Keeping your hooks clean and sharp is of paramount importance in sea angling, as many times you will be striking into fish that are a long way off. It could be a long distance run from a shark, where the float is already forty yards from the boat. Or it could be downtide fishing at anchor when you have trotted a bait back on a light lead for fifty yards. Or indeed you may just be drifting for whiting in 200 feet of water and need to set the hook on a fish. With non-stretch braid lines your chances of getting a good hookhold on your quarry are increased hugely, but many anglers will be using monofilament line, and on average, it is reckoned to have about ten percent stretch. Now as I understand it that ten percent stretch if from tightening up until the line actually breaks. So if you have 100 yards of line out, you have a staggering TEN YARDS of safety stretch before the mono breaks. Extreme indeed, but that same stretch will still cause you problems when you come to set the hook. You will probably have to crank some stretch out of the line before you strike, and even then when you hit into it with your rod you have to hope the fish has the bait well inside its mouth. This isn’t always the case, and any fish mouthing a bite that’s mounted on a blunt hook may be only be pricked and lost. If that’s the only bite of the day you are going to be less than happy.
Many modern hooks in the smaller sizes come already chemically sharpened, and some, like the famous Owner hooks actually have a flattened, different shape point to the hook. In fact with the Owners it is sometimes a one-fish deal, as any bite that takes the edge off the point makes it almost impossible to “stone” to the original sharpness again. Believe me, I’ve tried it. So for the larger hooks, it can be imperative to re-sharpen, enhance, or even totally cut a new point on the hook. When I used to do a lot of blue marlin trolling with lures it became almost an obsession to make the sharpest point possible. I might spend days trolling at sea, in a not inexpensive Game boat, waiting for that one strike from a billfish that sends you from “Zero” to “Hero”. The general consensus among marlin fishermen was that you had to make a cutting edge to the point, so as the fight continued the sharpened edge of the point would gradually cut its way until the barb could penetrate. But I challenged this, as if you took a micrometer and scoped the outside edge of the hook opposite the tip of the barb; the hold you needed to make was actually several millimetres. Instead of cutting an edge to the point, I changed it completely, and ground off most of the barb, then made the cutting edge round, by rotating the point on a grinding wheel. I reasoned that my narrower, conical shaped point needed less rod or drag pressure to pull in to the bend, and that the barb actually slowed the hook bedding in. Many disagreed with it, saying the points I cut were so fine they were prone to bend over on the strike and actually prevent a hookup.I agreed with that to a certain extent, but had no more than half a dozen fold over in the course of maybe fifteen years. My average solid hookup was more than double many marlin anglers, so as far as I was concerned the “point” was made. So with big hooks, how exactly do you go about getting this sharpness?
The best pattern I have found for “out the box sharpness” are Eagle Claw O’Shaughessys.These were excellent and barely needed a touch up with a stone, in sizes right up to 11/0 You can use several implements, a stone, a file or a grinder. Sometimes I used a combination of all three, but for the larger hooks for conger, tope and shark I used Mustads in the 7699 and 7731 models. These can be cut initially with a grinder on sizes 8/0 and up. You can either mount your drill (cordless or electric) in a vice and work on it there, or put the hook in the vice and use the grinder to get the barb off and the shape you want. You could even use cordless if its 18 volt. Here’s my procedure for keeping those big fish hooks in perfect nick.
STEP 1:Here is the wrong way. You should not start at too steep an angle otherwise you will make it short and stubby and maybe grind it right off. Also don’t press too hard otherwise you heat up the metal, alter the temper and make it brittle. Make sure you are wearing protective glasses as tiny pieces of metal will spark off.
STEP TWO–The best way is to keep the angle shallow, grinding off the barb, then gradually working over the cutting edge, to grind it off until it’s circular. As you near the tip use even less pressure so you don’t overheat and burn the point off.
STEP THREE–The ideal point should be long and slender, with the final tip of the hook as fine as a hypodermic. If you use a coarse grinder wheel, make the point finer by working at it with a small file.
STEP FOUR-Here’s the comparison on a Mustad 10/0 and you can see how the width of barb ,to back of barb is a lot smaller making it easier to pull it in to the bend, which is where the main pull will come from. A large barb will sometimes stop you bedding the hook to the bend
STAGE 5: When you strike into a fish like a Turbot, you certainly want to ensure a good hookhold
COPYRIGHT: Graeme Pullen. All rights reserved.