Hooks come and go, but a few special designs stand the test of time. I carry lots of different patterns and sizes every trip. After all, the hook you tie on your rig is the most important part of your terminal tackle. The average lifespan of a favourite hook for me is normally 10 years, although some trusted models have been around much longer. Why do I rely on so many types? Well, experience has taught me that changing up or down a size, or maybe switching to a different colour, wire thickness or shape, can make a huge difference. By this I mean getting bites in the first place, and after that connecting with them. Any two sessions are never the same. Even the finish on a hook can influence what you catch. No bites on a bright shiny pattern? My bet is a darker, duller design will turn that problem around. I generally prefer spade ends because this category offers greater diversity in shapes and colours, but I haven’t got a problem with eyed designs for some of my heavy-duty rigs.  


I much prefer this black nickel option over the bronze version. Both spade ends are made from fine wire, with classic round bends, medium-length shanks and small barbs. The black pattern offers conventional 14 – 24 even sizes, along with unusual 17 and 19 intermediate gauges. This design is hugely popular on the Continent, but has been pushed into the background by carp puddle hooks over here. It has been around a long time and is slowly becoming more widely recognised. I highly regard 3405s as top silver fish hooks for light rigs and baits like maggots, casters and hemp. I use size 14s and 16s with light feeder tackle in winter, liking the way the subdued black finish doesn’t spook clear water fish, blending in well with silt and dark baits. For finesse fishing the intermediate size 17 is brilliant for big silvers, just the right size for single or occasional double baits when using maggots and casters. Although fine wire, it’s strong enough to land big bonus fish. I normally flatten the barb.


This eyed, forged hook is at the tough end of the strength spectrum, primarily suited for use with strong lines, particularly with short hook lengths for hair-rigged or banded baits like pellets and wafters. It’s ideal for targeting big fish like carp. The dull grey Teflon-coated finish, wide gape and compact nature of this barbless design, combined with its swept-in point, makes it perfect for a wide range of big fish applications. It’s my first choice when short, strong traces are needed with pellet, method or hybrid feeders. It’s also a top hook for beefed-up float and heavy-duty blockend or groundbait feeders, particularly when fishing snag-infested venues. The eye prevents line damage if rigs get weeded or caught up, also when big fish thump hard against weighty feeders. Another area where I use this type of hook is for tench fishing, where again it withstands fish diving through underwater weed, a situation where spades can shear through mono. Available in size 10s to 20s.


A light bronze, barbless, spade end hook, with a squared-off crystal bend and uniquely forged as fine wire models go. As the name suggests, a brilliant silver fish pattern, but amply strong enough to deal with bonus big fish that butt in on proceedings. It has a long needle point that slightly leans inwards, helping gain a secure hold. Sizes range from 14s to 22s, with smaller gauges perfect for light pole and running line rigs, using baits like hemp, casters, maggots, pinkies, punch, or small soft pellets. What stands this classic out from the crowd is the way its super sharp point doesn’t blunt, even when seriously bagging up. I use it a lot for roach and skimmers on the long pole, also for whip fishing to-hand style. The size 20 is a firm favourite for single baits, being slightly on the large side for its gauge, which means less bumped fish. This size is first choice for shallow pole rigs with single maggot or caster, also hemp fishing. The point is sharp enough to actually hook seeds through their shells!  


Gamakatsu Barbless Pellet Hooks go back at least two decades. I’ve been using them this long and haven’t found anything better for bagging up with carp on well-stocked commercial fisheries. These light bronze, spade end, beaked point hooks have a medium-wire gauge and compact shape, but are strong. Sizes range from 10s to 20s, with larger ones suiting paste and meat, while smaller gauges are perfect for pellet and corn rigs. The unobtrusive nature of this pattern pulls a higher percentage of bites, and I’ve landed some monster carp using them. My go-to pellet size is the 16, which works perfectly with 0.14mm to 0.16mm rig lines, never blunting or opening out. I’ve landed some big carp well into double figures on the pole with a size 16, even an 18. What I also like about this pattern is although it’s geared up for pellet fishing, it works okay if you switch to other baits like maggots, casters or worms. It doesn’t bump fish as much as other pellet designs with beaked points tend to.


Extremely strong, forged, spade end hooks, with a hint of a crystal bend. They have micro barbs and inwardly curved points, combined with medium shanks and a dark bronze finish. Even the smaller sizes are incredibly strong, making this a popular pattern for several decades, particularly for big fish river feeder tactics and heavy-duty float fishing. Some “power” hooks open out when using heavy feeders in fast-flowing water, but not this classic, which is a favourite for specimen chub and barbel. As with all strong spade end designs, knots need to be heavily whipped to prevent slippage and line damage. Available in 10s to 20s, which covers many baits when direct hooking is preferred. Offerings like maggots, casters, sweetcorn, worms and hookable pellets sit nicely on this pattern, with its slightly shorter than average shank length and wide gape. Sizes are a little weird in the smaller gauges: the 20s are tiny. I substitute 18s for 20s, while 16s are more like 14s in my opinion.


