Forty-six years after the end of the Revolutionary War, a pair of Englishmen from Redditch opened a sporting good store on Park Place in New York City, T & J Bate Company. It underwent several name changes, finally to William Mills & Sons in 1875, surviving over 100 years in business making fish hooks, flies, and top-end fly rods and reels. Their 1924 catalog was 160 pages.
Photos show that beginning in about 1859, one of their popular hook styles was an Aberdeen, with the long shank and fine wire we’re familiar with today, but lacking an eye. Presumably anglers would pound the end flat into a “spade” shape, then tie directly with some form of a snell knot.
In the late 1920s, shortly after Drew McGill and Stan Wright had formed a fly tying company, the pair was trout fishing the upper Colorado River. As the story goes, McGill had difficulty hooking fish, and while observing closely an eagle’s talons in action, decided to make a better hook. The resulting product had sweeping curves and a sharp point designed to set in line with the direct pull from a leader. Today, Eagle Claw offers several series of Aberdeen hooks, the most popular their #202 gold model.
According to Matt Gray, Eagle Claw Marketing Manager, the company has been making this style for at least 30 years. “The Aberdeen has always been one of our top sellers at Eagle Claw,” he says. “Distribution is nationwide, but strongest in the southern states. This fine-wire, long-shank hook is a favorite of crappie anglers fishing minnows.
“They’re tempered to be a little softer, to bend out easily when anglers hang in brush,” Gray continues. “But when bent back into shape, they retain their strength.” Eagle Claw offers Aberdeens in platinum black, red, chartreuse, and gold. A snelled version (#121) also is popular. Most are available from #8 to 2/0, with #2, #4, and #6 the best sellers. Eagle Claw also sells plenty of Crappie Rigs, a wire spreader with a pair of Aberdeens. Eagle Claw also offers an Aberdeen Automatic Rotating Hook (#222), bent to add action to a slow trolling presentation.
Mustad offers a gold Snelled Aberdeen, with a turned down eye, of extra-fine wire from #6 to 2/0 with leaders of 6- to 10-pound test. Their Slow Death hook is based on an Aberdeen hook, but with a lateral bend to impart a spiraling action to a trolled nightcrawler, deadly for walleyes and other gamefish. It’s available in bulk or with a leader.
Tru-Turn, part of TTI Companies, offers six series of Aberdeens in blood red, real gold, bronze, and blue, all with their patented kinked shaft with cam action that turns in a fish’s mouth to set the point upward into the jaw whatever the angle of the bite. Tru-Turns were invented in 1959, initially as a worm hook for bass. Company spokesman T. J. Stallings points to the #6 blood red Aberdeen as their top seller. “They bend out to free a snag, then can be bent back into shape, more than 10 times in my experience,” he says.
Aberdeen hooks for panfish have a long history and continues as an American favorite for crappies and perch, but also for sunfish in smaller sizes. The thin wire not only bends but keeps livebaits frisky and can be readily removed, thanks to its extended shank.