Circle hooks are arguably the best thing that’s happened to sailfish fishing since fishermen started flying release flags. Studies show that fish released on circle hooks have a much higher survival rate than fish released on J-hooks. Circle hooks are standard gear in sailfish tournaments and widely used by recreational anglers, as well.
Rod selection is an important aspect of successfully integrating circle hooks into your strategy. Fishing circle hooks is all about finesse. You’re not trying to “break his jaw,” as the old saying went. Instead, the goal is to twist the hook into the corner of the fish’s mouth without him knowing there’s a hook anywhere in that delicious ballyhoo.
Captain Jonathan Wright, sales manager for Blackfin Rods in Stuart, FL, says circle hook fishing is all about slowing things down. “What you’re looking for is a soft tipped rod that loads slowly,” said Wright. Blackfin recently introduced three new rods designed especially for circle hooks. They have a new 16-pound-class rod, largely for sails and mahi, a new 20-30 rod designed for white marlin, and a 30-50 model for blue marlin trolling and tuna chunking. “The ultimate goal of a sailfish rod is to be parabolic, meaning it bends throughout the glass,” Wright explained. He went on to say there seems to be a preference toward longer rods of 7 feet along the east coast of Florida whereas the Carolina boys prefer the 6-foot, 6-inch variety.
Rob Crowder of Crowder Rods, also based in Stuart, has also seen an increased demand for rods built for circle hooks. He agrees that a slow-loading tip is mandatory but he warns that the bottom third of the rod needs plenty of lifting power.