A Controversial Stance on Circle Hooks (For Casted Baits)

Please note: This article strictly debates the differences between casting large heavy-wired circle hooks VS smaller, and thinner J hooks.

As you’ve probably heard by now, J hooks are the devil. They account for dead sharks up and down the coast. Everywhere you look, J hooks are murderous tools intended to kill. At least, that’s the image that most modern articles seem to depict.

The good news is that it seems that everyone’s hearts are in the right place. It appears that while people may disagree with exactly what keeps sharks safe, the important thing to note is that they WANT to keep sharks safe. So the argument is certainly worth having, as the desired outcome is shared. So here lies the million dollar question:

Does implementing a circle hook only rule save more sharks?

The answer is far from simple. And I have two answers. The answer is yes. And the answer is no. As hypocritical as it sounds, there are specific situations in which both can be true. Allow me to explain:


When you are kayaking big baits on heavy gear for very large sharks. Baits which may require a grace period for the shark to eat before setting the hook, circle hooks are absolutely the way to go. They are not only more effective due to line stretch, but in the event of an elongated battle, a well placed hook-set can be easily cut out to expedite the release.


When targeting sharks on spinning gear. This is where most people begin their shark fishing journeys, therefore simplicity is of paramount importance. A 10/0 4x Gamakatsu J has stood the test of time over and over again. Not only is it more practical to use for smaller chunk baits, the bait retention (likeliness that the bait will stay on the hook during the cast) is higher than that of a thick gauged circle. Most importantly, though, is the ease of removing a J hook. Promoting the heaviest tackle for shark fishing is usually good, but in peak summer, when the average shark is 3.5-5′, a large circle hook does more harm than good. Removing an 18/0 or 20/0 circle hook from a very small shark is extremely difficult, especially for someone new to the game.


Over the past 5 years, I’ve caught and/or released nearly 1000 sharks. Whether it be with friends, by myself or with clients, that is 1000 different experiences. The overwhelming majority of these sharks have been caught by casting Gamakatsu Big Rivers in the 10/0 size. In 5 years I have dealt with a maximum of 8 or 9 gut hooks. Two of those gut hooks were large circles (on big yakked gear) and the rest were smaller J’s. All of the gut hooked J’s were still removed quickly enough for a healthy release. The problem is when a circle is gut hooked. When it’s that deep, there is no room for turning the hook to remove it, so the two options are to rip apart it’s stomach or cut the wire, leaving the hook behind.


991 sharks out of 1000 equates to 99.1%.

99.1% of sharks were corner or jaw hooked with above average dehook and release times.

Of the 9 that were in fact gut hooked, 7 of them (all J’s) were removed with relative ease. As in, quick enough to assume the fishes survival.

The remaining two were circles, and there was no way to remove the hook without excessive handling time. Therefore it was decided to cut the wire.

2 out of 50 circles = 4% with no hope of hook removal.

7 out of 950 Js = 0.73% with 100% hook removal and healthy release.


We can now accurately deduce, based on this sample size of 1000 unique experiences, that thin-wired J hooks for casted baits are much more efficient than a big meaty circle hook, especially when it comes to new anglers.

So while you may be going shark fishing, it doesn’t always mean you need the biggest and baddest looking hook on the shelf to get the job done. The right J hook is extremely versatile. It is more friendly towards the small sharks, and can still withhold some surprisingly monstrous creatures. And the best part is, the release is almost always a breeze.

As mentioned, large inline circles are much preferred for kayaking large baits intended specifically for large sharks.

In the end, it’s a journey that most have to take on their own. Over time, you will notice patterns that work for you. When you get into that rhythm, stick with it. Whether you’re most comfortable with J’s or circles, it’s important to use the right tools for the job, but perhaps what’s most important is your desire to care for the fish properly. As long as you’re releasing sharks quickly and carefully, the path you took to get there isn’t nearly as important.

So that’s my analysis of the past half decade. I thought I’d share, as inquiring minds may wander, and wonder. Hopefully these statistics help you in your pursuit of responsible land based shark fishing.

Best of luck to everyone in the 2019 season!

AJ Rotondella

Apex Anglers, LLC

NOW BOOKING for the summer 2019.

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