Let’s be honest, have you ever sharpened your fishing hooks? I’m guessing about 20% of you actively sharpen your fishing hooks. So, is it worth keeping your hooks super sharp?
All new hooks straight from the packet will be sharp, even the cheap ones. But what happens once you have used them several times?
I never used to sharpen my hooks but as a fly fisherman more than anything else, this was a mistake. Using a single hook, and often a small size 12-16 hook, having a sharp point made a massive difference to my hook-up and landing ratio. I now check every hook and sharpen it if it needs it before adding it to my leader.
In this article, I’ll discuss how to sharpen your hooks, how to check if they need sharpening, and the tools and techniques required to keep hooks sharp.
How Do I Know If My Hooks Need Sharpening?
The last thing any of us want is to waste any time not fishing, as those are valuable hours that need to be made the most of. So, let’s make sure you don’t sharpen a hook that doesn’t need it!
To test whether a hook is sharp enough is incredibly simple. Take the point of the hook and slowly drag it across your fingernail with minimal pressure.
If the hook catches and creates little notches in your nail, then it is more than sharp enough. You can also test how sharp a knife is using this technique.
Another option is to run the hook down your fingerprint, and if it catches in the grooves, it is sharp enough. But, this can end up with an accidental barb in your finger, so be careful using this method.
If your hook isn’t sharp enough it will not catch your nail or your fingerprint, and therefore it needs sharpening!
What Tools Are Needed To Sharpen Fishing Hooks?
Three main tools are needed to sharpen hooks perfectly are a hook file, a vise, and a magnifying lamp.
You can use any knife sharpening tool to sharpen hooks, even an old traditional wet stone will work. But, if you want to make life easier, getting a hook file is your best option as they are smaller and easier to use.
Hooks can be difficult to hold whilst you are sharpening them, I recommend using a vise to make it easier to sharpen the hooks, using a vise also helps to prevent injuries.
The third tool you need is an illuminated lamp. The MagniPros LED Illuminated headband magnifier visor is an affordable hands-free option that has magnification up to 3.5X. It’s versatile and lightweight and can be used for fly tying, hook tying, making rigs, and hook sharpening.
When selecting a hook file, you will have the choice of a stone or diamond file. Diamond files create sharper edges and are therefore a better choice. You can also use them to sharpen your fishing knives too!
A hook file with grooves is also a good choice as it makes it easier to keep the hook in the right place consistently as you sharpen it.
Finally, the hook file you choose should have a low-grit side and a high-grit side. The low grit side shapes the point while the high grit side brings it to its sharpest point.
Which Hook File Is Best?
Hook files are not highly technical tools, a basic sharpener is all you need. My top pick is the affordable SAMSFX Fishing Hook Sharpener. This quality diamond file is double-sided, one side has two slots with a medium 200 grit, and the other side has one groove with a fine 400 grit.
You get two files, and a choice of four colors – red, green, yellow, or blue.
7 Tops Tips On How To Use A Hook File Correctly
Using a hook file in the wrong way can have a dull effect on your hook and compromise its structural integrity. Basically, if you use the file wrong you will have created a blunter and weaker hook, something no one wants – except the fish, of course!
Always Have The Hook Point Moving Forward
The first thing you need to know is to always have the point of the hook moving forwards. This ensures you don’t create any inconsistencies in the hook or cause any structural weak points in the hook either.
If you move the point of the hook backward along the hook file, you’ll make nicks in the hook and little dents so do not do this at all costs.
Only Sharpen Three Sides Of The Hook
The next thing you need to know is to only sharpen three sides of the hook, the left, right, and bottom of the hook. This creates a sharp point on every side and you are aiming for a triangular point.
Do not try to sharpen the inside point of the hook where the barb is as it is too fiddly, and unnecessary, and chances are you will end up damaging it.
I would recommend holding the hook and moving the sharpening tool as it is much easier to
control this way around.
Hone The Hookpoint To Its Original Shape
Your hook will be at its sharpest when it is resharpened back into the original shape as the manufacturer made it. Usually, this is the triangular point I mentioned above but it can vary across certain different hook manufacturers.
Use The Rough (Low Grit) Side First
Now that we know how to use the hook file properly, let’s get into the sharpening side of things. You should start sharpening the hook on the rougher side of the hook file.
This reshapes the hook and gets it ready for the point to be sharpened to the max but don’t go too far on this side. If the hook is a big saltwater hook, then you can go for longer on the rough side, but if it is a small hook, less time is needed.
Remember to rub the hook along the file with the point facing forwards and to sharpen the three sides mentioned above to create the penetrating point.
Use The Smooth (High Grit) Side To Finish
Using the smoother higher grit side of the sharpening tool is where you will create the super sharp point you are looking for.
Again, be sure that the point of the hook is moving forward and sharpen the left, right, and bottom sides of the hook evenly. This will slowly create an incredibly sharp triangular point.
Once you think your hook is sharp enough, check it on your fingernail or your fingerprint. If it doesn’t catch, repeat the process until it is sharp enough.
Don’t Go Too Far With Your Sharpening
It is best to use as few strokes as possible when sharpening your hooks. With every stroke along your hook, the hook file is removing metal and slowly making the point of your hook a little weaker.
If you were to oversharpen your hooks, the point might just snap when you try to set the hook in a fish, so don’t do this!
Eventually, every hook is going to have to be discarded. If you have re-sharpened any size hook two or three times, chances are it is ready to be thrown away as the point will most likely be compromised.
Replace Your Hooks Often
Don’t be afraid to replace your hooks when they need it. Tackle failure isn’t an ok excuse for losing fish these days and throwing out faulty hooks that need to be replaced is simply not an option!
Be sure to check if your hooks need to be thrown away when you check how sharp they are. Make sure you discard any old hooks correctly, either cut them up into small pieces with a pair of quality pliers or place them in a tin and recycle them.
Which Hooks Should I Sharpen?
There is no need to sharpen every hook that you use. Big-size hooks and those used for catching predators should always keep their hooks super sharp since the hard mouths of these fish can easily blunt hooks quickly.
Small sizes 16 – 24 are only 0.20 each and they are difficult to hone due to their small size.
Hooks in the 10 – 14 sizes are easy to hold whilst honing them, and only requires a few strokes to get them sharp again.
Hooks in larger sizes such as the Gamakatsu Sl12S Big Game, and treble hooks such as the Gamakatsu Round Bend Treble Hook are around $1 per piece. These expensive large hooks are easy to hold and sharpen, since they are used for catching large fish, we don’t want to lose those trophy fish due to a poorly sharpened hook.
Any anglers that are targeting specimen carp or big-size bass, will want to ensure they have the sharpest hooks attached to their line. Otherwise, you could easily lose the fish of a lifetime.
As you would have probably expected, higher quality hooks are easier to sharpen, they will get a sharper point, and hold it for longer than a poor quality hook. Therefore, quality makes a big difference in hook sharpening and they will last longer too!
I hope this article was informative and gave you all the insight into how important it is to keep your hooks as sharp as possible. Sharp hooks equal more fish, so it is time to add this to your tackle setup checklist.
Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.