from deep water (passes). ALL fish landed are clipper hooked.

Mustad 7/0 39942NP-BN (essentially the same hook as above, but 3x strength) - Terrible hookup ratio, usually thrown on the first or second jump. Landing ratio less than 30%. Fish landed are hooked in the roof of the mouth.

Gamagatsu Octopus- Garbage. Terrible hookup ratios. Mostly lose fish on the first or second jump. Snap when you put a lot of heat on the fish. Landing ratios less than 30%

Gama 4x Octopus - Garbage. Terrible hookup ratios. Most fish lost on first jump. Landing ratios less than 30%

Trokar - Way too expensive. Hookup ratio roughly 55%. Landing ratio roughly 40%. All fish landed are lodged in the roof of the mouth. Hook snaps when in deep water or around structure when too much pressure is applied.

Dead bait

Gamagatsu 7/0 -9/0 4x J-hook - Hookup ratios roughly 50%. Landing ratios are great, if you get a hook in the fish, you are going to land it. Clipper hooked and button hooked fish are landed.

*note: All of these hooks may have a good day or two where we land 4/5 or 6/8. All results are from a very large sample size.

All of you tarpon gurus, what are your favorite hooks? Have you found a hook that has a good hookup/landing ratio that does not bend or snap?

Happy fishing :)


  • capt.natecapt.nate Posts: 2,359 Captain
    owner ssw offset circle. 5/0
    "If I had my life to live over again, there are some things I’d do differently, but, oh yeah, I’d still be a fisherman. No doubt about that."
    Thomas 'Blue' Fulford
  • FlatsChaserFlatsChaser Posts: 82 Greenhorn
    Owner Mutu Light 5/0 Circle
  • GitchaPullGitchaPull Posts: 345 Officer
    St Pete and Nate, Have you tried the VMC 5/0 or 6/0 tournament? Slightly thicker than the owner mutu and thinner than the owner tournament. It's working well and we haven't bent one yet. Check em out
  • GitchaPullGitchaPull Posts: 345 Officer
    Btw, thanks for the info and review stpete
  • Icatcher22Icatcher22 Posts: 320 Deckhand
    x2 on gama = garbage

    Owner decent, experienced a lot of thrown hooks.

    Mustad is go to right now. Depends on situation for size but all thin wire. Tried the 2x and had same experience as you did w/ 3x - terrible hook up ratio.

    To small of sample w/ Trokar...but impressed so far.
  • stpetebaitmanstpetebaitman St. PetePosts: 925 Officer
    GP- I've not yet tried the VMCs, I will have to give them a whirl.

    Nate what landing % are you getting with those owners?
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 14,251 AG
    Trent, You already know what I'm going to say..... Mustad 39951BLN. :)

    It's thin and you need to be careful, but not thin enough to cause long fight times, and it hooks and sticks to tarpon better than any hook I've ever used, and I've used all of the ones posted by the OP (and a few that he hasn't).

    We are landing around 70% of the fish we hook with it, and the best we've done on any other hook is just north of 50% (it was also light wire, the Mutu Light, but you have to use a larger size to get it to stick).

    Also, I've hooked plenty of fish in the button with the Mustad (and lots of photos to prove it), but you're right, it does have a tendency to hook (and hold) in the clipper. What I suspect is that you're hooking about the same % of fish in the clipper, but the heavier hooks cause the the hook to either not stick or the heavier drag causes the leader to fray, both leading to lost fish that you catch with the Mustad and lighter drag. Also, the fact that you're landing clipper hooked fish when dead baiting with J hooks (and with presumably heavier leader) reinforces this theory.

    When I need to really lean into a fish (like pitching live bait at night under the bridges), I don't use a circle hook, but the old tried and true, snelled, bent-eye, offset Owner SSW needle point J hook in 5/0 or 6/0 depending on bait size.

