As catfish anglers are quick to note, these big, bad fish need hooks to match.
That can come as a surprise to fishermen used to other species, but if you’ve ever had a hook snap or bend on a fat blue, you’ll quickly learn that thick, tough hooks are the only way to go.
We’ve offered tips and tricks for catfishing before, and now it’s time to really dig into hook selection.
If you’re not sure where to start, or if you’re looking for a better hook than the one that failed you, you’ve come to the right place!
Below, you’ll find a buying guide as well as reviews of some of our favorites.
Here's a quick glance at the best hooks for catfish:
Punch or Dip Bait Hooks
Table of Contents (clickable)
Sizes: 5/0, 6/0, and 7/0
Count: 25 per pack
Gamakatsu has proven to be an angler’s ally year after year, and their hooks are legendary for their consistent quality. Their 4X octopus hooks are no exception, and you can rely on their needle-sharp tips and nearly unbendable strength.
These hooks have a straight eye that works well with standard knots like the exceptionally strong Palomar.
Unfortunately, Gamakatsu doesn’t produce a size larger than 7/0, so if you’re looking for an 8/0 or 10/0, you’ll need to consider the Catfish Sumo or Mustad. That said, a 6/0 is large enough for the vast majority of cats you’ll catch and perfectly suited to eating-size fish.
Expect these awesome hooks to have a price that reflects their quality: at roughly a dollar apiece, you’ll be tempted to reuse hooks you should discard.
Sizes: 8/0 and 10/0
Count: 25 per pack
When you’re hunting for trophy-size cats, especially monster flatheads, you need a big, bad hook. Catfish Sumo has you covered, and whether you choose the 8/0 or 10/0, both are crazy sharp and very strong.
You can rely on these hooks to take the fight to a huge catfish!
Sporting an offset eye, these hooks are ideal for snelling, and if that’s your preferred knot, it’s hard to go wrong with Catfish Sumo’s offering. But keep in mind that they don’t offer sizes smaller than 8/0.
Also, be aware that they’re a touch less expensive than the premium brands, making them more affordable per pack.
Sizes: 4/0, 6/0, 7/0, 8/0, 9/0, and 10/0
Count: 6, 25, and 100 per pack
Mustad is a trusted name in hooks, and I’ve met very few anglers over the years who didn’t love their products. Among catfishermen, Mustad is a go-to brand, and the UltraPoint Demon Wide Gap is simply a great hook for whiskerfish.
Available in a wide range of sizes in packs of 6, 25, or 100, these hooks are built tough and sharp. Trust me; they have what it takes to puncture tough mouths and hold tight! And because they’re offered from 4/0 to 10/0, you can tailor your hooks to match the fish you’re looking for and the baits you have on hand.
These Mustads feature a straight eye, so if you don’t like that design, you’ll need to look elsewhere, and the excellent Catfish Sumo should have you covered for larger sizes.
Mustad’s circle hooks won’t break the bank, either.
Sizes: #1, #2, #4, and #6
Count: 25 per pack
Mustad treble hooks have been trusted by generations of anglers, and most of the trebles I’ve used in my lifetime have been from this brand.
Strong and sharp: that’s what you can expect from these ridiculously tough hooks, as they’re built from very thick-gauge wire and then sharpened to a needlepoint.
Indeed, the Classic 4X Kingfish is everything you’re looking for in a catfish hook, provided you’re willing to skip a size #8 and jump straight into the #6 and #4!
Sizes: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #8
Count: 10 per pack
Keeshine’s 4X Triple Grip treble hooks are just what catfish anglers are looking for: strong, sharp, and sized right!
Like other 4X trebles, these hooks are built to take a beating, and they offer sizes ranging from a #8 all the way up to a #1! Now, I don’t know anyone who fishes for cats with a hook that big, but either a #6 or #5 is a good choice for real monsters.
And whichever size you choose, with sharp points and pronounced barbs, you can count on these hooks to hold when you tie into a monster.
You’ll pay a bit more for these big trebles.
Hook size: #6
Team Catfish has an excellent design for a tube to hold dip and punch baits. These cylinders feature three holes and are just the right size to fill with nasty, stinking punch baits.
Armed with a big #6 red treble, I really like this design, and you will, too.
The only downside to this product, and a common failing of all these commercial offerings, is that the trebles are standard strength. But it’s easy enough to run an excellent Mustad 4X in their place, making these ideal for prepared baits.
