Skip to main content

How To Restore Rusty Fishing Hooks

How To Restore Rusty Fishing Hooks
Don't pitch your old rusty hooks into the garbage, this easy trick will bring them back to life.

Between inflation and getting older, I’m turning into a skinflint. A friend of mine calls these routines and ways “old man’s disease.” For example, I wake well before the sun comes up, typically starting the day with a cup of yesterday’s coffee. I eat leftovers several days in a row; buy groceries in bulk and freeze; shop for penny savings in gas; water down my dishwashing detergent; the list goes on. We’ll skip the ammunition hoarding.

Same when it comes to fishing. I used to throw out rusty hooks, jigheads, and crankbait treble hooks, but over the past few years I’ve sought out ways to restore them to fishability. Along the way, I’ve discovered numerous methods to remove fishhook rust through web searches and YouTube, but I think I’ve come up with something better—a combination of that research and a Eureka! moment of my own.

sea foam treats rusty hooks
Sea Foam keeps your motor clean and will help remove any rust from your hooks. The first step in the cleaning process.
02-rusty-hooks
A simple soak in Sea Foam will help loosen the corroding rust on jigheads.

Why do fish hooks rust? If you’re an idiot like me and fish in pouring rain, keeping the insides of any tackle storage boxes waterproof can be difficult. Between opening up tackle boxes in the rain, and boat hatches that inevitably let water in during squalls, especially when letting water-penetrated boxes sit in boat compartments for days between fishing outings, most hooks are prone to rust.

Fishing late-winter and early-spring rains on the river this year, I discovered that a bunch of my tackle got wet, sat in my boat compartments for days, and rusted. Luckily, that was limited to a couple trays filled with walleye and Ned rig jig heads—and not a bunch of costly crankbaits.

While I could have thrown out the entire shooting match of jigs, I scoffed at the idea of losing hundreds of dollars of tackle to the rust fairy.

So, I began to research the best way to remove rust from fish hooks. What I discovered were a couple of common methods on the internet—one utilizing baking soda and the other WD-40—the latter believed to possess some kind of fish-attracting quality due to the shark oil in its ingredients.

Yes, before Dr. Juice, Fish Formula, and the myriad scents available today, anglers were spraying their baits with standard, garage-grade WD-40—many reporting positive, fish-catching results. Reality or farce? Not sure, we’re all suckers for a better way when it comes to catching fish. Trying it certainly can’t hurt.

Jim’s Simple Sea Foam Rust Treatment

Sitting at the garage workbench, dozens of rusty jigheads in front of me, I started playing around with baking soda dissolved in water to form a paste, and an unscented stainless steel scour pad and a stiff toothbrush. I discovered that while this will take some rust off, it’s a painstaking task. Same for the same procedure with WD-40.

Looking for a way out of countless hours scrubbing the tarnished metal, I saw a can of Sea Foam on my garage shelf—a fuel additive I’ve used religiously to in various outboard motors over the years. In a nutshell, Sea Foam not only helps treat your gas, it cleans your intake, carb, fuel injector, etc. I also use the High Mileage version of Sea Foam in my old Ford pickup, which has 220,000 miles on it and is still running strong, largely due to the Coyote V8 design, buying good gas, and treating every half dozen tanks or so with a can of the aforementioned Sea Foam High Mileage additive. I thought: Why not soak the rusty hooks in Sea Foam and see what happens?

So, I filled a mason jar with Marine Sea Foam and dropped the rusty jigs in the motorhead tincture. After something like 5 to 7 days, I noticed the rust dissipating and coloring the water, cleaning the hooks like it would the build-up inside an outboard and truck engine.

Following that, I drained off the Sea Foam, dumped the jig heads in a tray, then poured over a paste of baking soda/water, mixing it around and scrubbing with a firm-bristled toothbrush; then adding various scents to the slurry. I scrubbed some jig heads more than others, then wiped them off; good to go! The Sea Foam did most of the work for me—much better than using baking soda, WD40, or various metal polishes on their own.

03-rusty-hooks
Have a few of the right ingredients handy to fully clean and rejuvenate your old rusty hooks.
04-rusty-hooks
A little scrubbing will be required to remove all the rust, but it'll help you save money in the long run!

By the way, if the hooks are super old and rusty, you can substitute powdered Barkeepers’ Friend in place of baking soda, which has more scouring power. You can also let the rusted hooks soak in the Sea Foam for longer than a week to do more of the work for you.

Recommended


The final step is crucial: Use a file to sharpen the hooks, making sure they’ll stick fish, like new jigs right out of the package.

That’s it—looking for a project to return rusty hooks to starter squad status? Give this DIY project a shot.

Good fishing!

05-rusty-hooks
Adding a little scent to the process will increase your chances of successful encounters.



GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Learn

Angler and Rescuers Reunite After One-In-A-Million Offshore Epic

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Destinations

World-Class Channel Cats below the Selkirk Dam in Manitoba with Blackwater Cats

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Learn

Controlled Drifting for GIANT Blue Cats with Phil King

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Learn

3 SIMPLE and EASY Catfish Rigging Tips with Captain Ross Robertson

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Destinations

CATFISH FEVER!

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Learn

How To: Rigging For Fall Catfish

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Gear

The PERFECT Rod to Carolina Rig With G. Loomis GLX Bass Rods

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Destinations

In-Fisherman Classics: Stalking Giant Flatheads AFTER DARK

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Destinations

In-Fisherman Classics: Big Cat Safari - Finding Spring Channel Catfish

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Fishing

New Podcast! Life on the Lower Niagara River with Capt. Frank Campbell

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Learn

In-Fisherman Classics: Where to Find Post-spawn Walleyes

In this throw-back video, Dave Csanda shares some insight on the best way to tempt big walleyes into eating with what he...
Learn

In-Fisherman Classics: What Are the Top Walleye Baits Of ALL TIME?

In-Fisherman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the In-Fisherman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top In-Fisherman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now