Best Hooks for Catfish

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on June 22, 2020. In Fishing

Fishing for catfish requires special gear. You could try to use any old hook to catch catfish but it may not work. Catfish have thicker, tougher mouths than most fish. This, combined with their size and strength, means you couldn’t need specialized hooks. There are several options to choose from. The best choice will depend on the kind of catfish you’re trying to catch.

Fish hooks date back further than most people realize. The oldest fish hooks are about 22,000 years old. Early hooks were made of materials such as seashells, horns, and bone. Bronze and iron became popular materials once humans mastered the art of metallurgy. Steel hooks made their first appearance in the 17th century.

Forbes Magazine labeled the fish hook as one of the 20 most important inventions in human history. It’s something that deserves a little time and attention.

There may be some trial-and-error involved in choosing the best hook for catfish. Not every manufacturer’s sizes are standard. A size 6 treble may be composed of hooks that are smaller than a size 6 J-hook. Your best bet is to compare for yourself. See what you have the best luck with and buy your catfish hooks accordingly.

Treble Hook

Treble hooks are standard catfish hooks for any kind of fishing. They work especially well when you’re trying to hook channel cats. You can pick a treble out of a crowd because it’s a three-prong hook. They’re common in a lot of fishing rigs for catfish.

Because trebles are so common you need to be careful about where you get yours from. You can find cheap treble hooks as any fishing supply store or website. You can even pick them up at places like Walmart. You want to avoid a cheap hook whenever possible. If the metal is of poor quality, you risk both bending and rust. Worse, unique to these catfish hooks, the three parts could come apart.

A cheap treble hook may not list what it is made from on the package. These are best avoided. You want to stick with catfish hooks made from high carbon steel, or Teflon-coated stainless.

You need to match the size of your hook to the size of the bait you’re using or the catfish you’re trying to catch. A number two hook is a good size treble for very large catfish and the largest you want to go with. A number 6 hook is a reliable, standard size. You might use the number 8 if you’re looking for smaller cats.

Trebles are ideal for punch baits and dip baits. The extra hooks allow it to hold better. Simply push the treble into the bait and it will latch on.

Kahle Hook

If you’re using something other than prepared bait to fish for catfish you may want a kahle hook. The shape of a kahle hook isn’t quite a J-hook and it isn’t quite a circle hook. They’re perfect for holding cut bait, crayfish, and even hot dogs. The large loop means you can hook a good-sized chunk of bait. If you’re using live bait like bluegill the kahle hook will give it lots of room to squirm

Try a 3/0 or a 4/0 kahle hook when fishing for small to medium catfish. Anything smaller may not hold. That said, a 2/0 can work for small channel cats. Larger hooks could work if you know you’re after much larger catfish. A 5/0 is a good size for fish above 10 pounds.

Kahle hooks are best for medium to large catfish. Usually, you don’t want to fish for small catfish with a kahle hook. Small catfish like channel catfish would be better caught with smaller treble hooks. The largest channel cats can be caught with kahle hooks. Smaller blue catfish and flathead catfish also do well on kahle hooks.

Offset Circle Hooks

Offset circle hooks can be one of several kinds of hooks. Kahle hooks are a kind of circle hook, for instance. What makes it offset is how the hook end twists away from the eye onto which you tie your line. Offset circle hooks curve away. If you’re not sure, lay the hook down on a table. If it is unable to lay flat, it’s an offset hook.

Offset circle hooks are not always legal to use. They may gut hook the fish and cause serious harm. Most fishing competitions ban the use of offset circle hooks. Unfortunately, many stores still sell them more often than non-offset.

Non-Offset Circle Hooks


A non-offset circle hook forms a straight loop. It’s sometimes called an inline circle hook. If you lay this hook down on a table, it will lay flat. It’s required to use circle hooks to legally fish in some areas. Inline circle hooks hook the fish in the lip or jaw. This is safer for the fish. It ensures that if the fish pulls free, it will not swallow the hook. Likewise, it causes the least amount of damage when it pierces their mouths. It is also unlikely to randomly gut hook the fish.

When using circle hooks of any kind, a size 7 or 8 works great for large fish. You can go all the way up to a 10/0 for big blue catfish. When focused on medium catfish, look for a 5/0 or a 6/0 hook. If you are planning on doing catch and release fishing, circle hooks are the best choice.