Hook size: #6
Catfish Charlie’s dip bait worms are a deadly combination with dip baits.
These long chartreuse tubes sport ridges as well as a central cavity, and dip baits just stick to these features like crazy. If you’ve had trouble getting your dip bait to stay put, you’ll want to give these a try.
You’ll be impressed, guaranteed!
Personally, I find this design is the best for holding punch baits.
Expect 12 sharp #6 trebles per pack, though I like to replace mine with an aftermarket option.
Hook size: #4
Sponge hooks are pretty much ideal for dip baits, and they can work wonders with over-warm punch baits that have gotten too loose to stick to a tube.
Nothing more than a bit of sponge mounted on a big treble, they can be startlingly effective with the right stink.
Magic’s Hog Wild sponge hooks are big and bad, and I promise you they hold plenty of nasty!
While they work--no question about it--I’m not sure I’d pay for these. Sponge hooks are easy to make at home, and there’s just no reason to buy them given that.
But if you’re in a hurry or appreciate the convenience, it’s hard to go wrong with Hog Wild sponge hooks.
If you’re new to catfishing, you may not realize just how tough the interior of a cat’s mouth really is. In lieu of sharp teeth, Mother Nature has supplied the catfish with bony, coarse pads that feel like rough sandpaper.
And the sides of a catfish’s mouth are bone, sinew, and tough flesh, not the paper-thin membrane you find on crappie or bass.
If that wasn’t enough, big cats can easily exceed 50 pounds, and the stress of a fight with a big, nasty flathead can straighten or break a standard hook!
Gamakatsu’s 4X circle hooks are built tough!
To deal with these issues, most anglers use 2X or 4X hooks, a measure of the thickness of the stock from which the hook is constructed. This makes for darn tough hooks, and you’ll break very, very few.
You better believe that a big cat can snap a hook like a matchstick!
Be warned: standard hooks aren’t going to take the abuse of a monster flathead or big blue!
While eating-size cats will take small hooks, most anglers agree that bigger is generally better.
For circle hooks, most fishermen choose either 6/0, 7/0, or 8/0, sometimes moving up to a 10/0 for real monsters.
And for treble hooks, the dominant preferences are #5 and #6.
The reason is simple: catfish have big, bony mouths, and larger hooks with bigger gaps tend to provide a more secure lock-up.
When you fight a monster cat to your boat, you’ll often find that the hook has buried itself so far into its bony jaw that you need to reach for a strong pair of pliers to remove it.
Pliers are an essential catfishing tool, but keep in mind that by using them, you’re compromising the integrity of your hooks.
As Jeff Williams, perhaps the most respected voice in the catfishing community, explains, "We can talk about the type of hook an angler uses, the size of the hook, the metallurgy, the tempering, and all the other things that go into manufacturing quality fishing hooks, but one of the biggest problems is the way anglers handle a hook when they release fish … Catfish have tough mouths, and one of the biggest causes of hook failure is using a pair of pliers to pry hooks out of catfishes' mouths. If you mar or scar that hook, nick it so you can see shiny metal, or bend and re-bend it, you've created a potential weak spot that could fail the next time you hook a big fish."
What does this mean for you?
Every time you need to use pliers to tear a hook free, you’re compromising the strength of that hook for the next fight.
It is essential that you replace and re-tie any damaged hooks!
And as Williams notes, “damaged” includes cases in which you can see shiny metal, nicks, deep scratches, or even a touch of deformation.
As a result, you’ll be running through plenty of hooks, making cost a real concern.
Tournament anglers have switched almost entirely to circle hooks, and there are several reasons driving this change.
First and foremost, it takes years--even decades--for monster cats to reach their enormous size. To protect the future of the sport, more and more anglers--especially those on the tournament circuit--do whatever they can to reduce fish mortality.
Traditional J-hooks often result in deep, deadly gut hooks when catfish take and swallow the bait. By contrast, circle or “octopus” hooks self-hook in the corner of the cat’s mouth as it wrestles with the bait.
The result is an almost total elimination of gut-hooked fish.
But that’s not the only reason the pros have made the switch to circle hooks. When sized and rigged properly, circle hooks lock-up better than J-hooks, nearly always snagging the corner of the mouth and burying themselves deep in the tough tissue there.
And better lock-up means more fish on the scale or in the cooler.
We hope this article has helped you pick your next batch of catfish hooks, and whether you’re new to catfishing or just looking for a better option, we’d love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below!