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How to Have Killer Success With Circle Hooks



So I have to be honest.  For a long time I struggled with circle hooks, especially when I was catfishing.  I'm not sure if my problem was simply impatience or if I was reverting to the old habits I had developed from all the previous years growing up without circle hooks.   I just couldn't seem to get a good hookup ratio.  This led me to discover a few tactics that literally changed everything overnight.  This is what I want to share with you in this article.

If you’d rather see this explained in a video, go to circlehooks.atkofishing.com and I’ll send a video link to your email.   It shows the process in action catching fish and includes some bonus tips  

First off, if you're not familiar with circle hooks, you need to know they work very differently than the J hook that I grew up with. J hooks need to be "set" by the fisherman.  This is normally done by sweeping back on the rod firmly when you know the fish has the bait or lure.

Circle hooks, on the other hand, work by sliding to the corner of the mouth of the fish when the fish turns away from the line pressure.  Once it's at the corner of the mouth and the fish is swimming away it digs in on its own and hooks the fish.  This is a major benefit for several reasons.

The biggest reason is that it prevents gut hooking and killing fish that you may intend to release.  Another win win situation is that fish will hook themselves even if you can't attend to the rod.  The downside is that if you've trained yourself to set the hook, as I had, you'll rip a circle hook right out of the mouth of a fish before it gets set on its own.  So, as I said, I struggled with this process.  A combination of not getting the right line tension and waiting for the fish to hook itself seemed to be my issue. 

Then I had an epiphany.  I realized that when I was surf fishing I always used circle hooks and had no issues.  This was due to the fact that surf fishing was something I had recently taken up and I had no previous processes ingrained in my brain for it.  Instead, I just did what the experts had showed me and it worked perfectly!

After realizing this I immediately made a plan to implement similar tactics to my catfishing and BAM!!! It was a success.  I've since tweaked the process, so here it is.

I want to first bring your attention to the rig that I tie. I use a basic drop rig (Pompano rig)(Kentucky rig)  with a single hook and an over hand loop on the bottom to attach my sinker.  Here's a picture

To tie this rig I start with about 3 feet of leader. But first things first, I apply lip balm to my lips and then to the areas of the leader that will tied into knots.  This reduces friction and lets the knots snug up very tightly.  For eater size cats and surf fishing for drum and redfish I normally use 20-30 mono here.  For big cats or heavy structure I may use up to 80 lb mono. 

Next, I tie a dropper loop about 2-3 inches long one third the way down the leader. This dropper loop is where I attach the hook as seen in the pic above.  After it's tied, squeeze the end of the loop together and pass through the hook eye from the front.  Pull the loop all the way over the hook bend and then pull tight down on the shank.  

Of course, I always use Atko Beast Slayer Circle Hooks.  It is very important that you match the size of the hook to the beast you're after.  The gap on the hook needs to be large enough to go over the side of the mouth of the fish.  For small cats up to 5lbs a 3/0 is good.  When I'm after big ones then I use up to a 12/0.

At the bottom, I tie an overhand loop knot big enough to pass through the eye of the sinker I'm using and around it to secure. 

Next, I attach the leader to my main line with a swivel via improved clinch knot on the mono side and a Palomar knot on the braid side.  For my mainline, I always use Atko Leviathan braid.  If I'm fishing for eater size cats I will probably go with 20-30lb.   When I'm using bigger baits for trophy size fish, I use 50-100 depending on where I'm fishing.

Tying this leader may sound complicated but it's actually very easy.  I created a video teaching this whole system.  If you'd like to see it, go to CircleHooks.AtkoFishing.Com

The next step in the system is to use vertical rod holders.  This allows the full flexibility of the rod to be engaged which plays big a part in hooking the fish.  After casting out the line, and placing in the rod holder, I reel the line tight and set the drag.   I like the drag to be just loose enough that a fish has to bend the rod pretty good before it starts stripping line.  This is where the hookset happens.

The reason I like to reel the line up taught is that so when the fish first feels tension, it will turn away from it. This is key to a circle hook performing properly.

Patience is required to not pick up the rod out of the holder until the you are positive the fish is hooked.  Just let the rod and holder do all the work!   

If you are struggling with circle hooks, I want to encourage you to give this system a try.  I guarantee your success will improve and you'll come home with more fish. 

Now that you have an idea of how to let your fish catch themselves, go to CIRCLEHOOOKS.ATKOFISHING.COM to see it put into action and learn some bonus tips   

Put this technique in to practice and be sure send me your results!

Tight Lines,




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