Words and photos by Chris Funk
As anglers we need to make sure every variable we can control is in our favor. Good line and strong knots are two things that will help but if that line is attached to a dull hook you may miss the fish altogether.
Too many times we tie on a rig and fish it all morning with little thought of the abuse a hook tip takes. Bony jaws, sand, rocks and the occasional tree stump can leave the sharp point of a hook dull as a doorknob. A dull hook will skip off a fish jaw more often than it will dig in leaving us wondering how we missed the fish.
As often as we check knots, we really need to check the sharpness of our hook points. The easiest way to do this is to drag it lightly over a fingernail. The tip of a sharp hook will grab the nail and stick. If pulled harder it will lead to a doctor visit. A dull hook will drag across the nail just like it will in a fish's mouth. We want the sticky sharp hook to dig into the fish's jaw, increasing our hook up ratio on the water.
It is not difficult to achieve sticky sharpness after a hook has dulled. A file or whetstone is a good tool to have for the job. I use a knife sharpener that has a hook groove built in as well. It has helped me on camping adventures for keeping my knives sharp too. There are other smaller products that are just for hooks, but this one serves me well.
To sharpen your hook, hold it firmly and lay it on its side putting pressure on the point in the groove if your tool is equipped with one. Keep it at a low angle to the face of the stone or file and drag it, in one direction only, three or four times. Working in one direction helps to prevent burrs and rough spots on the sharpened edge. Repeat this on the other side of the hook and then again on the point face opposite of the hook shank. Try to work the three sides evenly and then test the sharpness of the hook point on your thumbnail. Be careful not to impale yourself while you are testing. I do not want to receive any hate mail for this tip!
It will take a bit of a learning curve but soon you will be able to put a better-than-new point on your hooks. That leads to another point, not all manufacturers are created equal when it comes to hook sharpness. Even coming from a brand new package it is in your best interest to check those hooks before you fish. If you make it a point to check your hooks before and periodically during an adventure it will pay off in a big way.
Jackson Kayak pro staffer Chris Funk is a proud self-proclaimed redneck outdoorsman. He swings a mean camera, particularly when any of his beloved critters are around. Funk is a Kayak Fish Magazine contributing editor.