There are many, many fishing products that can leave those who’ve never used them scratching their head in confusion. We’ve all been there. Whether it be bottom bouncers or crappie rigs, I’ve seen many anglers unfamiliar with a specific type of fishing inspect such products as if they were disarming a bomb. One such product that is highly effective, but surprisingly foreign to many consumers, is the circle hook. Circle hooks are designed for a specific type of fishing, for specific types of fish, but today I’ll detail how these little beauties can bring you more success when you’re catfishing.

To those who’ve never used one before, circle hooks can look a little odd. The hook’s design—the tip is pointed back towards the shank and it has a smaller gap than conventional hooks—leaves many wondering how it will ever catch a fish. Circle hooks work a little differently than most hooks, however, and are designed to catch the fish’s lip. One benefit of this design is fish longevity after release. Fish caught on a circle hook have a higher survival rate after being released than fish caught on other hook styles. In fact, use of circle hooks is mandatory in some regions as a way of ensuring the health of fish caught during the off-season.

Fishing with circle hooks requires a different tactic than simply setting the hook with a powerful, swift motion. Slower movements and patience are requirements when using circle hooks. With circle hooks, the fish must turn away from you, so you have to allow the fish to swim with the bait for a moment and then use slow, steady pressure to set the hook. Catfish usually do this on their own, as their natural instinct is to grab the food and then swim away in an effort to protect it from other fish. This enables circle hooks to be ideal for catfish rigs. You’ll also want to be sure to not bury the hook point in your bait. Also, I’ve heard many catfishermen swear by off-setting your circle hooks manually with a pair of pliers, which will increase your hook-up ratio.

Not all circle hooks are the same, though, so it’s important to know what you need before tying one on your line. Quality, material, shape, size, and even sharpness will vary from brand to brand, as well. Furthermore, you’ll need to make sure you’re equipped with the best rod for your purposes. A rod with fast action/soft tip works best, as it doesn’t put a lot of strain on the line, or add tension, which will most likely result in a lost fish. Heavier rods don’t allow the fish to run a little with the bait, which is the pinnacle of success with a circle hook.

Any piece of tackle that works by capitalizing on the natural behavior of a fish is always a great asset to have in your possession, and circle hooks accomplish this wonderfully. Furthermore, using them ensures a higher survival rate post-release, which is exactly what catch-and-release fishing is all about, if that’s your goal.