The Best Hooks for Catfish – What You Need to Know (Meouch!)


Catfish are one of the most popular species for anglers to catch. The fact that many are considered invasive – ensures that you’re doing your environmental duty while doing so.

But given that there is so much gear and equipment out there to help you fish for these funny-looking critters, finding the optimal setup can be daunting.

Especially if you’re new to the sport.

Today, we’re looking at the best hooks for catfish on the market – exploring all the hook types that will achieve the best results for this species.

Plus, I’ve thrown in some other top tips for how to catch catfish for good measure.

Alrighty, let’s get stuck in.

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

What is the Best Hook to Use for Catfish?

In short, your best bet is to use a circle hook or a treble hook. Why? Well, two reasons. First, you’ll need to use a hook size that works well, both with the size of fish you intend to catch and the type of bait you intend to use.

The last thing you want to do is catch a monster, only to have the hook straighten because it is too small. If you are using punch bait, you will need something that ensures the bait stays on during the cast too! A treble hook ticks both boxes.

If you want to know more about catfish baits, you have to check this out.

The most ideal solution when looking for the best hooks? Take a selection, both in type and size. That way, you are covered for all eventualities.

amateur angler holds the catfish

Hooks for Catfishing – What to Look For

Fishing hooks literally come in all shapes and sizes, and there are dozens of types you should familiarize yourself with to help you improve your fishing game.

But which is the best hook for catfishing?

Well, there are several criteria that you need to look at. Let’s take a look…

Hook Size

Hook size is important for several reasons.

Such as?

Well, you need to match your hook choice to the size of fish that you will catch… And also the bait you intend to use.

If you target smaller catfish, then a big hook will probably lead to a reduction in your catch rate. Also, it makes it difficult to hook smaller baits.

That said, you always want a hook that allows the point and the bend to be exposed when baited up.

Why?

You’ll be able to set the hook easier. The bend is what keeps the fish on the hook at the end of the day. This is particularly important with circle hooks.

Treble Hooks for Catfish and Bait – Should I use Them?

Treble hooks are a great choice for catfishing. Due to their size, they aren’t the best for catching smaller catfish. They can also be tricky to get out, especially if you have deep hooked a fish.

Here’s what’s great about treble hooks:

  • They are ideal for hooking softer baits.
  • They are good for hooking larger baits.
  • They are superb for punch bait.
  • Once a fish is hooked, it is unlikely to get off.

Here are a few downsides to using treble hooks:

  • They are no good for smaller species.
  • They aren’t the best for catch and release.
  • They are the best for smaller or harder baits.
  • They can be difficult to transport and store.

Circle Hooks for Catfish – What, When, and Why?

If you are still struggling, then the best choice could be a circle hook. They are by far the most popular choice when it comes to catfishing.

The hook gains its name from the fact that it is formed in the shape of a semi-circle. The shape of the hook means it rotates in the fish’s mouth.

This gives you a nice clean hook set when you strike. As we said before, for a circle hook to work effectively, you need to leave a decent amount of the bend and hook point free to work.

Here’s what’s great about circle hooks:

  • You always get a clean hook set.
  • Easy to handle
  • Good for both large and small baits
  • Easy to unhook fish

There are a few downsides to using circle hooks:

  • Fish can sometimes wriggle free. They aren’t as forgiving as treble hooks
  • They aren’t the best for softer baits

Match the Size of Hook to the Size of Catfish

Ok, I’m going to give you a really general rule.

The bigger the fish, the bigger the hook.

Simple, right?

If you are looking for great all-around hook size, I’d say go for a 3/0 circle hook. This is perfect for catching large catfish but is small enough to let you get a few smaller channel cats too!

If you are going for real specimens and fishing with huge stink baits, your best bet could be to use something a little larger.

If you only intend to catch smaller catfish, then a 6/0 hook is a good choice. You might still manage to pull in a big one, but you will be able to catch much more smaller fish.

Blue and Flathead Catfish Hooks – Big Fish, Big Hooks

These are real monsters, so you are going to need a monster hook. The smallest size you should go for is a 6/0 circle hook.

You’ll tend to find that catfish anglers targeting these species use live baits or large stink baits. A circle hook will allow you to fish both of these most effectively.

catfish caught while fishing spinning rod

What Brand of Catfish Hook to Use?

Ok, now I’m not saying you should go out and spend fortunes on ‘designer’ brands.

