Hooks are the unsung heroes of panfish conquests. While slab seekers often credit glitzy gear, high-tech electronics, or their own mad fishing skills for making remarkable catches, few fish swing over the rail without first being firmly hooked on a trustworthy slice of well-sharpened steel.
In fact, using dull hooks or failing to match hook size and shape to your quarry, presentation, and the conditions at hand can cost you countless catches.
Fortunately for panfish fans, hook makers take their craft very seriously. Today's anglers enjoy greater hook quality and variety than any generation in history. From classic Aberdeens and baitholders to cutting edge designs, the options are virtually endless, whether you're after bull bluegills, jumbo yellow perch, or slab crappies.
To help you hook up with the right choices for your personal styles of fishing, we offer the following look at 10 top panfish hooks sure to provide the underpinnings for epic fish stories, whether you credit them or not.
Aberdeen hooks are among the most widely used panfish hooks on the planet, and for good reason.
Their light-wire construction makes them a fine choice for presenting live minnows and leeches. Plus, slim Aberdeens are equally adept at piercing the bony jaws of perch or bluegills, without tearing up the soft mouth tissues of crappies. As a bonus, the long shank engenders easy hook removal.
Aberdeen panfish hooks abound, with top picks including the time-tested Eagle Claw Aberdeen Lazer Sharp L214 and VMC's 9146 Aberdeen. Both are forged from top-shelf steel and available in a variety of panfish-friendly sizes.
One of the more innovative Aberdeen variations is the Tru-Turn, which has a kinked shank that rotates the hook under pressure, thereby boosting hookup ratios. Coupled with other Aberdeen attributes, cam-action designs like that of the Tru-Turn 853ZS, for example, are good all-around picks for panfish.
Baitholder hooks such as Mustad's 92641 Beak Baitholder are timeless panfish options. They're characterized by a sliced shank that helps prevent baits from slipping down the shank and off the hook. Ideal for use with worms, bits of nightcrawler, and small pieces of cutbait, baitholders are typically too stout for threading on delicate baits such as minnows.
Cricket- or Carlisle-style hooks like the Eagle Claw 215 are another popular live bait design. They feature an elongated shank that's perfect for securely impaling crickets and grasshoppers while leaving the bait free to kick its legs. You can also use them with worms and minnows, of course, particularly when the latter are hooked tantalizingly through the tail.
And as with standard Aberdeens, the cricket hook's extended shank makes it easier to unhook even deeply hooked panfish.
Certain designs lend themselves to select panfish fishing situations. Light-wire Kahle- or wide-gap options including the Gamakatsu TW, for example, work wonders with small plastics such as finesse worms.
Small octopus-style hooks shine in various capacities, including when snelled in pairs for spinner rigging, holding eggs or dough baits, and for other all-around duties.
Those with circle designs adept at hooking fish in the corner of the mouth or lip, such as the Gamakatsu Circle Octopus, are great when you're dealing with aggressive perch, green sunfish, or rock bass that swallow other hook styles.
Octopus hooks are also solid choices for drop-shotting live or artificial baits. Small spin-shot designs can also be handy, as can TTI-Blakemore's StandOut drop-shot hook, which sports a second eyelet for holding the hook on a horizontal plane.
Hooks on jigs, spoons, and other lures are every bit as critical connections as plain hooks used with live bait or plastics.
Lindy's Tungsten Toad, for example, is a heavy metal marvel that's body is 86 percent more dense than lead, so it reaches panfish strike zones faster than traditional jigs and helps you keep a tighter line once in the strike zone.
But the hook is equally notable. Razor-sharp, it features a 10-degree offset that helps assure solid hookups because it requires very little pressure to bury in the corner of a fish's mouth. If you're fishing with light-wire jigs armed with straight hooks, you can accomplish the same thing by bending the point 10 to 30 degrees to one side.
Northland Fishing Tackle offers another innovative design that's a godsend when tipping jigging spoons with baitfish noggins or artificial softbaits. The appropriately named Minnow-Head Hook couples a wickedly sharp, custom treble hook with an elongated Quick Snap connector.
"It's easy to use and oh, so deadly," says In-Fisherman friend and longtime panfish hunter Chip Leer. "Release the snap from your spoon by twisting it 90 degrees. Thread a minnow head (mouth-first) or soft-plastic trailer onto the attachment device and down the hook shank, then fasten it back to the spoon. Done."
Benefits include enhanced pendulum action for added attraction and ease of inhalation when finicky fish flare their gills. Plus the tipping is held more securely, so you don't have to re-bait as frequently.