To the naked eye, circle hooks will often look too large for the fish you’re planning on catching. if you’re not used to fishing with circle hooks you may think you’ve made the wrong choice. Give it a try first and you’ll see that even if it looks large, it’s the right size.


As the name suggests, j-hooks are j-shaped. These are best if you’re using a float. They will set the fishing hook much better than a circle hook. If you’re not using a float, circle hooks will do better. Years ago J-hooks were the standard for catfish hooks. Circle hooks are much more popular these days. They cause less damage, and they hook more easily. Bait is less likely to come off of a circle as well.

Octopus Hook

If you use live bait for catfish fishing, octopus hooks are a good choice. They resemble kahle hooks. The main difference is that octopus hooks are more rounded. Live bait has freedom of movement on an octopus hook. That’s ideal for attracting flathead catfish and channel catfish.

Limerick Hook

Limerick fish hooks have much smaller curves that end a sharp turn to the barb. This kind of fish hook is best for small pieces of bait like liver or cut bait. If you’re fishing for channel cats, this could be a good fishing hook. They’re not particularly popular catfish hooks, though. Many anglers could go their whole lives without using a limerick fish hook. If you’re someone who likes variety it’s worth a try though.


You can find a wide variety of metals used in catfish hooks. The most popular will be stainless steel. High carbon steel and alloys are also popular. The difference is high carbon and alloys are better suited for saltwater fishing. They resist corrosion which is more of an issue for saltwater. They are also stronger, which can benefit even freshwater anglers.

Nickel – Nickel is often added to prevent corrosion in fishing hooks. Outside of saltwater fishing, it’s not really necessary. In fact, higher nickel contents will make a fishhook brittle.

High Carbon Steel – High carbon steel fishing hooks resist corrosion. They are also very strong compared to their weight. Most hook manufacturers will list the carbon number on the package. You’ll see things like 60-carbon steel, or 110-carbon steel. The higher the number the stronger the hook will be. A 60-carbon steel hook should be more than strong enough for any catfish fishing.

Stainless Steel – This is the most common material for any fish hook, including catfish hooks. It’s strong and resists corrosion enough to be useful in freshwater. High carbon steel is still superior but these work well.

Vanadium Alloy – Vanadium alloy fishing hooks are excellent for catfish fishing. They resist corrosion but are also very strong. Vanadium hooks are able to maintain strength even when they’re still very thin.

Gold – You can find gold plated hooks on most websites that sell fishing gear. Gold is one of the few metals that does not corrode. That makes it ideal for fish hooks. Gold is a softer metal and the plating will come off eventually. There’s no particular need to buy gold catfish hooks.

Tin – Tin plated fishing hooks hold up very well to saltwater. They are also cheaper than some platings. They don’t add much to your ability to catch catfish, though.

Teflon – Teflon is a great coating to choose for catfish hooks. It allows easier penetration which is invaluable for hooking a tough catfish mouth. They may not stick to some baits as well because of the coating. If you can find some for a good price, they’re well worth a try. You can get Teflon on a high carbon steel fishing hook and most other catfish hooks.

Bone – You won’t find a lot of bone fishing hooks for sale. That said, there are several websites that teach you how to carve your own. If you are the sort of person who likes challenges, this could be a good one. If you’re out in the woods for an extended period and want to try primitive fishing, it is a fun skill to learn. It could also be helpful if you were to lose your gear somehow. They’re not too hard to carve by hand. They’re also effective at catching catfish when made properly. If you want an unusual catfish hook, bone is worth a try on your next fishing trip.


The gauge of a catfish fishing hook refers to the thickness of the wire itself. Because catfish are so strong you’ll need a solid gauge to catch them. The gauge scale is measured with a number followed by the letter X. The higher the number, the thicker the gauge. A thicker gauge hook will be stronger, but it will be harder to penetrate the fish’s flesh. Unless you’re fishing for some large trophy fish, a higher gauge will not usually be necessary. Also, materials will affect gauge. High carbon steel hooks will be stronger than stainless fishing hooks of the same gauge.

1X gauge hooks should be more than adequate for catching most catfish. Large Blues could be caught with a 2X gauge. A 3X gauge would likely be too large for most catfish. Most catfish anglers will not need fishing hooks of this size.

Test which hooks you think will work best until you find the best style for you.



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