Popular coarse fishing blogger Colin Mitchell is back here exclusively on the Angler's Mail website to share his insight on choosing the right hook.

WHEN you decide which hook to tie on your line you use the tried and tested method of matching it to the size of bait you are using. Right?

But is that always the correct way of making a decision on the size of hook?

Think about it: a smaller hook might get you more bites but it could also mean less fish landed.

But does a bigger hook necessarily mean that you have a better hook hold and more chance of landing a fish.

Confused? No need to be! Like everything in angling there is a simple answer.

Yes you do need to match your hook to the size of bait you are using.

It would look right to impale two maggots on a size 18 but it would be ridiculous to put two on a size 10 (although I have had this work in the past!).

When you have a big or hard bait like a boilie you hair rig it – so what’s the point in having a small hook! You just wouldn’t!

carp rig main


Look at the size of the mouth on the fish you are trying to catch – a carp or chub’s mouth can easily engulf big baits and therefore a big hook.

And if the fish can suck up a boilie it’s not likely to notice the weight of a big bigger hook – which remember appears to weigh less in water anyway!

And you can always counter-balance the weight of the hook with baits like a partial pop-up or some form of buoyancy like a bit of foam.

So don’t just match your bait to the hook. Also match the hook to the size of fish you plan to catch!

Small hook or large hook?

A smaller hook doesn’t always bring more bites. Start on a model just a bit bigger than you may have done – and you can soon drop down if you do not get any signs.

The reverse is not always possible. Start on a small hook, get a bite, lose a fish – and the rest of the fish in the area might get spooked too. Or worse, you may not get another chance!

It wasn’t long ago that most people talked about size 22, 20 and 18 as the most popular size of hooks in their box – even though 16s and 14s were the best sellers over the tackle shop counter.

But remember that was when there were fewer carp around and we didn’t have a big head of hungry fish in commercials – and rivers and canals were fished a lot harder than they are now.

The carp have grown bigger, as have the silver fish in commercials, so you can get away with bigger hooks and baits, especially when pleasure fishing.

Smaller hooks and lighter line still have a part to play in warmer months, for days when it's unexpectedly hard.

Canals and rivers are not pressured as much so the fish are not as shy as they were and once again you will get away with bigger hooks than you might expect.

I gather that size 14 is still the most popular hook in shops with 16 a close second – obviously we are talking about just normal coarse fishing here, not specialist anglers, like carp and barbel.

I am not surprised as many pleasure anglers have always erred on the side of safety against losing fish, going for a slightly bigger hook. Why not?

Those are certainly the two most used sizes from my hook box – having gone up from 18 and 16 in recent years.

Why I now love a size 14 hook

Here’s another reason why a 14 is probably my go-to hook size, and not just because it can handle a multitude size of baits.

A top angler who used to win a lot of events on rivers, canals and lakes before he called a day on matchfishing a few years ago once revealed to me that he was using a 14 most of the time.

3. Every species snaffles maggots with no hesitation! It is the ultimate bait for anglers when they start out in fishing, such is the awesome pulling power of these little bluebottle grubs. Two pints will set you back around £6, and provide you with enough bait for a decent day’s sport. Spraying grubs is usually guaranteed to send fish into a feeding frenzy. Even big, canny chub let their guard down when a shower of maggots waft past their nose. Colour can often prove critical. Red maggots usually score over whites, particularly for predatory fish such as perch and chub. Bronze maggots often produce good sport, too, so take a mixture with you.

I was gobsmacked. He used a 14 on the often-difficult Grand Union Canal even when fishing maggots or punched bread.

He used the same size on the Thames when after dace and roach – and was quite happy on many other venues with the same hooks.

The rest of us were more often than not on 20s, sometimes 18s, believing we were scratching for bites as he hauled in fish after fish.

We thought he had the venues cracked, that he was just a very good angler. Those things were obviously correct too – but what gave him a further edge is that he also had confidence in his tackle and presentation and was often able to land fish we didn’t – and sometime faster – because of the bigger hook.

Now having said all of the above, a few words of wisdom about hooks to pass on from that late, great master Ivan Marks.

One time, Ivan was almost invincible when it came to catching proper bream, particularly on the hard-fished River Welland.

It would be no surprise to see him land slabs on a tiny size 22 hook. Confidence and top ability, of course!

But his theory is that once a small hook gets hold it is difficult for a fish to shake it free.

And that leads us nicely into selecting the right shape of hook to fish with. But that’s for another time…

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