However…

Going too cheap might also be a bad idea.

As with most things in fishing, you want to occupy the middle ground. I’d advise against the bulk-produced and very cheap Chinese hooks. While you will undoubtedly catch a few fish, the issue is quality control.

Wouldn’t it be heartbreaking to set the hook in the fish of a lifetime only for it to straighten because it is cheap?

My advice is to read reviews of the best hooks for catfishing and try a selection.

All of the hooks you’ll find below are great for the money.

My Favorite Hooks For Catfishing

J-Hooks

Probably the most common type of hook, J-hooks have been successful for centuries – but they’re not as popular as they once were for catfishing.

Recognized (as you might expect) by their J-shape, they can be offset or straight, and they’re best used with floats and when you want to practice hook setting.

Anglers enjoy using J-hooks because of the adrenaline rush when you get that bite – because you still have work to do to reel the fish in.

However, there is a high risk of deep hooking a fish when using this type of hook, and they’re not the best if you’re practicing catch and release.

If you don’t intend to kill everything you catch – please don’t use a J-hook.

Also, you need to pay attention when using a J-hook and be attentive to your rod, so you can’t really be taking a snooze in one of these awesome fishing chairs – no matter how comfortable they are.

While they’re no longer regarded as the best fishing hooks for catfish, J-hooks still have their place and are well worth a try when you’re fishing with worms – a classic catfish bait.

If you are using nightcrawlers, try J-hook baitholders, like the example in the review below.

Gamakatsu Baitholder Hook

Recognized as one of the finest fishing hook manufacturers in the world, Gamakatsu are the leading Japanese hook specialists and have been in the business since 1955, with a US branch established in 1992.

This is a great example of their baitholder J-hook, with special barbs that help keep Mr Earthworm in place.

Made with an advanced tempering system, the hooks are super-strong but not brittle, and they offer a perfectly conical point to stay extremely sharp.

Remember to make sure you choose the right size for the fish you’re hunting (read on for more information).

Pros
  • Name to trust.
  • Strong but flexible.
  • Market-leading sharpening process.
Cons
  • None.
Takeaway

Another excellent product from the Japanese fishing hook masters. Try this article for some extra information on choosing the best rods and reels for catfishing.

Treble Hooks

Given that treble hooks are the easiest to identify and, on paper at least, offer the best chance of catching a fish, they’re a solid choice for anglers new to the sport.

Known for their distinctive three points, you’ll find treble hooks on many hard-bodied lures, which – although more popular with bass – can be useful to snag catfish, given the fact that they’ll chow down on pretty much anything.

And if a treble hook goes in any fish mouth – there’s a very high chance you’ll land that fish. But again, don’t use trebles if you intend on letting the fish go – things can get messy unless you’re using the hard lures.

Treble hooks are best used when you’re fishing with dough, dip, and/or stink baits. These are baits that use a sponge ball or doughy mixture or other vessels covered in something that might smell horrendous to us but is like catnip to catfish.

By their very design, treble hooks can hold such bait easily, ensuring you can load them up with whatever concoction you’re trying, and it should stay in place.

Due to their popularity, treble hooks are manufactured by the boatload – but it’s important not to choose an inferior quality hook as cheaply made versions can corrode, rust, and fall apart easily.

And given that the wire gauge is thinner in treble hooks, you might also miss out on trophy fish. Bigger beasts can bend and break treble hooks much easier than other hook types.

Aside from that, as with all hooks, just make sure you’re using the correct size to catfish weight ratio – otherwise, that monster cat may well elude you. The space between the prongs can result in lost fish, too.

Keep reading for some more advice on hook sizes. Still, with all these hooks you’re going to need, you should probably have a decent tackle box to store them all in. A practical fishing vest will help you keep organized when you’re out on the water.

Magic 30-48 Treble Hooks

There are hundreds of treble hook options I could have chosen to include as a sample review, but I’ve gone for this design, which is especially for holding dough baits in place.

They come with a little coiled spring attached to the shaft of the hook, so you’ll enjoy more casts without having to reset the bait, or lose it to other interested critters sniffing about.

You might even try a chunk of soap on there – which has been known to catch some impressively large catfish for some inexplicable reason. It smells a lot nicer to us humans, too.

