How To Choose The Right Size Circle Hook (For Live vs Dead vs Cut Bait)

By: Tony Acevedo on November 21, 2019
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how to choose right size circle hook

Here are a couple of questions I get asked all the time…

What size circle hook should I use for shrimp?

What size circle hook should I use for cut mullet?

How about for pinfish?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these same questions, you’re in the right place!

In this video, I’m going to break down what size circle hook you should use for each type of bait, and some general guidelines to help you understand more about pairing circle hooks with live, cut or dead bait.

Let’s dive in!

Choosing The Right Size Circle Hook [VIDEO]

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First, I’ll break down how to choose the right size circle hook for each type of bait, then I’ll go into more detail about circle hook sizes in general.

Choosing The Right Size Circle Hook For Live Bait

circle hook size for live bait

Here are the two biggest things to remember when it comes to choosing circle hooks for live bait:

  1. You want the hook to allow the bait to act as natural as possible
  2. You don’t want the hook to kill your baitfish

Both of these points lead to an obvious answer: you want to choose a smaller circle hook when using live bait.

For shrimp, I like to use a #1 or #2 circle hook.

For smaller baitfish, like a threadfin or finger mullet, I like to use a #2, #1, or 1/0 circle hook.

For larger, tougher baitfish, like big pinfish or croakers, I’ll go with a 3/0 to 5/0 circle hook.

No matter what bait you’re using, it’s important to match the size of the hook with the size of the bait.

And here’s another tip: use thin wire hooks.

This reduces the weight of the hook and will increase the chance of the fish acting natural and you not killing it.

Now you might be thinking these hooks are too small to catch big fish, but you’d be surprised at how big of fish you can catch with smaller hooks.

Plus, if you kill the baitfish, or if it doesn’t act natural, you probably won’t get a bite anyway so it doesn’t matter if the hook can handle it or not.

Choosing The Right Size Circle Hook For Cut & Dead Bait

best size circle hook for cut bait

Unlike with like bait, for these two types of baits, you’re not worried about needing the bait to act natural because you’re looking to attract predator fish based on scent, not liveliness.

The big key when choosing circle hooks for these types of baits is that you need a big enough hook to go through the meat of the bait and get a good hookset.

If the hook is too small, it will be harder to get a good hookset.

When using dead or cut bait, I usually go with a 4/0 to 6/0 circle hook, depending on the size of the bait.

To learn more about using cut bait to catch bull redfish, check out this article.

Circle Hook Sizes

best circle hook size

Here’s a graphic to clear up any confusion about the size of fishing hooks.

For the “ought” sizes (1/0, 2/0, etc), the bigger the number, the bigger the hook.

For example, a 4/0 hook is bigger than a 1/0 hook.

The opposite is true for the numbered sizes.

The bigger the number, the smaller the hook.

For example, a #1 hook is bigger than a #4 hook.


big redfish blue crab

For all types of baits, remember to match the size of the hook with the size of the bait.

When using live bait, your main concerns are making sure you don’t kill the bait and that it can act natural.

Therefore, you want to use smaller hooks.

For dead and cut bait, your main concerns are that the hook can get through the meat of the bait and that you get a good hook set.

Therefore, hooks for these types of baits will be bigger.

The redfish above was caught on a chunk of blue crab with a 4/0 circle hook.

Have any questions about choosing the right size circle hook for live, dead or cut bait?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who needs to see this article, please TAG or SHARE this with them!

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Eric Black
19 days ago

Thanks for the tips!!!!!!!!!!!

Ed Mascellino
23 days ago

How do like to hook live shrimp? Thanks

Michael Lanier
2 months ago

Is there a video showing how to tie hooks to line? Or how to do leaders, and attach those to a line? Do you use swivels?

3 months ago

Hey tony, I’m picking up #2,#1,1/0 owner mutu light circle hooks for shrimp finger mullet etc, and 3/0,5/0 hybrid mutu circle hooks. Do you think that variety it a good choice for the various applications of live bait/some cut bait

Paul Phenix
6 months ago

I saw some of your spot dissections and really liked it. Any chance of getting
you to do a spot dissection.
Melbourne beach area specifically Washburn Cove area. ? I will be going down there Jan 23 and would love to check it out.

7 months ago

These are the sorts things I’m really interested in, new to gulf fishing. I have fished many years pacific Coast style is very seminar but different. Also circle hooks are new to my tackle box. Watched video’s and I liked the idea of not having to set the hook.Nobody get into detail like you did in the video. Thank you

A. Rollins
A. Rollins
7 months ago

What are your thoughts on using too small of a hook? Huge Goliath Grouper, some species larger sharks and Halibut should have a legal-sized hook to use to help prevent potential injuries while being caught. In my opinion

Russ Lacoste
7 months ago

Good video on hooks. Thanks Russ

Bill Weston
7 months ago

some circle hooks are round and some asymmetric. which do you use and when?

Jonathan Getz
7 months ago

Thanks for the video Tony! I’ve caught a large variety of species on Owner Mutu #4 circle hooks, from small whiting to a 36″ big ugly. However, the larger species will bend your hook out depending on your drag setting.
Definitely agree to size the hook to your bait, and therefore bait/hook size matters to include/exclude fish species that can be caught with it. For example, I use 14/0-16/0 hooks with large cut mullet pieces when nearshore BTB kayaking. The bigger hook/bait excludes catching small/medium gafftops so I can focus on bull reds and sharks.
Thanks again for the helpful videos!

Curtis Carpenter
7 months ago

Thank you for that.