Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

Information Page


For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

03 January 2008

Another slant on circle hooks.

A recent email from Peter Finnis who, like me, fishes the south coast, set me pondering about the use of circle hooks for bass. I really like these emails that make me rethink my own ideas - it's only too easy to get into a rut. Anyway I thought I'd set out Peter's approach to provide a different viewpoint.

Hello Mike,

I have been reading your diary and one thing that caught my eye was your experimenting with circle hooks on livebait rigs. Although mainly a fly and lure angler, I do my fair share of bait fishing for bass on the coast near my home.

I have used circles for the last 5 or so years having originally seen first hand how effective they are on tarpon and snook in the Florida Everglades. What I have learned over time is that hookups are consistently best if:

1. The bait is mounted totally off the circle

2. The circle is rigged with maximum free movement

I've attached a pic showing the rigs I use for live and deadbaits. In both cases the circle is attached to a small Aberdeen baitholder via 30lb Dacron which is uni knotted to the Aberdeen then whipped on to the circle hook with fly tying thread. Basically, it's a hair rig variation. In both cases the circle is tied to the main trace (3ft of 30lb Amnesia or Fluorocarbon) with an Improved Rhode Loop Knot. This allows maximum rotation of the circle hook and seems to improve hookup percentages.

The rig on the left is for livebaits. As you can see I use a short shank Aberdeen whipped tight to the bend of the circle. This is to keep the bait as close to the main hook as possible. The livebait is nose hooked on the Aberdeen and prevented from coming off by piercing on a small piece of rubber band. This rig is equally effective with live pout on a running link leger in the late season or with live mackerel drifted under a float in the summer. This is also the rig I use for lip hooking a legered mackerel head & guts bait.

The rig on the right is for deadbaits (whole pout, whole squid, mackerel tail, etc.) The only difference in the deadbait rig is the use of a longer "hair" and a long shank Aberdeen. With this rig I bury the hook in the flank of the deadbait head down then wind some bait elastic over the Aberdeen shank and hair so that the tail of the bait is just clear of the circle hook.

For the record, I use 5/0 VMC Razor Claw Circles which are ideal for the big baits I generally use. Aberdeens are Size 1 Black Kamasan Short and Mustad Long Shanks

I would be interested in your thoughts and feedback on these rigs. I can honestly say they work really well and, while not 100%, are definately the most efficient hooking rigs I've ever used.


Peter Finnis

I replied more or less as follows but I've added a couple of thoughts that I had since then:-

Hi Peter,

Happy New year and thanks very much for the very interesting email. Clearly you have more experience of sea angling with circle hooks than I have myself although I've been using them for pike for some years now. I'm sure that you are right in that the more exposed hook there is the more effectively it works. It also makes sense to use a free-swinging hook attachment. My pal Nigel often fishes with a similar (hair rigged) set up to yours and it seems fine.

If I'm honest, I'm lazy and have simply transferred my piking tactics (nose hooked live and deadbaits) to my bass fishing and it has been almost 100% effective so far, provided I've done everything according to first principles (basically give the fish enough time and avoid striking at all costs). I don't miss many pike (and I catch a lot) unless they are small ones and fail to get the bait in their mouths. Of course it's generally easier to see what's going on with pike.

I suspect that, as in most things, there is more than one way of achieving success with live and/or dead baits and that confidence plays a large part. My current approach is to use 4/0-6/0 circles with crushed barbs, tied with a knot round the shank and through the eye to increase the circle even further. I suppose that my only worry with a two hook set-up would be the chance of a fish getting deeply hooked on the small hook but it's probably minimal.

My problem in bass livebaiting is that most of the places where I know there are numbers of big bass are devoid of mackerel, so there is limited room for experimentation. Conversely, the places that I can consistently catch mackerel seem to have rather few big bass. However, as you've no doubt gathered from my website, the livebaits always produced bigger bass than lures at the same spot. This is undoubtedly significant. As I say the fact that I don't miss many bites has given me no incentive to improve the basic rig.

Perhaps you could let me have a bit more information about your catches and tactics and possibly a picture or two of the rig in action? I'd be interested to know a bit more about your fishing in general.

Thanks again for the email and keep in touch through this year so we can swap experiences.

All the best,


Thanks for the quick reply Mike.

I dont mind you using the info on a webpage. I'll have to get you some pictures when the new season starts as I usually only take pics when fly fishing.

My fishing locally is such that I tend to lure and fly fish around the rocks. However, much of my bait fishing takes place at a deepwater beach near a harbour mouth. This area has become notorious for throwing up some very big bass and mullet to those prepared to specialise and put in the time.

Most of my livebait experience has been with live pout on leger rigs. In the Autumn I will frequently fish two rods with light free running legers, one with a live pout (easily caught on this beach) and the other with a squid or mackerel deadbait. They are fished very close in after dark with reels in freespool with the clickers on. Although I use the circle hair rig, one of my fishing pals uses a Portland Rig for his livebait and he had our best fish this past season, a 10lb 6oz on a live pout.

I'm interested to hear of your success with pike on circles. For some reason, that never occured to me!

Incidentally, you did indirectly inspire me to a catch of which I'm particularly proud. Having read of your exploits in matching the hatch with maggot flies for mullet, I began to closely observe my own mullet. What they like to do is to mop up all the crippled whitebait after mackerel blitzes. Having seen this, I tied up an appropriate fly and hit the beach early one morning. After locating a pod of big mullet and after an hour or so of trying to get the perfect cast out, I finally hooked and landed the fish in the attached photo. I've also attached a photo of the fly. A few days later I repeated the process on an evening tide. This was in the summer of 2006. In 2007 this fishing didn't develop, no doubt due to the poor summer weather.

Like yourself, I enjoy travelling to fish. I am a regular visitor to the Florida Keys (I especially enjoy tarpon and snook) and to Montana (wonderful trout fishing) and last summer I had an incredible trip fly fishing for king salmon in British Columbia. Mind you, I'm just as happy having fun with schoolies on the fly on a nice summer morning!

I would really appreciate keeping in touch as I think there is much benefit in our information sharing.

Very best wishes,

Peter Finnis

How's that? I think the whole thing is fascinating. Of course it doesn't mean that either Peter or myself will promptly change our tactics but it's always worth having recourse to a different approach should the situation arise.


Peter's circle hook set-ups. The left hand one is for livebaits.

Nice mullet!

Caught on a 'sprat' fly - how about that.

The fly.

Peter also gives the details of how to tie it.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -