Selecting the right choice and size of hook pattern is the most important part of any set-up as getting this wrong can make or break a match, or lose you that fish of a lifetime.
I’ve spent many hours on the bank in practice sessions, trying out different patterns of hook to work out what’s best. Over the years, I’ve probably tested more hooks than any other match angler!
Having two major hook manufacturers, the first being Mustad who no longer produces match hooks and the latest being Drennan, has been a big help and given me access to some of the most recognisable patterns of hook on the market, most of which you’ll have come across before and quite possibly use as your number one pattern.
However, ask yourself this – ‘why did I choose that pattern in the first place?’
Just because Alan Scotthorne uses them doesn’t mean they’re the right pattern for the job in hand and there are several things to assess when making that choice, which applies to heavyweight commercial carp hooks or super fine roach patterns for bloodworm and pinkies in winter, and they are:
1 Firstly, the hook must have a very sharp, but durable point. There’s nothing worse than constantly changing a hook because it loses its sharpness and it will cost you fish – if you have a run of fish slipping the hook, check the sharpness by running the point over your thumbnail. If it glides smoothly, it’s fine. If there’s a juddering, bin it and tie on another one.
2 Strength is very important too, as if the hook is brittle it will break. If the wire is too soft, however, it will straighten out easily. The hook’s tempering, achieved in the manufacturing process, needs to be just right as if it’s been overtempered, the hook will break and the fish will be lost, whereas if it opens slightly under extreme pressure you can still land the fish.
3 Shank length must also be considered, especially when catching small fish quickly or baiting up fast with small baits like bloodworm. A longer shank on small hooks also helps to keep the fish on once it is hooked.
4 The spade also needs some scrutiny. If it is too small, then the whipping can pull over it and the fish will be lost, while if the spade is too big you’re in danger of hooking the fish with the spade as it masks the actual hook on the strike, resulting in just a blob of snot on the spade and no fish!
5 Eyed hooks are used a lot nowadays on commercial fisheries and I prefer the eye to be as small as possible. With hooks regularly tied with knotless knots, however, it must also be big enough to pass the line through twice, even when using small hooks.
6 The finish or colour of the hook must be smooth. All hooks, even bronze patterns, are coated to stop rusting and if that coating is rough, this impedes penetration and hooking baits like maggots become difficult, resulting in burst baits.
ALAN'S ESSENTIAL HOOK PATTERNS
With all that considered, it can still be a bit of a minefield when visiting the tackle shop. To help, here are the five hooks I always carry with me for commercial carp waters throughout the year. They cover around 90 per cent of my fishing, are utterly reliable and, most importantly, tick every box for the job in hand.
KAMASAN B911 BARBLESS
This hook is probably the most popular for commercial carp fishing where big weights are on the cards. I use it mainly for fishing the pole when faced with carp into double figures throughout the summer, a size 16 being used mostly with baits like meat, corn, soft pellets and worms. In fact, if I could only ever use one hook for this style of fishing this would, without doubt, be the one.
The wire size and shape of hook are perfect for landing big fish, with a swept-in point that pulls into the fish, rather than pulling out. A B911 also presents your bait extremely well due to its light weight. A size 16 is still strong enough to handle 0.16mm diameter hooklengths, but it has a reasonable-sized spade to take larger diameter lines.
KAMASAN B911 F1 BARBLESS
THE ‘BOOM’ fish on commercials in recent years has to have been the F1 hybrid, a fish that’s much smaller than normal carp but, more importantly, feeds with a little more finesse at times and so it soon became obvious that hooks finer than run-of-the-mill carp patterns were a must.
B911 F1 hooks are made from 0.33mm gauge wire as opposed to the 0.43mm gauge of a normal B911 in a size 16 and this means even better presentation for baits like 4mm expander pellets and maggots, which work extremely well in the colder months when these fish become the bread and butter targets when carp become less active.
Therefore, hooklengths also need to be scaled down and 0.10mm and 0.11mm diameter being my choice, lines that will still give you the chance of landing the odd rogue carp that you may hook if used in conjunction with light hollow elastics. Using this hook will catch you more fish in the colder months as you’ll get extra bites.
KAMASAN B911 EYED BARBLESS
The same pattern as the B911 Barbless, but eyed for fishing with a knotless knot is spot on for hair-rigging baits. However, too many anglers believe that eyed hooks are only for fishing with bomb or feeder – that’s partly true, but the eyed B911 also makes a good hook for fishing a hair-rig with a bait band with hard pellets, either shallow or on the bottom.
When fishing on the bottom, I tie the band on the hair very close to the bend of the hook as you’ll be lifting into the fish via the strike rather than relying on them hooking themselves as happens when fishing the tip. For shallow work, though, I allow 5mm of space between the hook and the pellet band. That way, the fish will hook themselves and yank the pole tip down without you needing to strike as they find it difficult to reject the hook. Bait pushers or bait spikes tied to the hair are a good way to mount hookbaits, especially when you’re getting missed bites. It’s difficult to lose the hookbait so you’ll notneed to keep shipping back to replace it, thus giving you more actual fishing time.
DRENNAN BARBLESS MARGIN CARP
Fishing the margins in the later stages of a match has produced big weights during the summer and beefed up rigs and hooks need to be able to take the strain as double figures are more common in this part of the peg.
Slightly flattened to give them that extra strength and also reducing tendency to ‘gape’ (open out) on a marginally thinner wire, when fishing big baits like full worm, hook weight is not so important but smaller baits like bunches of maggots, for example, will need something a little more refined.
These hooks are also handy for fishing to snags and rushes where elastics have to be tightened up to pull fish into open water. They’re not the type of peg I like fishing, but they do represent a challenge to catch a weight in these situations and this hook hasn’t let me down yet!
DRENNAN POWER HAIR RIGGERS
These are a recent discovery for me and they still hold a 100 per cent record as I’ve not yet lost a fish using them. They look different to the normal pattern I would use for carp, be that for straight lead fishing or on a Method feeder where hair-rigged baits are generally used and, put simply, they’re brilliant.
When you tie one up, the first thing you’ll notice is that they are super sharp and you tend to keep hooking your fingers all of the time, bad news when you’ve got dozens to tie but good news when you’re relying on the fish hooking themselves. They sit well on the line, the turned out eye giving a maximum gape width and the strength is increased by the flattening of the wire around the bend.
I find that placing a small piece of silicone rubber on the shank helps to keep the hair-rig and bait in line with the shank. I’m sure this leads to more fish hooked; if there’s one thing to try on commercials, it has to be this hook.