Hook sizing can be confusing, and for new anglers, there’s certainly a temptation to assume that big bass demand massive hooks.
But an oversized hook is almost never a good idea, and from poor action to spooked fish and missed strikes, a hook that’s too large just won’t work very well.
Too small isn’t good either, and the gap needs to be wide enough to allow it to work.
So, what’s the best hook size for largemouth?
Generally a 2/0 to 4/0 hook--but there’s a bit more to it than that!
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There are two hook sizing systems that are used. One uses two numbers: a “designator” and an “aught” or zero. In this system, larger numbers mean bigger hooks.
The other uses a single number, and somewhat counterintuitively, smaller numbers mean bigger hooks.
The upshot of this is that a 1/0 is larger than a 1, and a 2/0 is quite a bit larger than a 2.
But which option is the best for you depends on what you’re throwing: in short, the size of the lure or live bait matters, and that’s the thing to consider when picking your hook size from within that range.
Worms and other soft plastics - Most anglers use between a 2/0 and 4/0 on worms, craws, lizards, and swimbaits, matching the hook size to the diameter of the soft plastic.
Too large a hook will deaden action and possibly keep a shy bass from really taking the lure. My advice is to run the smallest hook you can get away with.
That’s what the pros do, too.
As Gettys Brannon from Bassmaster explains, “With smaller worms and creature-style baits, the action will be sacrificed with a hook that is too large, so I stick with a 2/0, 3/0 or 4/0 hook, sometimes even smaller. It all depends on the bulk of the soft plastic. Go with the smallest hook that you can get away with, provided that you do not compromise the hook's effectiveness.”
This Texas-rigged worm will run essentially weedlessly.
Minnows - Minnows like fatheads typically cluster around the 2 to 2 ½ inch mark. For them, I really like a 2/0 hook. But if I’ve got some really little ones, I won’t hesitate to run a 1/0.
Nightcrawlers - Nightcrawlers can be magical, especially if you can find really fat, big ones! I like to use a 2/0 hook with mine, but I’m open to sizing down to a 1/0 if needed.
A 1/0 or 2/0 is perfect for a big nightcrawler.
Crawfish - For most crawfish, I start with a 3/0. If you’ve got some little guys, go down a size. For a real monster that looks more like a small lobster, I’d go up to a 4/0 to 5/0.
The bigger the crawfish, the larger the hook.
Shad - I throw shad when I want something bigger than a fathead, and I’m looking for live bait in this instance that’s roughly as long as my hand. For this, I’ll start at 4/0, and go as large as 6/0.
That said, I keep the hook as small as I’m able to.
Even big shad should run a small hook.
Hooks are made from different gauges of wire, dramatically affecting how hard they are to bend. And while it might seem that you want the strongest hook money can buy, that’s not always true!
For soft plastics, you’ll often run a powerful, stiff rod. Heavier gauge hooks will be backed by this strength, and they’ll have no trouble punching through the jaw of a big bass.
But with lighter rods and finesse techniques, that same thick hook just may not penetrate as well, and a thinner wire hook will push home much more easily.
Another consideration is snags.
If you’re fishing where you’re destined to get hung-up, think about throwing a light wire hook. That thin wire will bend, letting you pull yourself free. It’s simple enough to bend the hook back into shape once you’ve got it back in hand.
Finally, thin wire hooks are easier on live bait, keeping them alive and kicking longer.
To sum up, use a thin wire hook when:
Not all hooks are equal, and there are three general hook variations bass anglers need to know and use. Yes, there are further varieties--hooks designed specifically for wacky rigging, or wide-bend hooks and the like--but these three will get the job done perfectly.
Offset hooks are easy to rig weedless.
Offset hooks are named for the bend that places the point and the top of the shank in line. Perfectly designed to hide that sharp point in a soft plastic, these hooks are the optimal choice for Carolina or Texas rigging.
And because the point is “hidden” in the soft plastic body, these hooks can be rigged “weedless,” making them all that much more versatile.
Straight shank hooks are excellent choices for live bait, and from nightcrawlers to crawfish, it’s hard to go wrong with this pick.
That long shank lets you really get a grip on live bait like crawfish and nightcrawlers.
Circle hooks feature a gap that turns back toward the shank, circling a bit more than 180 degrees. This unique design is self-hooking, and rather than the typical hard hookset you’d expect, you simply let the bass take your lure or bait and tighten your line with a few turns of the reel.
Ideal for beautiful hook placement, circle hooks are amazing choices when fishing minnows or shad, but I find straight shank hooks to be superior with crawfish and nightcrawlers.
Circle hooks are also a very good choice for wacky rigging a senko.
With circle hooks, there’s no need for a hard hookset.
Hook sizing can be confusing, especially if you’re new to angling. But once you’ve got the basics figured out, it’s not nearly as hard as it looks.
We hope this article has helped you demystify hook sizing for largemouth, and we’d love to hear from you if it has.
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