5 Best Hooks For Float Fishing: What The Guides Use

Best Hooks For Float Fishing

River guides use specific hooks for different reasons, and they are often very picky when it comes to the best hooks for float fishing. Some types of hooks will hook and hold the fish better and they work well with certain baits better.

What Are The Best Hooks For Float Fishing?

The best hooks for float fishing will be the right color, the right shape, the right size and they need to be strong and super sharp. They also need to be the right hook for the situation.

The hooks I and other fishing guide use for float fishing are:

I use different-sized hooks for different types of water, for different baits, and for different sizes of fish, and I will discuss all this in this article.

Just these four hooks will fit just about every situation on the river but make sure you use the right size and the right shape.

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Hooks For West Coast Steelhead And Salmon

The best hooks for float fishing that I recommend are for inland rivers
The hooks that I recommend for float fishing are for inland rivers like this one and you will need to up-size for west coast steelhead and salmon.

I’m located around the Great Lakes region, but I have fished with guides on big West Coast steelhead rivers, and I know that the hook I use for steelhead or salmon around the Great Lakes will be different than a hook I use for big West Coast steelhead and salmon.

The best hooks for float fishing for West Coast steelhead and salmon are the Raven Specimen hook in sizes 2 to 4 or the Gamakatsu Octopus hook in sizes 1 to 4.

For much smaller baits, I would use a size 4 or a size 6 for tiny baits in smaller rivers.

For larger baits like prawns or large worms over 4 inches, I would use a size 0 to size 2.

Best Float Fishing Hook Shape

Best Float Hook Shape
The right shape can help you hook land more trout and steelhead. The top hook is a Specimen hook, then a Sedge hook, and then the Specialist hook. These are my 3 go-to hooks.

The shape of the hook is something that not many guys consider, but it can be very important.

There are wide gap hooks like the Raven Specimen hook on the top or a narrow gap hook like the scud hook, which is the fourth hook down in the picture.

There are also some shapes of hooks that work, and some don’t work so well.

The best shape for a float fishing hook is usually a wider gape hook like the Raven Specimen hook.

A smaller gape hook like a sedge hook may miss some fish on the hookset, and if you do hook into the fish with this hook, it may not grab as much flesh so it may be more likely to rip out of the fish’s mouth.

If you fight a lot of fish and you notice that the hook keeps pulling out without breaking then you may want to consider a wider gape hook or a bigger size.

Wider hooks like the Raven Specimen hook shown at the top in the picture hold fish well.

The advantage to the smaller gaped hook is that they are more low profile so you may end up hooking more fish because the fish don’t see it.

A wider gap hook like the Raven Specimen hook (Top Hook) is likely to hook more fish, grab more flesh, and hold onto fish better, therefore you won’t lose as many fish, but because they are a bigger wider hook, it might be seen by the fish and that may mean less fish biting your bait.

This pictures shows the placement of the bait on a short shank wide gape hook
This picture shows the placement of where the bait should go on a short shank wide gap hook. If your bait will not fit within the green area it’s probably too big for this size of hook.

As you can see the smaller hooks may allow more fish to bite, but you may lose more, and the wider gap hooks might be seen, and that means fewer fish bite, but the ones that do bite will come off less.

It’s a fine line which is why I will switch back and forth from a wide gap hook to a narrow gap hook and I will discuss when I do this below.

Bait and hook size
This bait is way too small for this hook which could result in the fish seeing the hook and refusing to eat the bait. Match the hook to the size of the bait.
Good Hook Size For this bait
This bait is a good size for this hook and the hook gap is wide enough to hook a fish.

Also, you should be sure that the hook point and gap is wide enough for the best hook penetration.

Hook Sizing And Bait Placement Tips

Trout Hook Size
On the left is a size 2 Kamasan Specimen hook compared to a size 10 Raven Sedge hook. The Sedge hook is a much better size for a roe bag of that size and the specimen hook is way too big.

A float fishing hook that is too big will stand out like a sore thumb and prevent some fish from grabbing the bait and an oversized hook will also weigh your bait down too much, meaning that it may not flow naturally in the current or it will keep getting snagged on the bottom.

Using the right size hook for the speed, depth, and size of your bait will mean more fish in the net.