Pros
  • Great for keeping bait in place.
  • Ideal for stink bait.
  • Super sharp tips.
Cons
  • A little more expensive.
Takeaway

Of all the treble hook varieties out there, I’d be most keen to give these a go – especially if I didn’t want to constantly be trying to reset slimy catfish bait that stinks to high heaven.

Circle Hooks

Circle hooks are ideal for beginners or anyone who isn’t used to the moment a fish takes an interest in your bait. They’re also great for anyone who doesn’t want to attend their rod the whole time.

They were created to prevent deep hooking fish. So sport anglers can practice catch and release and improve conservation by letting trophy fish go.

As such, circle hooks are the best to use when you’re allowing all your catches back into the water, as they’re likely to minimize the damage to the fish – and are generally easier to retrieve due to the fact they don’t get swallowed into the gullet.

This is because offset circle hooks are designed so that you don’t need to “set the hook.” Basically, you don’t need to jerk your rod after a fish strike to get the hook set into the fish’s mouth.

When you lay an offset hook down on a flat surface, it will have a raised edge. This allows the hook to naturally move into the corner of a fish’s mouth after it takes your bait.

Regardless of how deep a hook goes into the fish’s mouth, you should still have the right tool to retrieve it. Check out this article on the best fishing pliers on the market to make hook retrieval as straightforward as possible – for you and the fish.

Alternatively, you could try using a good fishing multi-tool if you want an all-in-one solution that isn’t going to take up as much room in your tackle box.

Daiichi D85Z-7/0 Circle Chunk Wide Hooks

Another fishing hook company claiming to have the sharpest hooks in the industry, Daiichi, is the preferred choice of many professional anglers.

This example is their popular circle hook, colored red to give the impression of a bleeding bait and improve your chances of getting a catfish interested in an easy meal.

They work really well when using chunk baits and are very successful at landing larger cats.

Sharp and durable, Daiichi’s hooks won’t let you down, and they make some of the best catfish circle hooks in the game.

Pros
  • Name to trust.
  • Designed to trigger feeding response.
  • Slightly offset.
Cons
  • None.
Takeaway

Daiichi is a reputable force in the community, a leading manufacturer producing some professional-level hooks to suit just about any type of fishing. Check out this article for some more of the world’s best fishing brands.

Team Catfish Gear Double-Action Circle Hook

I simply have to include another excellent circle hook option from the guys at Team Catfish – because this is a great hook for snagging some serious fish.

Colored deep red for that bleeding bait look, it’s a double-action circle with a super-wide gap for larger baits and larger fish (see more on why the gap is important below).

Needle sharp and super strong, this is a top-quality hook that will not let you down and even features a bait barb on the shank – that not all circle hooks offer.

These double-action hooks are Team Catfish’s best-selling hook, so you know you’re getting something that’s proven to work.

Pros
  • Name to trust.
  • Highly rated in the community.
  • Available in red or black.
  • Choice of sizes available.
Cons
  • None.
Takeaway

A premium-quality catfishing hook from a premium quality catfishing team. There’s not much more to be said here, these hooks will do what’s asked of them.

Don’t forget to keep yourself protected with some of the best rain gear for fishing if you’re hunting catfish in wet weather.

Kahle Hooks

Somewhere between a standard J-hook and a circle hook, Kahle hooks are highly versatile in the fishing world and can be used in fresh and saltwater.

They’re also merciless when it comes to snagging catfish and highly recommended by pro and amateur anglers alike. Kahle hooks work extremely well when you’re drift fishing for catfish. Follow that link for more information on this technique.

Not easily distinguished by simply looking at them, Kahle hooks come into their own when using larger live bait. You might want to check out some of these excellent fishing knives if you need to chop up your bait on site.

Kahle hooks are generally preferred when fishing for larger catfish. They can be remarkably successful in helping you land a monster.

Whereas circle hooks are great for blue and channel catfish, kahles are best for flatheads. This is because a properly sized kahles hook can reach right back into the mouth and snag that cheek.

One problem with Kahle hooks being so effective is that they will literally pick up anything. If there’s debris down there – it’ll be like a magnet to a Kahle.

As such, when you cast your Kahle – you leave it well alone. Don’t move that sucker an inch – or you’ll risk dragging up a toilet seat or something.

Kahle hooks are also extremely cost-effective from a price perspective, as you can usually pick up a large quantity for a few bucks.

Eagle Claw Lazer Kahle Offset

Eagle Claw manufactures some of the best hooks on the market. This is a great example of an affordable bulk box of quality Kahle hooks.

