While bass anglers boast finesse and fine-tuned presentations ad infinitum, legions of panfishers operate on whole other levels of subtle and small. The dainty specialty panfish hooks we wield work with calculated efficiency, precisely extracting their quarry like a master dentist. Size, shape, bend, barb, gap, and sharpness of panfish hooks really do matter, as does quality of the metal. So does bait selection, of course. Put these together and the result is a pile of fish, giving us grins broader than a 20/0 shark hook. Classics such as an Aberdeen and a minnow, or a baitholder and worm, are steadfast panfish producers. Yet, we'd be remiss not to mention a host of new options — hooks for spinner rigging, multi-bait dropper rigs, float rigging, drop-shotting, and ultra-finessing with soft plastics.
, Tru-Turn Hooks
- Likely the most universal panfish hook, particularly among crappie enthusiasts, the Aberdeen's straight shank and ultra-fine-wire construction make it a perfect choice for fishing small minnows. Hooked beneath the delicate skin along the dorsal fin, minnows wriggle for extended periods. The Aberdeen also couples well with a small leech fished below a float.
The Aberdeen's light wire easily penetrates bony-jawed bluegills and perch, yet typically doesn't damage a crappie's paper-thin mouth. Its slightly beaked point further aids light hook-sets, and keeps fish pinned. Many anglers prefer gold or red finishes for flash and visibility, while muted bronze is another option. Size 8 and 10 are favored.
Perhaps the trendiest Aberdeen-style hook, the easy-setting Tru-Turn, was invented by John W. Campbell in 1960 and is now owned by TTI-Blakemore. With its kinked shank, the hook rotates toward the source of pressure, moving and perhaps embedding the point more easily. This design is also offered by Mr. Crappie, another TTI-Blakemore brand, and there's a newer rendition from Eagle Claw.
- A timeless design for presenting pieces of nightcrawler, worms, and chunk-style baits, the baitholder sports a beaked point and a double-sliced shank (two baitholders) to keep baits from sliding off the hook. Many versions also have a turned-down eye for snelling, or come as pre-tied hook leaders. Anglers frequently 'thread ' a worm onto these hooks or re-impale the bait multiple times to keep it from wiggling free.
Often presented on a slipsinker or split-shot rig for perch, trout, sunfish, and rock bass, the baitholder's thicker wire makes it less desirable for rigging with minnows or other delicate baits. Anglers commonly opt for a #8 baitholder, with #6s and #10s also popular.
- Another option for aggressive sunfish, perch, or rock bass intent on swallowing standard J-hooks, circle hooks can be effective in select situations, hooking fish shallower and causing less deep-hooking injury. For float-fishing with livebait, slow-drifting, and generally passive presentations, #4 to #8 circle hooks can be a fine choice. Put the rod in a holder or sand-spike and let the hook do its thing.
, cabelas.com (Tiemco/TMC)
- Many anglers are discovering the advantages of drop-shotting for big perch, sunfish, and other species. Octopus designs in #8 and smaller work well for standard drop-shot rigs tied with a Palomar knot. TTI-Blakemore offers an alternative, the StandOut hook, which features a second 'guide ' eyelet for holding the hook in a horizontal position. TTI-Blakemore also has a series of Stacker Rigs for presenting multiple baits on a single line.
, basspro.com (White River)
, Kamasan - Overlooked by most panfishers, tiny hooks used by fly-tiers offer advantages for finesse presentations and dropper rigs with tiny baits. Of particular interest are curved designs intended for scud and pupae imitations, such as the Daiichi 1130 Wide Gape Scud Hook, which couples beautifully with live larvae and baby leeches. Diminutive #14s to #20s effortlessly pierce tiny yet bony bluegill chops, and also give micro softbaits an unmatched natural stature. Straight-shank hooks, such as the Partridge Spider and Daiichi 2460 are fine alternatives to Aberdeen hooks in #12 and smaller.
Choice options from Daiichi, Tiemco/TMC, Kamasan, and Partridge feature premium forged steel, micro barbs, and chemically sharpened points.
Kahle & Wide-Gap Hooks
- Though not a traditional panfish design, some anglers are discovering the advantages of using wide-gap hooks for rigging tiny plastics and finesse worms. The pronounced offset aids hook-sets and adds action to certain softbaits. Wide-gap and Kahle-style hooks in #14 and #16 match tiny plastics and livebaits for species such as crappies, perch, and white bass.
Carlisle / Cricket Hooks
- A top choice among redear sunfish (shellcracker) anglers, extra-long-shank 'cricket hooks ' offer several advantages. Pierced lightly through the upper neck section, crickets and grasshoppers stay securely fastened and continue kicking. Usually fished beneath a bobber or slipfloat and one or more splitshot, these hooks also can be used to present worms or small tail-hooked minnows. Common sizes for panfish are #6, #8, and #10.
Even with deeply hooked fish, the long shank and eye of this hook protrude out of the mouth, allowing you to easily grasp and extract it. When snagged, a slow, steady pull usually straightens the hook and sets it free. You can quickly bend it back to its normal shape.
- This popular design is versatile for presenting an array of live and artificial baits. Two #10 octopus-style hooks snelled in tandem constitute a top choice for spinner-rigging for short-strikers with minnows, earthworms, and wormlike softbaits. Egg-style octopus hooks sport a sliced shank or single bait barb for holding an egg or dough bait securely on the hook. Anglers pursuing stocker-sized rainbow trout are especially fond of this hook in #8, #10, and #12 sizes, which makes an outstanding panfish option as well.