What Hook Size and Type For Catfish: Expert Guide

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Whether freshwater or saltwater fishing for catfish, choosing the right catfish hook sizes and type is important to ensure you can land your catch.

There is a range of fishing hooks that can work well for landing your next trophy catfish, but each hook for catfish has its specific use and catfish anglers have their own preferences too.

In terms of type, circle hooks are the most widely used by catfish anglers as often the fisherman doesn’t even need to consciously set the hook as the fish tends to hook itself.

In terms of size, as a general rule, hooks in the 3/0 to 5/0 range will see you land even the largest catfish you’ll come across, but there is a lot to choosing the best size for your circumstances, as you will learn in this artlcle.

Using the right catfish hook sizes in the area you are fishing is an important first step to catch catfish. But hook sizing can be very confusing, especially for beginning anglers. This article aims to remove the confusion when it comes to hook size and type for catching catfish to get you on Team Catfish.


Hook types: Circle hooks are the most popular option as they provide a strong hookset without any action from the angler
Hook sizes: 3/0 to 5/0 is a good hook size range for targeting catfish

Hook Size for Catfish: Things to Consider

Fishing. Big cat Fish men holding catfish by the mouth
Using right hook sizes is an important first step to catch catfish.

Catfish are very large and heavy fish. They are also energetic and will put up a fight once they are hooked, especially blue catfish and channel catfish. If your hook for catfish is too small or the wire it is made from is too thin, you run the risk of that big blue catfish or channel catfish stripping the catfish hook and getting free during the fight to land it.

Alternatively, if you are using catfish hooks and bait that are too large for the majority of fish in your chosen fishing spot, you may feel like you never get a bite.

Catfish Size

Most catfish anglers want to catch the largest size catfish in the lake, but don’t forget about the small and medium-sized fish just waiting to be caught too. Targeting smaller catfish can be just as much fun to fight on the line for new and experienced catfish anglers.

Bait/Lure Size

If you are using large lures or live bait, you run the risk of losing your bait while never getting any bites on the hook. If the hook and bait are too large, the fish will nibble and not touch the hook – blue catfish and channel catfish are both extremely smart.

Always try to match the size of your bait with the size of fishing hook you are using. Smaller bait goes on smaller hooks, and larger bait works well on large and heavy gauge fish hooks. This helps to ensure the bait remains on the fishing hook, even if you are using alternative baits.

Fishing Hook Sizes

It is important to match the size of your bait with the size of hook you are using.

Fish hook sizing can be confusing. There are no universal sizes that hook manufacturers have to adhere to. Size 2 J-hooks from Eagle Claw, for example, may not be the same size as a size 2 J-hook from other fishing hook manufacturers.

Fishing hooks will come in either Sizes or Aughts. This applies to all types of hooks including kahle hooks, treble hooks, J-hooks, and others.

Normal Scale

Smaller fishing hooks are labeled on a normal scale. For example, you might see Eagle Claw fish hook sizes labeled as “Size 32” which is the smallest fishing hook available on the market. A fishing hook that is labeled as “Size 1” would be larger than the size 32 fishing hook, but will still be smaller than a 1/0 aught J-hook.

Aught Scale

The aught scale starts where the normal scale ends with its largest hook. So after a Size 1 hook from Eagle Claw, you would move into a 1/0 or One-Aught hook. The aught scale goes all the way to 27/0 which is a monster hook, though most average anglers will never need anything larger than 8/0 size hook. 

Fishing Hook Gauge

The gauge of a fishing hook is the size of the wire that was used during manufacturing. The same hooks can come in very fine or extra heavy duty thicknesses. The gauge of fish hook you select will depend on what you plan to target on your next fishing trip as well as the size of your fishing line.

For channel or blue catfish fishing, you want to go with fishing hooks that have a heavier gauge as well as a heavier fishing line. If you use a fish hook that is too thin or weak, a big catfish can easily stretch out the hook point and get loose during the struggle to land it or simply break your fishing line. A heavier gauge hook point will ensure even the biggest channel catfish remains on the hook no matter how much fight it has in it as long as your fishing line can handle the weight.

Hook Type for Catfish

One’s level of experience and personal preferences matter when choosing the right hook for catfish fishing.

There are several traditional hooks that work for catfish fishing and landing other big fish, and each one will depend on your experience level and personal preferences. The majority of fishing hook sizes can be used with most types of fishing line, so feel free to experiment to find your favorite hook for freshwater or saltwater fishing.