With a straight point and ringed eye, the hooks are offset and barbed and are just the kind of thing that catfish despise.

This is size one, but other sizes are available, and you’ll want to choose something that’s between 0/7 to 0/10 for larger catfish.

In this particular pack, you get no less than 50 pieces for your money.

Pros
  • Name to trust.
  • Reliable construction.
  • Ideal for catch and release.
Cons
  • None.
Takeaway

Some of the best Kahle hooks available – this product from Eagle Claw certainly won’t let you down, and you’ll be snagging those catfish in no time.

Hook Sizes

Do catfish keep growing? Follow the link to find out!

Either way, you need to roughly match the size of the hook with the size of the catfish you’re trying to catch. It’s just as important (if not more so) as understanding the type of hook you need to use.

Here, you basically need to know roughly the weight of the fish you want to land.

For catfish weighing over 20 lbs, it’s recommended you use circle hooks that are between 5/0 and 8/0 in size.

For anything smaller than this, anywhere from 1/0 to 0/4 should work fine. You should always try to match the size of your hook with the bait you’re using, too. Never overload your hook with too much bait.

Channel cats are the most common species as they’re found pretty much everywhere, but they’re not going to get much bigger than 10 lbs. A 3/0 or a 5/0 hook is your best bet and a good, standard choice.

Also, be aware of the gap between the hook’s shank and the hook point itself – this can really make a difference when trying to land a big catfish.

As a catfish’s mouth consists of a thick, bony structure around the edge, you must allow for this width with the gap between hook shank and point. Choose hooks with a slightly wider space here where possible, and you’ll lose fewer fish.

Hook size often divides the fishing community. Some anglers swear it makes a difference, while it matters less for others.

In the end, go with your gut, and a bit of trial and error goes a long way.

angler holds catfish being in the fishing boat on the river

Bait for Catfish

A good catfishing hook is only going to work if you know what to put on it, so let’s take a brief look at what you can use to lure a catfish into making a strike. Given catfish dietary practices – this list is by no means exhaustive.

Nightcrawlers are the original choice for catfishing – as they love the things. Otherwise known as the common earthworm, stick a wriggly one on the end of your hook, and you’ll be in business.

Don’t be afraid to add a ball of worms to your hook to entice the bigger fish – but remember to never overload a hook.

Chicken breast or livers tend to also do a good job of attracting the cats. In fact, just about anything that you keep in your fridge will be good to stick on a hook.

Try any leftover meat, cheese, fish, or anything that you need to throw out and would barely give your own dog. And give dog food a try, too, while you’re at it.

Crawfish are a solid option for catfishing and are ideal for catching them in smaller creeks and rivers. Try this when the weather is poor at flowing watercourses, and follow this link for more tips on fishing in the rain.

Stink and dip baits are good if you’re fishing warm, moving waters, as “tasty” morsels and smells can drift like chum and reach the nostrils of catfish – enticing them to try their luck on the end of your line.

Take a look at this article if you want to find more about the smells that attract catfish – and you might be able to give yourself an extra edge when you’re fishing their waters.

Alternatively, you can try something like catfish bait chunks and let me know if they’re any good.

You also might like to try some baits explored in this article on catfishing in ponds.

Catfish Line

It’s also important that your rod and reel are loaded with the right line, so you should head on over to this in-depth article on the best fishing line for catfish to find out.

Catfish Weights and Rig Setup

It’s all very well and good having the finest catfishing hooks in your tackle box, but you need to know how to properly set them up to stand the best chance of success.

Check out the video below as a visual guide to a good catfish rig, and you can put everything you’ve learned into practice.

Extra Catfishing Tips

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of extra catfishing tips out there, as most experienced anglers will have loads of advice for improving your chance of success.

For example, check out this article if you’d like to know more about catfishing spawning, so you’ll be armed with the knowledge of when and where you should take your hooks next.

And to start with, watch the video below, which will give you six great tips to help you catch more catfish right off the bat – ideal for beginners looking to learn the basics.

Summary

With so many hooks on the market, it can be a minefield when it comes to picking the right one – no matter what type of critter you’re fishing for.

I hope this article has helped point you in the right direction for choosing the best hooks for catfish.

Let me know if you have any top catfishing tips in the comments – I’m always keen to learn what works for you.

Tight lines out there, y’all – and happy (cat)fishing!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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