This is a cult hook with match anglers, only available in specialist tackle shops, and even then it’s often a case of shopping around to find any. It’s a bronze, spade end design, with a rounded, soft crystal bend, combined with a long needle point and micro barb. For a medium-wire hook, this pronounced wide gape design is very strong. It has gained a big following with bream anglers for use with groundbait feeders, along with performing well with medium-strength river blockend tactics and attacking running water float fishing. Apart from standard baits like maggots, casters and worms, it’s perfect for use with hemp and tares. I nip the barb off for this application, which reduces bumped fish and speeds everything up. The range features even size 12s to 22s, along with one odd intermediate size 15. All gauges are one size larger than normal, compared to most popular patterns. Not a bad choice for bread fishing either, particularly flake or crust with bigger hooks in the range.


B511s are one of the longest serving classic models, covering size 10 to 24 sizes, having been around several decades. This nickel, wide gape, spade end design has a flattened crystal bend, medium/long shank and tiny whisker barb. Made from high carbon wire, it’s many anglers’ number one choice for bread punch and hemp fishing, also squatt and pinkie tactics in smaller sizes. Ideally suited for light line presentation when targeting roach, skimmers and rudd. Also, a favourite on canals and drains for use with small baits when targeting mixed catches. The needle point stays sharp, making this a good choice for busy pole, waggler and whip sessions. Sizes are spot-on, with 10s to 14s suiting bread flake, paste and crust fishing for big roach, rudd and crucians. The size 16 is a good starting option for general punch sessions, also perfect if the fish switch on to hemp. 18s and 20s are best described as scratching hooks for tiny punched discs of bread and baits like small maggots. 


A cult round bend, bronze pattern, many anglers have fondly used for much of their bream fishing, over many years. Although a medium-wire hook, this design can cope with anything from skimmers up to big slabs, even angry hybrids and large perch. The B957 has been tricky to get, but if you shop around you can normally find a supply. This spade end, medium-shank, micro-barb pattern has long been my favourite for groundbait and cage feeder tactics. Larger size 12s and 14s suit big hook baits, 16s cover general work, while 18s are brilliant for single maggots or casters, also for branching into river float fishing for chub, dace and big roach. They are surprisingly strong. I’ve landed massive chub on them with light tackle, while trying to conjure bites out of nothing in winter. Size range of 12s to 22s covers many middle-strength rigs. The round bend helps multiple baits like double maggots, along with worm and caster cocktails to present perfectly. Heavily copied but never bettered. 


Remarkably similar to the Colmic B957 spade end, but available in barbed and barbless patterns, also in a black nickel finish. I only discovered these round bend hooks relatively recently and have been mightily impressed. Favourite sizes are the 16s and 18s, for use with a wide span of rigs and baits. I like the barbless smaller sizes a lot when fishing for silvers in commercial fisheries, which can be an untapped goldmine if you enjoy bagging up with roach, skimmers, crucians, rudd and plenty of other non-carp species. But the great thing about this pattern is it’s robust enough to deal with carp too. I use it a lot in the winter when club matches often take me to lakes where bream, skimmers, roach and carp make up winning catches. It’s not too heavy for silvers, but just strong enough for lively carp in open water. The barbed version works with refined feeder tackle, although I often squeeze the barb down with pincers, which leaves just enough of a bump to keep lively baits well anchored.

VMC EWG 7039

This black nickel, crystal bend pattern is the hook I turn to when I need a spade end design a bit stronger again than the Gamakatsu Pellet model. It’s available in both barbless and barbed versions, having a fairly short shank and wide gape, suiting baits like pellets, maggots, casters, worms and sweetcorn. Being that versatile appeals to me when using stepped-up pole rigs, attacking waggler tackle and a good variety of feeder types. Although I rate the Gamakatsu pattern mentioned earlier, the much darker finish on the EWG suits winter fishing better, not standing out in clear water. I use it with trace line ranging from 0.12mm for smaller sizes, up to 0.20mm with bigger gauges, rarely needing to go stronger than that with the type of pole and running line gear I use. I’m a big fan of black hooks like these after living up North for several years and fishing gin-clear reservoirs, where dark finished hooks definitely made a big difference to catches. If it gets me bites, I’ll use it!


While on the subject of hooks, I think it’s wise to always carry a good selection of disgorgers in your kit. Standard slotted head designs are fine for smaller spade ends, while larger versions of these will often fit over small to medium-eyed hooks as well, and of course bigger spade sizes. Plastic designs are generally regarded as kinder to use, although I have a brilliant metal disgorger with a knot picker hidden inside it. The slotted ends of this product are better formed than plastic versions tend to be, removing hooks much more smoothly. Slammo style disgorgers are best when fish swallow hooks deeply, helping to stop the line coming adrift when they are inserted. I carry forceps as well, even though I mainly use small hooks. These, and the fine-nosed pliers on a multi tool, are handy when a hook gets awkwardly trapped in the scissors of fish like perch, or accidentally snags in something.