How to Sharpen Fish Hooks: Expert Tips

Man sharpening fishing hooks

Whether you fish with flies, lures, or standard fishing hooks, there is one thing you should always be mindful of. The sharpness. Over time, as you use the hooks or leave them to jostle around in your tackle box, they can become dull.

A dull hook can still be used, but may not guarantee a hook up on some fish. In order to maximize your success in hooking a fish, be sure your fishing hooks are as sharp as possible.

Many anglers will simply replace their fishing hooks or lures when they become dulled. But you can save money by sharpening the hooks yourself. This is done by having a small fish hook sharpener in your tackle box or other handy location.

How to Test How Sharp a Hook Is?

Even a dull fish hook point can seem pretty sharp when you poke it against your finger. One of the best ways to check the sharpness of a fishing hook is by gently scraping it against your fingernail. You won’t need to add any pressure, but a properly sharp hook will grab onto the nail and scrape into it instantly.

A dulled fishing hook put through the same test will not grab onto the fingernail and will instead slide off. It also won’t leave any small scratch marks when you scrape it against your fingernail.

What to Use to Sharpen Hooks

If you look online or at your local tackle shop, you will no doubt see a wide range of different styles of fishing hook sharpeners. In general, these sharpeners are all made for the exact same purpose, so you should choose one that is comfortable to hold and easy to store in your tackle chest or supply drawer.

You can find sharpening stones and files with a single grit, as well as some with double or multiple grits. If you are working on small or fine wire hooks, look for a sharpener that has diamond grit. These can also be used to sharpen your fileting and scaling knives.

The lower the grit count on a hook sharpener, the better it is for larger hooks. If you are sharpening tuna hooks or other larger saltwater hooks, look for a lower grit count around 200. For smaller and more delicate freshwater hooks, fly hooks, or small spoons, look for a higher grit of 1000 or more.

How to Sharpen Fishing Hooks: Step by Step Guide

Files and hones for sharpening fishing hooks

Step 1

After selecting your preferred sharpening stone or file, hold it in one hand while you place the dulled hook in your other hand. Usually you want the hook to be in your dominant hand, while the sharpening file or stone is in your non-dominant hand – but you can do whatever is more comfortable to you.
Start shaping the point of the hook with your file by using long and smooth strokes. Don’t rush through this process, as you want to ensure the shape of the hook tip stays as the factory intended.

Step 2

As you are honing each edge of the hook tip, ensure you are avoiding the actual point itself. You want this to be as sharp as possible to ensure a quick and definite hook up with fish in the water.
Try filing along the edges of the hook tip in a triangle pattern or smooth it out to make it more rounded along the shaft of the wire just below the pointed tip. If your hook has definite angled planes, hone along with those so there is no difference in the finished product. 
Some hooks have definite flatter edges as they come from the manufacturer, so try to keep these in place and don’t hone them down if at all possible. If the hook has no noticeable shape, try to hone the edges into a triangle as it meets the point.

Step 3

If using a fine wire hook, be careful not to hone down too much or the integrity of the wire can be compromised. The last thing you want is a very sharp point, but an extremely weak hook shape.
As you finish up the filing and are satisfied with how the hook looks, repeat the fingernail test to see if the hook is properly sharpened. If it is, use a small amount of coconut oil to place on the areas that were honed down. This will help prevent corrosion and rust from setting in.

How To Sharpen Treble Hooks

When sharpening a hook, move the hook along the sharpener point-first, instead of dragging the hook across the sharpener point last. 

Unlike single hooks, trebles on lures can be extremely awkward to sharpen. Don’t be in any rush when sharpening the three tips on a treble hook as you can end up poking yourself in the process.

Repeat the process for each point on a treble hook as you would with a single hook, but be prepared to spend more time on a single hook in this case. It may be much easier to remove the hook from the lure entirely before attempting to sharpen it, especially if that lure has two treble hooks on it.

How to Stop Sharpened Hooks from Corroding

While you are using the file or stone to make the hook more sharp and useful for fishing, you are also removing the protective coating that was added to the wire during manufacturing. This can lead to fish hooks rusting within a few hours of being sharpened.

One of the easiest ways to combat this is by applying a small amount of oil on the areas that were honed. Vaseline works in a pinch, but the best option is coconut oil. The same type used for cooking works best, but you can also use unscented coconut oil for skin care as well. 

Other Tips for Getting Your Hooks Super Sharp

Filing Direction

One of the easiest mistakes to make when sharpening a hook is moving the file or sharpening stone in the wrong direction. You want to move the hook along the sharpener point-first, instead of dragging the hook across the sharpener point last. 

Triangle Shape

Some fish hooks have a noticeable shape to the end while others will not. If you are not sure of what shape to file the hook point into, go for a triangle shape with three sides. In general, the hook shape can be your preference, so you may choose to round it out or square it off, but a triangle is one of the more common shapes from hook manufacturers.

Use Different Grits

When sharpening a hook, don’t stick with just a single grit size. Most hook sharpening files will have at least two grits; one on either side of the file. Start with the larger grit in most cases, then move down into the smaller grit to polish and finely shape the tip to your liking.

Shop where we do: Bass Pro

Grab a Bass Pro special
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Photo of author
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x