If the water is fast, the fish hit fast without thinking and that can mean you can go to a larger hook. If the water is fast and deep a larger hook will be heavier and will also help the bait get down into the strike zone.

How to put a bait on a hook
An example of where you want to put your bait on a hook to be sure most of the hook is covered but also to be sure the hook gap is wide enough and the hook point is not covered.

I also recommend using the right size hook for the size of the fish which means you can get away with smaller hooks for trout, but those same hooks may not work for big salmon or steelhead.

Below I will discuss hooks for each species because you can go too small and you can go too big.

In slower and clear water, a larger hook may be seen by the fish and they may not take the bait. This is where a smaller thinner wire hook is best. The thin hook also allows the bait to move more freely in the current and may look more natural.

Remember, the bait you use is just as important as the hook you use it with. Check out my page on the Best Baits for Steelhead and Trout.

Float Fishing Hook Strength

Quality brands and the cheaper float fishing hooks come in different strengths. Cheap hooks are known to bend or break when fighting big fish or when stuck on a rock, so stick with the quality brands I recommend in this article.

Thin Float Fishing Hooks

Hooks like the Raven Sedge Hook, the Kamasan B420, and the popular steelhead hook, the Daiichi 1150, are all good quality hooks, but they are thinner wire hooks.

These are some of the best float fishing hooks for small baits and for allowing the bait to move more naturally in the current which is why I like them for most steelhead and trout on Great Lakes rivers.

Unfortunately, the downside is that these thinner wire hooks might bend when fishing for huge steelhead on heavy leaders or when fishing for 20 or 30-pound salmon in fast flows with heavy leaders.

Medium Float Fishing Hooks

Medium wire hooks like the Raven Specialist hooks or the BlackBird Sabretooth hooks, or Gamakatsu Octopus hooks are slightly stronger hooks and won’t bend as easily and could be used for trout, steelhead, and salmon.

Heavy Float Fishing Hooks

For very large steelhead and salmon in big fast rivers, it’s best to consider a heavy wire float fishing hook like the Raven Wide Gape Specimen Hooks. These are the best float fishing hooks when using heavy leaders and for turning large salmon without breaking or bending the hook.

Make sure you use the right size of a leader when float fishing so you aren’t breaking off or the fish aren’t seeing the lines. Check out my page on Leaders and Leader Setups that I use.

Float Fishing Hook Color

Float Fishing Hook Color
The bronze Raven Sedge hook on the left and the black Raven Specialist hook on the right.

The best hooks are bronze hooks or black nickel-colored hooks.

Blacks and brown colors are naturally found in rivers and these hook colors are the most natural in the water and they don’t tend to spook fish and they don’t stand out like a beacon, like shinny or colored hooks do.

Avoid gold, silver, red, or colored hooks and I recommend that you do too.

What Are The Best Hooks For Float Fishing For Trout?

The right hook for trout means more fish
Using the right hook for trout will mean more in the net.

The best all-around float fishing hook for trout is the Daiichi 1150 or the Raven Specimen hook, or the Gamakatsu Octopus Hook.

These are the best hook for float fishing for trout and are all you need for trout fishing.

I also like the Daiichi 1150 hook because it is thin and lightweight for those smaller trout baits and it allows the bait to move more naturally but is still strong enough to manage big trout.

I also like the Gamakatsu Octopus hooks or the Raven Specialist hook because of their wider gape which has the ability to hold onto the fish better. I use them in smaller sizes or when using bigger baits.

You really can’t go wrong with any of these float fishing hooks.

Spawn bags are good baits for trout

Great Lakes Steelhead Hook SIze: The best hook size for great lakes steelhead and my go-to size for steelhead hooks is size 8 or size 10 which works well in most water clarity.

In super clear water or when using single eggs or very small baits, I will drop down to a size 12 wide hook that is thick enough not to bend on big steelhead.

The Daiichi 1150 or Raven Sedge hook is good for subtle presentations and small baits as seen in the image.

West Coast Steelhead Hook Size: For bigger steelhead, bigger baits, and bigger, faster, or deeper water a size 2 or size 6 heavy gauge hook will help get the bait down and will not bend on big fish. Again, use the hook that fits the bait! So even for West Coast Steelhead, a very small bait in very clear water might require a small size 8 or 10 hook.

