Colin Mitchell, our Sunday blogger.

IT’S time for our must-read Sunday blog on this new-look Angler’s Mail website. Every Sunday we welcome coarse fishing all-rounder Colin Mitchell.

For many years Colin was a senior Angler’s Mail magazine staff man and he has enjoyed a long, interesting journalism career. He understands match fishing, pleasure fishing, carp fishing – the lot.

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WHAT’S the most important item in your fishing gear? Rod, reel, pole, box, line, bait?

In reality, none of those things really matter unless you get one thing right – the hook! You can have the best of everything but if the hook is wrong you might as well pack up and go home now, take up golf.

An angler can almost fish with a stick and cotton and a piece of twig as a float. But he can’t do without a hook. And it has to be the correct hook to get the best from all of his other gear.

Over many years I convinced myself that if there was a struggle to get bites and a bait change didn’t work all I had to do was scale down my line to a lower breaking strain and go smaller with my hooks. It usually worked, but not always.

In more recent times we have all, of course, learnt that it is not the line’s breaking strain that really matters but the diameter.

And thanks to massive developments in this area we are now using lines with incredibly small diameters for breaking strains that in the past we could only dream of at that thickness.

So scaling down from 5lb line to 1.5lb line is no longer such a big deal. We are probably all using line now that is thin enough to attract bites and if we have to go thinner we know it doesn’t meant sacrificing too much on the breaking strain front.

So much choice…. but hook decisions can really matter.

But many anglers still think that a smaller hook is just that. How wrong they are! Different brands and patterns of hook vary enormously in their strengths, weights, the thickness of wire and even in size.

A size 18 in one make doesn’t always equate to the same size by another manufacturer. Even hooks made by the same firm can vary in size, despite saying they are the same on the packets.

You don’t need a big, forged, thick wire hook to carry two maggots when you are after roach. And you certainly wouldn’t use a delicate fine wire version for a piece of bread and carp!

It’s like anything else in fishing: you match the gear to what you aim to catch. Hooks should not only be thought about in terms of the species you are fishing for – and where you are fishing for them, such as snags or clear water – but they should also be suitable for the baits you are using.

A hair-rigged bait means you can get away with a bigger hook. But you still want a version that is light enough to be sucked in by a wary fish. Sweetcorn goes nicely on a big 16 or a 14; maggots on a 22, 20 or 18 (even a small 16); a piece of worm is good on an 18 but I like a nice decent work on a 16, 14 or 12 – or even a 10 if it’s a nice big juicy wriggler. Bread is great because it’s easy to see whether a piece of punch or flake covers the hook.

Think bait and fish rather than hook size and always remember the hook needs to be sharp. Ditch any that show the slightest sign of bluntness.

Finally, don’t give me a laugh like some kids down the local small and shallow pond which contains loads of roach and some small carp, plus ONE big carp that might, just might, make big teens.

The other week there was a horde of kids there so I was glad I was going home as their ranks grew. One snagged in a tree and yelled to his mate: “Lend us a hook.” The reply came back: “How big?” To which the first said: “As big as you have got!” Give him his due though, he did cover the hook with half a slice of bread!

He must have been after the ONE…





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