How To Use A Hook Size Chart

Using the right hook size for fishing
The author showing the results of using the right hooks

When I’m out fishing or browsing my local tackle shop, oftentimes I’m asked, “How do you know what’s the right hook to use?”

To answer that question isn’t as simple as it might first sound, but it needn’t turn into a science project either. And to help explain that a bit we’ll break it down into three categories of fishing… pan fishing, bait fishing, and fishing with plastics baits (tubes, creature baits, worms… etc.)

And of course, we have attached a hook size chart for a better understanding of how to choose the right hook.

Fishing hook sizes for Panfish

Panfish include bluegill, bullhead, crappie, perch, rock bass and white bass, generally speaking any fish that’s small enough to fit into a standard frying pan, hence the name… “panfish”.  Anglers pan fishing most often use a bobber and hook to present a multitude of offerings that include crickets, earthworms, red wigglers, meal worms or small minnows.

The aforementioned baits can also be fished directly on the bottom.  The hooks (Aberdeen or a standard bait keeper) used for this style of fishing usually range from a size 8 for the smaller fish, say 6-10 inches long up to a size 6 hook for the larger pan fish such as bullhead and white bass.

Bait fishing

Bait fishing for catfish, carp, bass, pike, walleye or trout usually calls for slightly bigger hooks because of the size fish and the bait they prefer.

  • For these fish the smaller hooks start in the size 4 and work their way up to a big as a size 3/0 or 4/0 depending on the size bait used.
  • These hooks vary in style but again a great starting point is the bait keeper hook for worms and cut bait and the Circle hook and Kahle for live or cut bait presentations, while a treble hook works well for dough bait presentations.

Plastic baits

Plastic baits require yet another style of hook and these can range from a size 8 all the way up to a size 7/0 depending on what fish you’re after and the presentation you’re using.

For worms and stick baits an offset worm hook in size 1/0 – 4/0 works well.

When fishing tubes and creature baits size 2/0 – 4/0 hooks excel and for finesse style presentations with 3, 4 or 5 inch stick worms sizes 8 – 6 are good choices.

Chigger Craw Rigged
Use chigger craw rigged for fishing

The exact size of hook

The exact size of hook you use ought to match to the bait or artificial lure you’re fishing and a good rule of thumb is to ensure at least 50% of the hook’s bite is exposed or will be exposed when the fish takes the presentation.

Imagine fishing rubber baits that are a ½” in diameter, if you were to present that bait with a size 8 hook you wouldn’t land very many fish because there’d be too much plastic preventing the hook point from sticking into the fishes mouth. It’s a balancing act that requires a little trial and error, but most reputable tackle store and bait shops have staff that are more than eager to talk you through the process to make the best selection based on your target species and the presentation desired.

Is the same true for live bait fishing?

The same thing holds true when fishing live bait or cut bait for game fish. You need to select a big hook that’s big enough to hold the bait, yet provides for a good hook up when bitten. It’s also very important to match the hook to the rod, reel and line you’re using. Smaller hooks are generally thinner in diameter and therefore require the use of lighter lines and rods so you won’t accidentally straighten or open the hook on the hook set or during the fight.  I’ve learned this lesson the hard way on a couple of occasions as I’ve tried to horse a bigger fish in on a light wire hook.  And remember your fishing reel has a drag so don’t be afraid to use it.

For the bass, pike and musky aficionado several companies offer a super line hook designed specifically for use with no stretch braided lines. These hooks are large diameter hooks resistant to the impact of hook sets with braided lines and they’ve become common place in many anglers’ arsenal.

The important thing about fishing hook sizes

Another important yet often overlooked consideration is a small file or hook sharpener. Keeping your hooks sticky sharp aids considerably in the strike to hook set ratio and especially so when bait fishing on the bottom. It’s important to periodically check your hook point throughout the fishing day and if you notice any kind of a bur or bend on the hook point simply touch it with a good sharpener.

Fishing Hook Size Chart

To assist in your hook selection the following chart of fishing hook sizes is provided.

Fishing hook sizes chart
Fishing hook sizes chart with explanations

Until next time, catch your limit and limit your catch to keep only what you can eat and free the fighter for another angler on another day.

Original Article By Burnie Haney

About The Author

Burnie Haney is the Garrison Chief of Operations at Fort Drum NY, Chairman of the Jefferson County Sport Fish Advisory Board, B.A.S.S. Life Member, Public Relations Officer and Sponsor Product Coordinator for the NY BASS Chapter Federation. He is a member FLW and Pro Staff member for Bass Pro Shops Nitro Boats, US Reel, Temple Fork Outfitter Rods, Lucky Craft Lures and VRX Fishing Products. Haney holds three National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Line Class World Records (carp, steelhead, Chinook salmon) and one IGFA NY State Line Class Record (walleye). Get in touch with Burnie at

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