Hooks, lines and sinkers are what connect you – the angler – to the fish you hope to catch. Because of this important “connection,” care should be taken in their selection.
Hooks and sinkers (and other items) are often referred to as “terminal tackle” because they are located near the end of your fishing line.
There are numerous sizes and kinds of hooks that will work for panfish. However, a few specialty hooks may work a bit better than other hooks. Hooks are labeled and sold by hook-size numbers; the larger the number the smaller the hook size. A size #2 hook is bigger than a size #12. For panfish, hook sizes from #4 to #8, regardless of the style, will work, and are recommended.
To complicate things, there are numerous styles of hooks. Virtually all of them will work for panfish However, some hook styles will help you be more efficient. The styles vary by changes in the configuration of the eye, shank, bend, point and/or barb of the hook.
Bait-keeper hooks have small barbs on hook shank that assist in keeping bait on the hook. These hooks often are sold in packs that have a short piece of line – called a snell – already tied to the hook and a loop tied on the other end. Snelled hooks can be a convenient way to quickly swap hooks. However, to do so, a snap-swivel is generally tied to the main line and used to connect to the loop on the snell. A snell knot is easy to learn, and useful to use, if you want to create your own snells.
A relatively new style of hook is the circle or octopus hook. These hooks are designed for catch-and-release fishing, or where a lot of under-sized fish may be caught and legally must be returned to the water. They are designed to hook fish in the corner of the mouth and avoid having fish swallow the bait and get hooked in their gut. Because they are specialty hooks, they may not be available in the recommended sizes in all stores that sell fishing equipment. Using these hooks also requires a slight modification to your fishing technique that is easily learned, and may be easier for novice anglers to learn than conventional techniques.
Fine-wire hooks come in a variety of styles, and are made of thinner wire than regular hooks. The advantage of these hooks is two-fold: they will straighten if pulled with a steady pull so they will come un-snagged if you accidently hook a branch, stump or rock. Also, if you are using live minnows, fine-wire hooks keep the live bait livelier, which in turn, attracts more fish. A pair of needle-nosed pliers can easily re-bend the hook back into its original shape.
There are three kinds of fishing lines: 1) monofilament, 2) fluorocarbon, and 3) braid. Monofilament line is the least expensive and is recommended for panfishing. Fluorocarbon line is designed to be virtually invisible in water and is used in ultra-clear water for very skittish fish. Braided line has virtually no stretch, has very high abrasion resistance and sensitivity, is very strong for its diameter, and is used when fishing in areas with lots of snags.
One drawback for monofilament line is that it has relatively low abrasion resistance, so anglers should clip off the last few feet of line regularly and retie the lure or terminal tackle.
Because of the way fishing line is manufactured, securely tying fishing hooks and lures to the line requires using special knots. Fortunately there are several knots that are effective to use and easy to tie.
Most fishing line comes with an educational insert that illustrates several recommended knots to use. This is an excellent reference that should be studied carefully.
Tying knots with small diameter line is difficult for novices. We recommend that sections of small rope or old fly line be used as the line and small “eye bolts” be used to demonstrate knot tying and for the initial practice by the participants. Do not forget to tell participants to “lubricate” the line with water or saliva when cinching the knot up tight to lessen the heat produced by friction, which can weaken the line.
Once the participants have some knot-tying skills, they can switch to smaller hooks and real fishing line. Knot tying is an excellent time to have the students work in pairs and build both confidence and networks of friends.
Like other fishing equipment, fishing weights (also called sinkers) come in a variety of sizes and styles. Fortunately, split shot is one of the most common types available and will work well. Split shot are sold in a variety of sizes based on their weight. They are lightly crimped on the line between the hook and bobber to keep the bait suspended. A selection of 1/16 oz. and 1/8 oz. split shot will work for most presentations. However, in some very clear water situations very light line and split shot as small as 1/64 oz. may be advantageous. In most cases, using the least amount of weight possible will be the most effective presentation.
Most split shot is manufactured with metallic lead. These should be gently pinched on to the line with pliers. Do NOT bite the split shot to crimp it on the line!