Every angler has had to make a choice between circle hooks and J hooks, and for many of us, we decide one is better than the other and that’s that. Put a circle hook lover and a J hook fan together, and a raging debate is sure to ensue. So, which one’s really better? Neither. And that’s why this argument will never end. In fact, circle hooks are better for some types of fishing, and J hooks are better for others. So, how do you know which to choose? Here are the key points.

circle hook rig

Do you prefer circle hooks, or the traditional J hook?


1. Circle hooks rule when it comes to fish that move quickly and turn as they attack. Think of some prime situations in which circle hooks shine: white marlin or sailfish eating ballyhoo, redfish chomping on mullet, and cobia going after pinfish are all good examples. In all of these cases circle hooks lead to more fish in the boat.

2. J hooks work better when a fish takes a bait slowly, doesn’t move off after the strike, or continues moving directly forward after a strike. Striped bass taking bunker chunks, and most panfish eating most baits, provide the examples. Since these fish don’t usually move off immediately after eating, you’ll be pulling the hook in a straight line with the fish’s body. That circle hook will slide right out of its mouth, but a J hook will (hopefully) snag something on its way out.

3. Circle hooks work better wherever there are a lot of throw-backs. Well, okay – I’m lying. But you should still switch to circle hooks regardless of effectiveness, whenever there are a lot of throw-backs around. We know from mortality studies that far more of the fish you catch and release will live, and that trumps filling the cooler.

4. Circles are better when rods are fished in the holders; J’s work better when rods are held in the hand. This is usually the case by default, simply because many anglers can’t resist the urge to set the hook when they feel a bite. But setting the hook doesn’t work with a circle hook. With rods fished in the holder, of course, hook-sets become a non-issue.

By now, it should be perfectly clear that using circle hooks versus J hooks isn’t an either-or proposition—both types belong in your tacklebox. Choose which to use wisely, and you’ll end up with more fish in the cooler.