Circle Hooks vs. J-Hooks

Circle Hooks vs. J-Hooks

In fishing, the details can be exhausting. There are hundreds of things an angler can do in one single excursion to potentially improve their chances at catching and landing trophy fish. For beginners, all of these details are often overwhelming and are best learned through experience.

One small aspect of fishing tackle often overlooked is the hook. Most anglers are concerned about their rod, reel and line and forget how important it is to use the proper hook. There are well over 10 types of hooks you could use on a single fishing trip. However, circle hooks and “J” hooks are going to be the most common choices.

Here are a few facts on the differences between circle hooks and “J” hooks. There is no clear cut answer on what type of hook is better, but they each perform better than the other in certain situations.

J Hooks

J Hooks are a more traditional style of hook. They get their name from looking exactly like the letter J. They have a straight shank, a “U” shape bend and hold the bait well. These hooks are best to use when you’re targeting fish with smaller mouths or fish that are more aggressive.

These are the perfect hooks to use if you’re fishing for food. They’re going to keep the fish pinned and make it difficult for it to escape. If you’re targeting Mahi-mahi, Swordfish or any sort of fish with a bone-filled jaw, the J hook is best.

These hooks are also smart to use if you’re going after fish that inhale the bait at a slower pace. If the fish don’t immediately swim off after eating and you set the hook, the J hook will likely snag something on its way out of their mouth.

J hooks are the way to go when you’re going to target large fish. They’re easily sharpened and have proven their ability to keep the fish on the line.

Downsides of J Hooks

J Hooks are not easy to use if you’re just fishing catch and release. As the fish swallow the bait and you set the hook, chances are you’re going to hook them in the throat or the gills. As soon as the gills of a fish are damaged, its chances of survival decrease immensely.

Plus, if these hooks have barbs, they’re going to get snagged in the mouth of the fish and likely lead to increased time out of the water due to the challenge of removing the hook from the fish.

It’s also not uncommon to snag fish when you’re using a J hook. If a fish is snagged somewhere other than the mouth, the hook will dive deeper and deeper as you reel it towards yourself. This causes quite a bit of damage. For fish conservationists, there has been a strong push to minimize the use of J hooks.

Circle Hooks

As far as safety and general enjoyment is concerned, you cannot go wrong with a circle hook. Yes, J hooks are great to use when targeting large fish, but a circle hook can keep a Bluefin or Tiger Shark pinned just as well. It’s going to require a smarter hook set and some increased skill, but they are still quite effective.

Circle hooks have a curved hook point that sits close to the shank. They’ve increased in popularity over the last couple decades due to the minimal damage they inflict on the fish. These hooks often snag the fish in the corner of the mouth and don’t result in as many injured fish.

The J hooks will hook the fish deeper than a circle hook so remember that your fight is going to require some skill in order to keep the fish pinned.

A necessary thing to remember when using circle hooks is to keep the tip of the hook exposed. If you keep it covered with bait, the chances of fully hooking the fish decrease. You need to be sure the hook point has the chance to catch the corner of the mouth.

It’s best to use circle hooks when you’re targeting fish that move fast. These are great for Marlin, Sailfish, Redfish and Cobia. They attack quickly and turn their heads as they attack. Once they eat your bait, they automatically pin themselves in the corner of their mouths.

Circle hooks basically set themselves so if you’re fishing with rods in holders, a circle hook is a great choice. You often don’t have time to grab the rod and set the hook when you’re fishing rods in holders. The fish will take the bait and hook themselves so you don’t have to worry about nailing the hook set.

To properly land the fish, you need to give it time to eat. By immediately setting it, you will pull it directly out of the mouth of the fish. This amount of patience can be difficult for anglers to withstand. However, with your patience comes a great hook set as well as a healthy fish.

Some argue that circle hooks are great for less skilled anglers to use. If you’re fishing with someone inexperienced and you see a fish take their bait, you can tell the less experienced angler to be patient. You don’t have to worry about the fish swallowing the hook and tearing vital organs on the hook set.

You can let the fish swallow the bait and don’t have to be exact on the timing of the hook set. A few reels and pull of the rod will fully lodge the hook into the mouths of the fish and the fight can ensue!

Plus, circle hooks minimize the chances of snagging. You won’t hook the fish in the dorsal or the gut as it swipes and misses your bait. It’ll bounce off of the fish and give it another opportunity to take a bite out of your bait.


The biggest downside is that the true motion of a hook set is lost on a circle hook. You see the bait taken and a big jerk on the rod isn’t necessary. This is the highlight of fishing for many anglers and it’s difficult to refrain from doing it.

You have to be patient and not get overly excited when using a circle hook. Let the fish take the bait.

It’s also difficult to not overload the hook circle. Due to the smaller gap, anglers have a tendency to put too much bait on. As a result, it’s not a bad idea to choose a bit larger hook to ensure you have enough bait attached.

It’s also not uncommon for a circle hook to bend when you hook into a larger fish. As soon as a circle hook bends, your chances of landing the fish decrease immensely. Be sure to fight with a bit more finesse when using a circle hook. You won’t be able to force the fish into the boat like you would if you were using a J hook.

Reel down on the fish and let it complete its runs. Eventually, the fish will tire themselves out and you’ll be able to safely unhook the fish and release it back with an increased chance of it to survive.


Overall, circle hooks are going to be better for the health of the fish. However, they do take a bit of time to become comfortable to use. Some anglers have made the complete transition, but quite a few still deem the J hook to be useful.

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