In 1999 Lynn and I switched our hooks, we still use Gamakatsu hooks but we have switched to the circle hook design. We were losing a lot of fish during and after a hook set, these hooks are the answer to that problem! Talk about something that was rough for me to get used to, Lynn was the natural she just did her thing and hooked them up, Me well that was a different story, I had to be "trained" most of the time by my wife saying " Remember don't set the hook". I'm so used to grabbing the rod when the clicker goes off and just crossing there eyes, with a hook set that will turn me around in the boat if a big cat is on the other end of the line.
With circle hooks you don't set the hook, when the fish moves off with it you just keep steady pressure on the fish till the rod tip goes way down and then they are hooked, hooked like about 99% of the time in the corner of the mouth, we have lost very few fish since going to this style of hook, what fish we have lost I would say were Gars and with no hook set they will get off, catfish just don't get off, so much that I will probably never go back to the old style we used to use.
As you can see from the photo this hook, looks totally different than your ordinary hook, actually a cat can swallow this hook and it won't dig in, it is designed so that when the eye of the hook pulls from the mouth of the catfish the point rotates in and digs into the corner of his mouth, that's why you just keep the steady pressure on them so the point has a chance to slip in.
Lynn locks her reels in place, puts them in the rod holder and waits for the pole to bend to the water with there steady pulling. I leave the reel in free spool with the clicker on and when a cat picks it up and sets off the clicker I hold the spool with my thumbs and allow the pole to go down then turn the handle and ever so steady just lift up on the rod, till they yank it down and take off with it. It looks weird and feels that way not setting the hook but just ask Frank VanWinkle, I made a believer out of him, on my Catfish 2 page are some cats we caught and all of them were on circle hooks.
The 8/0 size is a very good size to use, it will hold a large piece of cutbait, and will stick nicely in the back of a large Shad, sometimes it is tough to get the point of the hook in because of the point being to the inside and the 10/0 size would work a little better on Shad that are in the 10" to one foot range.
Snelling Circle Hooks
I learned to do this in 2004 and I took pictures of it to help people out, snelled hooks will make a big difference in the hook-up of Catfish, there is a straight line pull with the snelled hooks.
Here's an 8/0 Gamakatsu circle hook
Thread the line into the hook like this I like to make the tag end go past the point of the hook.Make sure the line is away from the point of the hook or on the backside of the shank.
With your left hand pinch and hold the hook and line between your thumb and first finger.
Now wrap the line around the shank starting at the eye about 7-8 times like so make sure the coils lay flat to the shank of the hook, after wrapping hold the line with your thumb and second finger.
Run the rest of the line back into the eye of the hook and loop your finger into the curve of the hook and pull it down tight, it should look like the above.
When finished the coils should lay flat to the shank, if you have done it correctly the hook will hang straight when holding the line, you can trim off any excess.
I now do a double rig set-up for large baits.
After I have snelled a single hook I'm now getting ready to do a double hook, I'll use this for two baits at the same time like Skipjack on one or Shad on the other to determine what they really want, if using big baits it is also very handy if the fish is a short striker as the trailer will hook them up.
You run the tag end of the line through the second hook just like above.
Should look like this
Now pinch the hook and line between your thumb and forefinger and wrap the line 7-8 times around the shank of the hook. make sure the coils lay flat on the shank. Run the tag end into the eye and cinch it down solid.
The finished product should look like this, you can space your hooks in any arrangement from a couple of inches to 12 inches apart, this set-up works real well on fish that just pick-up the back part of the bait and don't get the whole thing in there mouth, one of these hooks will stick them.