I remember a preacher delivered a sermon one time about an energetic young lumberjack who showed up new in camp asking for a job.
The foreman told him to gear up and demonstrate his worth. The first day on the job, the rookie felled 24 trees with his trusty axe. The second day, his production fell to just 18 trees, and by the third day, only eight trees were harvested.
The foreman came and put his arm around the young man and said, “You’ve neglected to sharpen your axe.”
So it can be with anglers.
Many things compete for our time and attention. When time to fish presents itself, we can be guilty of just piling everything into the trunk, truck bed or boat and hitting the road.
Small things, which are often less appealing than the fishing itself, if not attended to, can detract from our fishing efforts. Dull hooks are one of those small things.
Today’s hooks are more technologically advanced than ever before. Between advances in metallurgy, chemical sharpening, coating to prevent corrosion and decrease friction, and more, hooks have, generally speaking, never come out of the package as sharp as they do today.
No matter the initial quality of a hook, the hook’s condition declines with every cast made, and with every hookset and snag encountered.
My encouragement to you is to simply ask yourself, “When was the last time I considered if my hooks are sharp or not?”
There are basically three options. You can ignore dull hooks, you can sharpen dull hooks or you can replace dull hooks.
Replacing hooks is quicker, but definitely more expensive. The only word of advice I would contribute here is that you do not vary too greatly from the original hook supplied with the lure, especially when it comes to balanced hardbaits like crankbaits and jerkbaits, as the size and weight of the hook is part of the manufacturer’s equation when they balance these baits.
Replacing hooks requires only one or two items. The first item is a suitable new hook, and the second item is a pair of split-ring pliers (Search the Internet for an image using this phrase and you will find it) for those hooks attached to a bait with a split ring.
I would like to devote this article’s remaining lines to explaining how to quickly and simply sharpen your own hooks.
No matter the size of hook, the material the hook is made of or the construct of the hook (single, double, treble, etc.) the only tool required is a small, metallic hobby file. I use flat and half-round files interchangeably and they both do an excellent job.
The brand of file I use is made by Glardon Vallorbe. The Glardon Vallorbe LA2402-200-2 half-round file and their LA2405-200-2 knife file are both 7 7/8-inches long. These have served me well for years. These are both classified as needle files. There is a similar set of files sold by Harbor Freight and made by Central Forge currently selling for less than $5.
The process goes like this. First, see if the hook needs to be sharpened. To do this, gently place the point of the hook on your fingernail and gently move the hook across your nail. If it grabs or scratches the nail, the hook will not need sharpening.
However, if the hook smoothly skates across your nail, it will need to be sharpened.
Now, be careful here. I remember my first time testing a hook for sharpness. I had a big, 4/0 plastic worm hook in my right hand and I placed the point of the hook onto the nail of my left thumb. Never having done this before (and being about 13 years old), I was unsure how much downward pressure I should exert to see if the point would scratch my nail. Well, after I punctured by thumbnail and bloodied the quick beneath it, I realized that was a bit too much pressure.
The operative word here is gently.
As I begin the sharpening process, my aim is to create three clean, beveled surfaces at the hook’s point, with two of those surfaces on the top of the point (that side of the point closest to the eye of the hook), and the third of those surfaces on the “bottom” of the point (that side of the point furthest from the eye of the hook).
Done correctly, just three or four gentle passes to create each of these three bevels should be sufficient.
Remember, you are only trying to make the hairlike tip of the hook point point forward (as it has most likely been bent or curved by use). You are not trying to reshape the hook, and you should definitely not shorten the point as a result of your efforts.
When I make the file strokes, I use a back-and-forth motion on the topside, and a one-way motion from the bend toward the point on the bottom side.
After three or four gentle strokes on all three bevels, check the sharpness again to see if it grabs or scratches your fingernail. If not, do just two more strokes on each bevel, this time at a slightly steeper angle.
If you’ve never done this before, pull out a couple of cheap hooks and practice so you do not screw up your $20 Lucky Craft Sammy on your first go of it.
I keep my files in my drybox on the leaning post of my center console. As I am waiting on clients to arrive, I fill in the time by grabbing a file and systematically going over each point on each hook on each lure and making sure the point is in excellent shape. Over the course of a year, I feel this adds dozens of additional fish to my clients’ tallies.
You will quickly get the hang of the correct pressure and angles as you practice. It is more of an art than a science.
If nothing else, you may come away with an appreciation that the price of a new hook is a small price to pay for those of you not inclined to physical labor (or physical coordination!).