Small or big carp hooks… which are more effective?

Since running a fishery and being involved with Angling Lines Carp Fishing Holidays, I see a large number of UK carpers during any given year. One aspect of current UK fishing seems to be the use of small hooks. Now by small I mean N° 8’s and below. Now I’ve always been a fan of big hooks, based on the premise we are after big fish, and I have seen a good number of anglers lose fish by using what is, to my mind, insufficient tackle for French fishing.

Many anglers coming over the channel for their first taste of carp fishing in France will not have had a chance to land fish over 30lb, so may be unaware of the power, strength and mouth size of some of these specimens. So what are the pros and cons of these two opposed strategies?


Small Hooks Pros:

1)    Sharper, therefore better penetration.

2)    Lighter so less detectable to the fish when they suck in the bait. They should then theoretically go into the mouth more easily and be less likely to be rejected.

3)    Their size is more adapted to smaller baits, which at times have an advantage of large baits.

4)    A smaller hook and bait can assist long distance casting and aid with point 1) of hook sharpness and hooking fish at range.


Small Hooks Cons:

1)    Finer wire = less strength. On a big fish they open far easier. To me the major shortcoming of a small hook.

2)    Smaller gape hooks a smaller flesh area on a big fish. Fish of 30lb plus have big mouths…

3)    Smaller hooks really mean using smaller baits. Personally I prefer 18mm and 20mm boilies. In this case my hook choice would be size 6 to size 2.

4)    These hooks are not adapted for snag fishing.

what size carp hooks should i use


Large Hooks Pros:

1)    Thicker wire = higher strength. On these big French carp lakes especially on waters like the Orient, which is very weedy, or the River Seine which is very snaggy, you really do need the strongest hooks possible to land these fish. Fine wire hooks just aren’t man enough for the job. I certainly wouldn’t want a size 8 in the mouth of a large carp in these situations.

2)    Bigger hooks are better adapted to larger baits. I have often found a larger bait will select the bigger fish. Double baits, and snowman rigs on a size 4 hook are often harder for a carp to eject than a single 10mm bait on a size 8 hook.

3)    I fell too it’s a confidence factor that is important. If you are terrified your hook hold is tiny, you may be unwilling to excerpt the kind of pressure necessary to turn a fish from a snag.

4)    To my mind these hooks are better adapted to big fish situations.


Large Hooks Cons:

1)    Well thicker wire will give a less sharp hook… Ok in the past I agree with this, but modern chemically sharpened hooks in any size are sticky sharp, so I don’t think this is and issue.

2)    They are heavier and therefore less discrete and easier to detect by the fish. Well again I’m not sure that if you rig and set up is right this should be an issue. A buoyant or snowman hookbait set up can be balanced critically to allow the hook’s weight to be cancelled out.

3)    Not adapted for smaller baits. Here I would agree, but this takes it for granted that you’ll want to use small baits.. Again personally I prefer larger boiles so for me it is not a problem.

4)    They cut down on casting distance. Well yes here I suppose when used in conjunction with a correctly sized boilie the do. But if you are fishing at distance and there is any snag or weed then the smaller size of the hook could negate the benefit of hitting the distance as you’ll not be able to land the fish.


To sum up then, I can accept that the use of smaller finer tackle will ultimately get you more takes and possible get you to hook more fish. I suppose then you are playing averages… Can I get away with this to land the fish? You’ll have to accept that losing more fish is part of the equation. I personally can’t accept that anglers should build losing a certain number of carp into their game plan. I want to land everything I hook, so I build my game plan to do just that. As I’m targeting big carp, I want everyone I hook to give me the best chance possible to land it. This is why I have always been in the ‘big hooks’camp.
Oh! and my favourite hook of all time? The Drennan Continental Boilie hook Size 4. A classic hook pattern. Strong and sharp and has never let me down.
If you have an opinion on this matter please feel free to leave your comment.

French Carp Fishing 


7 thoughts on “Small or big carp hooks… which are more effective?

  1. Jon Perkins says:

    The old advice of small bait small hook, big bait big hook still true today. I never use bigger than a 4 and have used size 4 hooks with 3 x 20mm baits when trying to avoid small carp – it works even though it looks weird ! With one or two grains of plastic on the hair a size 8 or 10 is perfect.

  2. scott bradbury says:

    i have never used bigger than a size 6 and go as small as a size 10. i will mix and match big baits with small hooks when the fish are really easily spooked just to up my odds of the take. an anglers judgement is what matters… if you are not confident in what you have on the end of the rod, you are going to feel uneasy about using it and probably not leave your rigs in to soak long enough to have a run… feel confident in every tactic you apply and you will succeed. kamazins are the sharpest hooks i have ever found. Im the kind of angler tha will spend an hour in the shop and open all the packets of hooks im looking at, testing each one for sharpness against the other. kamasin have never let me down and it all comes back to the confidence thing again with your setup.

  3. Tom says:

    It is an absolute myth (used to sell us more gear) that you need massive power in rod t.c, line b.s, hook size, and wire guage to turn fish from snags. Even big fish can be turned away from snags fairly easily because when hooked at a standing start they have not had any chance to build up momentum. Your regular UK hooks have easily enough power for French fish as long as the tackle is balanced and the swim being fished is sensible. Carp are carp. I handled very large carp easily in France on my ordinary Fox size 10s and 10lb line because my setup is carefully balanced. The fight was much longer than normal but there was nothing wrong with the hookhold.. French carp are not supercharged turbo monsters. If anything very big carp are much slower than super fit 20 pounders.

  4. brett houghton says:

    Using barbless hooks trying all types shapes losing quite a few fish so much it’s burning my head out can’t seem to get it sorted !!!advice would be more than welcome.

  5. Dave says:

    Go for a size 4 Drennan Super Specialist Widegape. As well as a beaked point and being superb quality wire they also have an offset shank (reversed shank).. One big design fault of many barbless hooks is that they are straight/flat in horizontal profile but they must have a reversed bend to help them stay in,
    Be under no illusions that just because they are cheap they are weak or bad quality as they are a superb hook. They are sharp and very strong. Don’t faff about with the smaller sizes. I stick to size 4’s for carp all the way. Small barbless hooks are mouth damage central. One big design fault of many barbless hooks is that they are straight/flat in profile must have a reversed bend to help them stay in,
    There is a lot of expensive rubbish about when sometimes the best gear costs pence and has been sitting under your nose for years. Super Specialists have been doing the business for years, but this pattern is better and is the real deal, trust me.

  6. Krazy Kooter says:

    Are circle hooks used at all? I’m new to hair rigging but use these on cats and walleye have good luck but what about carp? Really confused on what hook to use on corn or dough balls. Appreciate any help thanks.

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