    In the end, and after experimenting for a few years with different hooks, I came to the conclusion there's a tradeoff when it comes to hooks and tarpon -- the thicker hooks that stand up to heavy drag don't stick as well as the thinner ones, but you pay the price for that in that you can't put as much pressure on the fish. As we've discussed several times, I look at the thinner hooks tendency to bend as an advantage as we can release the fish boatside without ever touching it or tiring it enough to get our hands on it -- and when fishing in and around passes and the sharks that inhabit those areas, it's an even bigger plus as far as the tarpon are concerned. It's not a hook for the inexperienced, and if I was a charter captain, I'm not sure it would be the hook I chose for that very reason.

    In the end, I think hook choice is kind of like knot choice -- what works for me might not work for you and visa versa. So if you've got a good hook and like it, more power to you!

    Have fun & keep experimenting...Mike
  • stpetebaitmanstpetebaitman St. PetePosts: 925 Officer

    Let me ask you this... When you're in water deeper than 30ft and you have a big fish that will not come to the surface for the fight, you don't bend out the mustad?

    Also, a major issue I have with those hooks is that if a fish gets hooked in the top of the mouth, the fish can bite down on the hook and bend it themselves, allowing the hook to pull. So, the only fish I ever catch when using the Mustads are ones that are hooked in the clipper. I wish I had a picture to show you what I mean...But I am sure you already know exactly what I am speaking to.
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 14,251 AG
    Yes, I know what you're speaking about. I've documented the very same thing, and that's why I kind of just chuckle when the BGP guys use clipper hooked fish as evidence of being snagged. It's laughable to me given what I've seen happen with those hooks (and busters are the same way albeit it happens less frequently):


    When a big fish gets in the deep water, we get directly over it, get it to the surface, and break it of fast. As long as you don't put too much heat on the fish, it won't straighten that way. But if you do the same thing from the side or farther away, you will suffer bent hook syndrome. Fighting them vertically like that, tthey usually don't last long with fights less than 15 minutes. The key is to let the fish tire itself out for the first 10 minutes, then start to put heat on it once it settles down a bit. Of course, you occasionally hook the big fish that doesn't want any part of that, and we've had fish take us miles offshore before they decided to come up and let us let them go. That said, the last time we fought a fish for over a half hour, it was my 8 year old nephew fighting it.

    I am surprised you've only landed them hooked them in the clipper with the Mustad -- I suspect you're putting too much pressure on the fish (particularly early) if you're losing all the button hooked tarpon and haven't seen any hooked there (we only see about 30% of the fish clipper hooked).

    I've also never seen a tarpon bite a hook in the button and straighten it -- and I can't even imagine how that would happen or even how you would know.

    You might also want to try the 8/0 of the 39951BLN. We've been playing with that size a bit this year and early results are ridiculous (80%), but the sample size is still too low (only a dozen fish so far) to draw any conclusions.
  • stpetebaitmanstpetebaitman St. PetePosts: 925 Officer
    We see the same hook orientation on live bait as well. We also see the exact same thing fishing dead bait on the bottom with huge J hooks. I think that argument is irrelevant for BGP, but I know nothing about fishing down there.

    We also fight the fish the exact same way in deep water, get straight over top. But, we also idle in reverse when its not rough to keep the line going over the back of the fish. Bend a lot of hooks when straight up and down. It is surprising to me that most of your fish are hooked in the top of the mouth and not in the clipper as I've stated, its the opposite for us.

    I need to drag a picture out to show you what I mean when I say the tarpon bends the hook out itself. The result is a bend or rolled tip and a large bend in the middle of the hook (what I'm assuming is the lower jay clamping the hook and bending it out). I will find a picture to show you.

    Are the 8/0 thicker than the 7/0's? I'd like to give those a shot.