Circle Hooks

A traditional circle hook is an excellent choice for use with channel catfish and blue catfish. Normally, anglers that choose to use a circle hook go for a 5/0 or 6/0 hook size. Circle hooks are arguably the best hook for beginners to use and are common as saltwater fishing hooks as well. Circle hooks require no effort from you in setting the hook, in fact the fish does it itself. 

You can find circle hooks in both offset and inline designs. Inline circle hooks will not be as effective as an offset circle hook. The tension of the fish pulling on the fishing line will set the offset circle hook for you, but will not do this with an inline circle hook. This means you won’t have to jerk the rod and hope you got the circle hook in a suitable area of the fish’s mouth.

Circle hooks are one of the best fishing hooks for many anglers to use when catch and release fishing is the goal. Circle hooks work with the slight offset ensure the fishing hook goes into the side of the fish’s mouth. This makes it easier for you to remove the circle hook without damaging the fish’s mouth.

Kahle Hooks

Being a versatile hook, the Kahle hook is a mix between a circle hook and a J-hook. It’s great for landing larger catfish such as flathead catfish. The most commonly used Kahle hooks are 3/0 to 5/0 hook size. Smaller fish hooks may also be used if you plan on using bait such as crickets, or certain types of cut bait.

Kahle hooks are used with larger live bait types such as lizards and frogs as it has a wide gap to allow the larger bait to wiggle. Many professional catfish anglers talk about how good Kahle hooks are, especially when drift fishing for medium-sized channel catfish using a larger hook. 

If you’re looking to land a monster-sized flathead catfish or even just medium-sized channel catfish, the Kahle hook is one of the more popular catfish hooks.

The optimal size Kahle hook for catching channel catfish is a 2/0 or 3/0 sized hook. If you are using circle hooks, hooks in the 5/0 to 6/0 size range are usually the best option.

Treble Hook

With this three-pronged high carbon steel hook, you can pretty much guarantee that any channel catfish that takes the bait will not be going back into the water. High carbon steel treble hooks can be extremely hard to remove from the fish’s mouth and are prone to deep hooking in the gut, so should not be used for catch and release fishing. However, if you are looking for a way to catch catfish for your wall or catch more catfish to toss in the pan, many anglers put high carbon steel treble fishing hooks on their list.

Treble hooks made of high carbon steel can be used with both large lures and soft or prepared bait. Normally the high carbon steel treble hook is used for stink baits or dough bait to get the attention of most fish in the area, especially channel catfish. The biggest downside to treble hooks is that when using soft or cut bait, the fish is prone to swallowing the treble hook completely which will cause too much injury for catch and release fishing.

Treble fish hooks are not difficult to find in any tackle shop. Ensure you are purchasing a good quality treble hook such as one made from high carbon steel. Since they are made using multiple high carbon steel wires secured together, poor quality treble hooks may corrode in the water leading you to losing a trophy fish you had on the line.

Putting it Together: What Style & Size Fishing Hook to Choose for Catfish?

Man in water holding giant catfish
Finding the best hook that works for you is the key to catching this giant catfish.

While hooks for catfish come in a huge range of sizes and styles, you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed when selecting a fish hook for your next catfish fishing adventure. Let’s narrow it down to three of the best catfish hooks to consider.

For beginners, start with 5/0 offset circle hooks using any bait. This can be soft bait, live bait, or chicken livers. Offset circle hooks are great for helping the hook point go into the side of the fish’s mouth, and the 5/0 hook size will work for fish around 10 pounds in weight such as channel and blue catfish.

For intermediate anglers or beginners that want to dive in and try something a bit different, a treble hook in size 6 using three types of soft bait is a unique choice for channel catfish. Consider using treble fishing hooks for catching fish bound for the table or trophy wall.

Many catfish anglers with more experience should work with Kahle fishing hooks in the 8/0 to 10/0 size for large flathead catfish. This size of Kahle hook will work well for larger fish around 20 pounds. Your bait depends on your fishing trip location, but larger baits are common.

Don’t be afraid to try out different catfish hook and bait combinations, try new fishing hook sizes, and check out the size differences from different manufacturers – Eagle Claw isn’t the only brand out there. Once you find the best hook that works for you, you’ll know it and you’ll end up on Team Catfish.

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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.
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