Fishing is full of rules. There is a certain comfort in knowing that “If I do X… then Y will happen” Unfortunately, the fish haven’t read the rule book. You can ask yourself what is the ideal hook length? on any given day one answer might work, and equally it might not. But that said we can hedge our bets. If we have a rough plan as a starting point you can work from there. If you are not measuring then you are guessing. Not only does that make your results random, but by introducing a random element you can never hope to be able to repeat it, if it is actually successful.
In this article we are going to give some general guidance, answer a few common questions, and explore the factors and possibilities we need to consider when deciding on a hooklength when feeder fishing.
Let’s start with the big question; What is the best hooklength for feeder fishing? Our answer from here will be “it depends”. First let’s talk venues, and build from there. Those of you enjoy a spot of float fishing will be able to tell us, feeder fisherman, that ‘still water’ is anything but. If there is any movement or tow in the water then the groundbait you have put down will be more dispersed, normally in a given direction. As the fish begin to feed, you want your hookbait in amidst it, not right by your-now-empty feeder. Therefore a longer hooklength will encourage bites. As a general rule apply the following; The greater the movement in the water, the longer the hooklength.
A second point to consider when discussing a venue is it’s historical style. Is it natural, or stocked, pressured or relaxed? Natural venues can hold big fish that have evaded predators for years. They are naturally wary. Anything out of the ordinary gets their self preservation senses tingling. Likewise for pressured venues, they have seen it all, hook association when a feeder is insight is a real thing. So let’s add to our ‘rulebook’; the more natural or more pressured the venue, the longer the hooklength.
The type of feeder fishing you are doing also has an effect. Method feeding generally relies on shorter hooklengths. The aim being that once your bait ball starts to dissolve and the fish are in a frenzy, your hookbait is right there at the heart of the action. A good sign that your hooklength is too long is when you are getting ‘knocks’ but with no hookups. The fish are in and around your method feeder but your bait is too far from the heart of the action. In this case it’s an easy fix, take out your hooklength box and work your way down a few inches at a time.
If you are using a cage feeder, then a longer hooklength is better. This is for a couple of reasons. Cage feeders are far from natural looking, by using a longer hooklength you are ensuring your bait is well away from something synthetic. As a secondary consideration, when fishing with a cage feeder you will hopefully be using a running ledger setup. A longer hooklength allows the fish to move with the bait in their mouth, if they feel the weight of the feeder on the bait, they will drop it immediately.
The final point we need to consider is consistency of your groundbait. Ideally, you want to find a happy medium. The aim is to make a ball that survives casting, but is not so dense that it rests in a clump on the bottom. If your groundbait is of a firmer consistency it’s dispersal will be slower and more localised, meaning you want a shorter hooklength. If your groundbait is finer then a longer hooklength will cause your bait to behave more naturally.
Hooklengths when feeder fishing are a tricky art, with many opinions, and the truth is there is no right or wrong answer. Our main advice would be to take a range of hooklengths, stick to our basic rules and work from there.