I realise not all guys rate sharpened hooks, which is absolutely fine. This article is intended to provide info for those that do rate them.
There's a bunch of threads on the forum relating to hand sharpened hooks doing the rounds lately and most of them contain valuable info. As some of you know Duggs and I were looking at posting macro photos of the various options out there so we thought it would be a good chance to put all the relevant info in one place.
*This article is intended to look at the sharpened hooks that are commercially available rather than the act of sharpening*
Why bother with hand sharpened hooks?
As we all know, an unsharpened hook will catch fish, and plenty of them. The long and short of it is that, in a general angling situation, sharper hooks will penetrate easier. They WILL lead to a higher pick-up/hooked ratio. It's a simple fact. Sharper hooks are more effective than blunter hooks.
Obviously doing them yourself is the cheapest way in the long term. And once you've cracked it, it's the most effective way too. But after ~ 10 years of sharpening I decided I am prepared to pay a few quid extra to have them done for me.
There are certain situations where you might NOT want to use sharpened hooks:
- Price. Sharpened hooks are expensive. And the cost of your time to sharpen them yourself should not be undervalued. Nine times out of 10 they are a one-fish hook so you need to think about whether to spend that kind of money on your given venue. No point in spending the extra on a highly stocked runs water in which they will be competing for your rig. A 'normal' hook will be fine.
- Gravel. It's easy for hooks to get dinged on gravel and this can blunt the fragile points of sharpened hooks. I can honestly say I've never had any problems with this, ever, but loads of guys have, so we have to accept there is a risk.
- Certain fish. Some old fish that have been caught a few times may have harder or more bony mouths. Similarly, carp that have been feeding in gravel pits for multiple decades may have the same. In the pursuit of such fish it might pay to use non-sharpened hooks as the points are more resilient.
- Low PH waters. The lower the PH, the faster a sharpened hook point will corrode. This isn't a problem for a non-sharpened hook as any plating or finishing protects the point, but that finishing is removed during sharpening. There are options to help here which I'll come to shortly, but on some waters with exceptionally low PH you really don't stand a chance. It is worth noting that on some waters PH can change for a period, I assume due to dying plant matter, which can lead to worse corrosion of hooks temporarily. No doubt one of the buffs from the bait section could help with how/why PH can change on a water.
- Long stay angling. If you expect to leave your sharpened hook out for days on end, it will corrode no matter what the PH, and no matter what you do to protect the point.
- Crays. They can play about with your hooklink/hook and damage the hookpoint.
So assuming you decide you want to use a sharpened hook the next thing to consider is the corrosion issue.
You might see quotes from certain parties suggesting that rust will normally start to form at the transition from none sharpened to sharpened areas of the hook. That might be true but areas of high stress are in general susceptible to corrosion and given that the entire sharpened surface area of the point is stressed during sharpening I've always found that the whole of the point shortly follows. This rust will not affect hook strength, it's only surface rust, but it can and will literally corrode the point away at its very tip. An unprotected hook can lose its effectiveness in just hours in my experience.
So how can we protect sharpened hooks?
- Marker Pens. Rubbish, but will protect for a few hours.
- JAG Pens. Slightly less rubbish. Should last a night.
- Silicone/Petroleum Jelly (Mucilin, Vaseline, Lypsyl etc) - similar to the JAG pens, just short of rubbish.
- Beeswax. Decent, but sticky, which will not aid hook penetration. Easily a good 24 h+ protection, probably more.
- Candle wax. Very decent. A few strokes followed by the lick of a lighter. 24 hrs+ easy, probably more.
- Specialist Sharpened Hooks Anti Rust Compound. Excellent. The best I've used. Again - a few strokes followed by the lick of a lighter. 48 hrs protection.
- Crayons. Never used them but the SSH compound is very, very similar so I assume they'll work well.
- The oil from the side of your nose (lol). Shelley popped this one up on YouTube a while back. I'm not sure if it was a wind-up or what, but I have actually seen others quoting this as a useful method. It is not. Don't bother.
All these treatments leave a sacrificial coating that will have less of an influence on sharpness than a plating or coating has on a standard hook. The level at which they compromise sharpness is negligible.
*Note - when using wax, hold the hook so any run-off during licking of the lighter will run away from the hook point, towards the barb.
Long story short, as long as the wire isn't sharpened past the bend there will be no issue with hook strength. A hook acts like a spring with forces distributed through the hook. If it's going to bend and/or snap, it'll be on or next to the bend. The Funky bit
So now we get to the funky bit, the photos!
My microscope is capable of X 45 but I've not gone that close. The form of any processed metal products gets worse the closer you look at them. I'm not trying to show how good or bad these hooks are, rather I want to show a comparison between them.
This the control shot if you like. A standard mass produced chemically sharpened hook. I'll compare the hand sharpened products against this. FYI it's an Incizor.
Specialist Sharpened Hooks : Score 5/5
These are the Ferrari of the sharpened hook world. Top of the tree. The real deal. I cannot emphasise enough how good these are. I am yet to find one that isn't sharpened very well indeed. They're done by the guy that started it all. Jason Hayward. They're not cheap, but you get what you pay for. Not over-sharpened, just very sharp points. The best, by a significant margin. FYI - this is a Mugga.
Korda Kamakuras : Score 4/5
From the side they are lethal...
From the top they are not - but don't let this put you off:
These are the odd ones out because they're actually sharpened by a machine, not by hand. This means they're incredibly consistent. They're only sharpened on one plane, opposite the barb. This means they're very sharp when viewed from the side. However, when viewed from above, they're not - but don't let this put you off too much. The machine basically gives them a super-sharp spade point which is no doubt effective, but the form means they're the most fragile of the lot. Korda quote this sharpening process as a genuine step forward in hook technology. They are right. To summarise, sharp and consistent, but fragile.
J Precision : Score 4/5
If you're after value then these are the ones. They're relatively cheap and they're sharpened to a decent standard. Some need touching up to be really, really sharp but they're pretty good (certainly useable) out of the pack. There are minor inconsistency issues. Some are slightly overdone (imo). Be warned - most packs have one or two points that have completely gone over so you have to check them carefully. I assume this happens in transit tbf. Note the tip on the sample shot is very slightly turned up - I see this on most of them which tells us something about the method used to sharpen them, I'm just not sure what that is lol.
IB Hooks : Score 2/5
These tend to be over-sharpened imo. They are cheap compared to others and some are very sharp, but the points are very short due to too much material removal. There are some issues with consistency but some are useable. Many are not imo.
Rig It Tackle : Score 2/5
For 8-9 quid a pack you expect real quality and the packs I bought lacked that quality. In both packs I bought I checked the first 4 hooks before giving up. There is plenty of material removed but the points are not great. They come with tip beads to protect the points and they are treated against corrosion (with what looks like either marker or JAG pens), but that doesn't change the fact the points are not good.
I've been bitten several times too many when buying Nash gear so I will not spend money even to evaluate their stuff. But if anyone wants to send me a couple I will happily add them to this post.
I'd like to invite the suppliers of these hooks to comment if they see this post. Maybe I've been supplied a 'bad batch' or multiple bad batches as the case may be. It's only fair that these guys get the chance to stand by their product and provide an explanation as to the state of some of these hooks.
I should probably also point out that I'm not affiliated with any hook firm, or tackle firm of any kind for that matter. I'm just a carp nut that's completely anal about hooks. They are after all the bit that catches the carp!
Duggs is going to follow this post up with some examples of what can be done yourself using various sharpening products. Looking forward to it mate.