I’ve been trying to find the origination of the fish hook. Perhaps it’s an impossible quest, but I felt the need to do so based largely on curiosity. For some time, I’ve wondered when modern technology would improve, or successfully change, such a basic design.
From what I can tell, the oldest hooks to ever be found are, at minimum, 20,000 years of age. Before the invention of modern materials, hooks were made of bone, sea shells, stone and even wood. And you know what? Most looked exactly like the hooks of today.
Such brings up a few good points (no pun intended). First, it illustrates an example of a nearly divine idea conceived by the human mind. Timeless.
Secondly, it shows that perfection is impossible to improve upon. Right?
Maybe, maybe not. In any case, there have been many attempts just in my short lifetime. A few have led to innovative modifications. Most have flopped.
The first hook mods I can remember in my time fishing were variations on Texas-rig worm rigs. There were models with hinged keeper barbs, two side-by-side points and some much like today’s screw-lock hooks used for fishing swimbaits and buzzfrogs. In any case, the idea was to make rigging worms Texas-style foolproof. At the time I thought the concept was ingenious, yet today, I own no hooks like this.
Later came the TruTurn hook, featuring an offset shank. I believe the concept here is that, by not aligning the hookpoint and line-tie, the hook grabs more fish. This design is still offered and likely has its diehard fans, although I’ve never considered myself one. Either way, the bend and point of the hook itself is much like any other.
O’Shaughnessy styles have been around for decades; in fact, many hooks from the very early days of bass fishing lures - I’m talking 100-plus years ago - were narrow-throated O’Shaughnessy styles. The concept originates from saltwater bait fishing, but is favored by a few modern jighead manufactures as well.
Weedless hooks were all the rage for a little while. Today, the style has narrowed down mostly to livebait fishing, although weedguards that don’t cover the hookpoint are still the go to for many jigs and spoons. Either way, the hook itself is just a hook.
The wide-gap craze came into bass fishing over a decade ago and probably still carries the most leverage as a true innovator. It’s design allows for rigging thick-bodied soft plastics, reducing the possibility of the lure itself getting in the way of hook penetration. Sure, it’s a wider, more open design, but it’s still recognizable as the accepted model.
Circle hooks are probably the most unique of any popular modern hook. They allow penetration in a fish’s mouth, but reduce the possibility of the hook piercing the gullet or throat area. I’ve often wondered why the circle hook design hasn’t yet filtered into bass fishing, as it’s incredibly popular in saltwater. But here again, the design is mainly used for bait fishing, a no-no in the bass market.
The double hook common in most frog lures is unique. It sure hooks the heck out of fish once they have the lure. But again, it’s really just two standard models welded together.
Red coloration was a big thing in hooks. Some still say it helps, but the idea is anything but innovative in terms of the actual hook configuration.
In the 2000s, we’ve seen what may be the most aggressive hook modifications in quite some time. A little over a decade ago, we were introduced to a concept that was hyped to change the treble market with the introduction of the Sure Set. Here we had a truly unique, almost strange-looking advancement, with one hook-point on each treble being much larger than the other two. I believe the idea was for the kicker-point to reach out and snare short strikers. Anyway, it seems to have never caught on. My personal testing at the time didn’t prove any advantage.
More recently, I was intrigued by the concept of the Trapper Hook. Again, here’s a true change from the accepted model, featuring a “second throat” to lock in the fish, reducing the possibility of the hook itself tearing a larger hole in the fish. Still on the market today, I haven’t heard much out of this camp following the initial flood of press releases. I wonder if I ever will.
This idea of more area to hold fish near the bend was likely initiated by fishing lure mastermind Patrick Sebile. He created such with a concept that became the Barbarian-style bends, also still available in select circles.
Sebile has also incorporated spinning treble hooks in a number of his lures, as did at least one other manufacturer over time. The idea is to reduce leverage that leads to lost fish, especially when they jump.
Another hook is now on the market moving in the same direction by using soft cord for the hook eye, allowing the hooks to essentially flop around on the eye. I figure this concept has to work, but I wonder if it may change lure action. Also, a snagged bait is likely a goner, bow-and-arrow technique be damned.
We’ve seen laser points, needle points and surgeon points. They’re all plenty sharp. Lately, we see new wire used in making fish hooks, allowing them to be thinner and sharper. We see new ways to temper these same hooks, allowing them to be stronger. But for the most part, we still see fish hooks shaped like, well, fish hooks.
The same shape that was created in the Neolithic age out of birds' beaks. So I must wonder, what’s left to be discovered?
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)