    Also, I think it is evident that fish in water shallower than 10ft tend to jump themselves out a lot, whether that is the beach or the bay. This increases your odds if your intent is to not bend hooks. But fishing deep water of the bay or the passes my experience has been 2 maybe 3 jumps then they dog you and roll occasionally, this is where failures occur most often. Do you agree?
  • Icatcher22Icatcher22 Posts: 320 Deckhand
    We also moved up hook size. Whole different way to fish outgoing tide out of the pass in Sarasota compared to egmont etc but 8/0 and even 9/0 39951BLN we used this summer. Didn't see a drop in bites and ratio went way up (small sample though).
  • stpetebaitmanstpetebaitman St. PetePosts: 925 Officer
    Icatcher that is interesting about the bigger hooks, I am now intrigued. Let me ask you, when using the mustads, where are the hooks planted most often when you land fish?
  • Icatcher22Icatcher22 Posts: 320 Deckhand
    Tough to say since we maybe had a 15 fish sample w/ moving up in size. But i think it was more clipper than button..how we fish the outgoing out of Sarasota is you anchor on the sandbar outside of the pass and drift crabs off back of boat off the sandbar, you do not drift with the crabs; the rod holder hooks all fish. The bigger hook really increased our hookup ratio.

    I actually used the 6/0 mustad 39951NP - BN 1x fine wire @ bean chunking in the pass and most of those fish were button hooked. Did have a few hook points roll over when the fish wouldnt leave the school and had to fight up and down, but was impressed w/ overall strength.

    Had a gama break in half this year on easily the biggest tarpon we have ever jumped on our boat...will hold grudge and not use them again lol.
    Icatcher that is interesting about the bigger hooks, I am now intrigued. Let me ask you, when using the mustads, where are the hooks planted most often when you land fish?
  • stpetebaitmanstpetebaitman St. PetePosts: 925 Officer
    We use similar techniques way up in the bay... on anchor, using crabs, rodholder, ect. It is good to hear different perspectives on hooks. I think the hook is one of the most important parts of tarpon fishing...once you figure out how to get them to eat.
  • permit_mepermit_me Posts: 1,055 Officer
    as an aspiring tarpon angler...
    We used to use owner offset circle 6/0. I've only had one bend. I like em for trout and reds but not tarpon.
    tried mustad 7/0 and 8/0 and not for me, not sure why but poor hookups.
    Tried vmc's rippin lips catfish circle hooks in 8/0 and hooked up 3 out of 6 / landed 2 fish , the other went back around piling and broke off. I like how they are wide and long and stick in the corner.
    This year we used the Gamakatsu straight inline circle hook 7/0 and 8/0, snelled. They had close to 50% ratio (probably brought down by fish striking bait under a float, when pitched unweighted or drifted back to the fish the hookup frequency was higher than 50%, by far). Gamakatsus bend and break, though.
    VMC and trocar and Matzuo 7/0 circle and hooked up the 2 only bites. held a snell well too.
    With all that, I am going back to the Gamakatsu straight inline circle hook. I will try the vmc and trocar again and I have one pole rigged the rippin lips 8/0 too.

    for me I prefer to snell the leader to a larger sized, wide gap hook with a little longer shank. It seems we are stepping up our hook size and this does seem to help. Maybe more bites with lighter leader and smaller hooks, but the end results seem to be better when we upsize hook and leader sizes.

    However, this is by no means significant data, no records kept and this year out of about 15 or 16 outings we landed just 11 fish.
  • wwwwww Posts: 48 Deckhand
    i think it is alot to do with what you feel comforatable with....I use 6/0 gamakatsu octopus 4x strong (not circle). we have great results fishing tradtionally in Boca Grande Pass. I also use the same hook in tampa and BG on spinning rods with lots of success. I admit i did break three hooks in BGP this year but they all came out of the same package that had been in the boat for over a year. the pressure put on those hooks with that style is extreme. Our sample size was fairly significant with around 50 fish released (to the leader) this season.

    i tried a few other styles this year but quickly went back to my favorite that i had confidence in. i am not saying it is the best but there are so many variables that go into hooks and what is great for some might not be right for others.
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 14,251 AG
    We have traced a similar rash of broken hooks back to water/moisture exposure and now bring them home every trip and be careful not to store them wet.
Sign In or Register to comment.