Remember, the hook is only one part of catching lots of trout, steelhead, and salmon below a float. For tips on how to catch more fish under a float go to my Float Fishing For Beginners page.

Something else you should consider is checking out my page How To Catch More Trout And Steelhead Guaranteed because it explains some possible reasons why some guys still don’t catch fish even with the right hook.

What Is The Best Hook For Salmon?

Similar to steelhead I still recommend using a hook size that matches the bait size, but, with salmon, you will need to use a stronger hook to be sure you don’t bend or break the hook.

Hooks For Salmon
The best hooks for salmon will be extra strong and should match the bait, current, and depth of the river.

Best Hooks For Great Lakes Salmon

The best salmon hooks for Great Lakes salmon are ones with a wide gap and a heavy gauge wire, like size 6 or size 8 Raven Specimen hooks.

I use the specimen hooks for almost all salmon fishing conditions around the Great Lakes region.

Salmon are big and strong and make long runs, and that requires stronger leaders as well. A stronger leader and a hard-pulling salmon could mean that you might bend or break some of the thinner wire hooks. Cheap hooks suck, so don’t use them!

Best Hooks For West Coast Salmon

This Daiichi salmon hook is super strong
This Daiichi salmon hook is super strong

If you want an even stronger float fishing hook because you are fishing some big fast rivers like those out on the west coast, then you should consider the Daiichi X510 XPoint Salmon Steelhead Hooks.

This hook is one of the strongest Salmon hooks that I have used, and it won’t break or bend.

You can use this hook with any bait including beads and single eggs.

If you are going to be fishing for steelhead and salmon you need a good float mainline. Check on my page on the Best Float Fishing Lines.

The Best Hooks For Single Eggs And Tiny Baits

There are times when a single egg on a hook will catch the most trout or steelhead. Even a maggot, a stonefly nymph, or a small grub can work well.

The problem is that single eggs are tiny and they crack, break or fall off the bigger hooks. The same thing can happen with other tiny baits.

The wrong hook on a single egg or a tiny bait will also stand out like a sore thumb and the fish might ignore it. So which hook is best for salmon eggs and other tiny baits?

Daiichi 1150 hook
Daiichi 1150 hook

The best hooks for float fishing with small single eggs or tiny baits are the size 12 -14 Raven Sedge hooks or the Daiichi 1150 hooks because they are small and thin.

These are great lakes hooks and you still need to loosen your drag with these or you may bend the hook.

The Raven Specimen hook is one of the best trout hooks for most situations
Raven Specimen Hook

When fishing for bigger steelhead where I need a small but strong hook I like the size 12 Raven Specimen hooks or the Daiichi X510 XPoint Salmon Steelhead Hooks for my single egg fishing or with tiny baits.

Both of these hooks are extra strong and are good for bigger salmon and steelhead.

Best Storage Container For Hooks

Storage Box For Steelhead Hooks
The best storage box for Steelhead hooks, weights, float caps, and more.

If you are going to have a few different hooks to use under different situations, it’s a good idea to have somewhere compact and organized to put them.

I use this Sheffield Pocket Box for my hooks, split shots, float caps, and swivels. It comes in a square or oval shape and folds up nicely.

I like this box because if you go to grab a hook and accidentally drop it the compartments are all closed except for one so you won’t lose everything

It is also great because when folded up it fits in the palm of your hand and goes in almost any pocket.

If you have a great hook that has worked for you, or you have a question, let me know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines!


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  1. Nice write up, out here on the west coast the flows are more powerful, we need to stop or turn a fish in a hurry sometimes, for that we need bigger stronger hooks.
    The largest steelhead I have caught was roughly 22lbs, I was using a #4 that day, I was lucky to get it in , usually I need at least 15-18lb mainline, 10-12lb leader with a #1 hook to land fish half that size.
    The water you fish dictates alot….

    Tight Lines !!!

    1. Thanks for the comment. I fully agree with you. The best hook should be a combination of the right size and shape for the bait you are using and be the right size for the leader you are using and for the amount of pressure you will need to apply to get that fish in. The type of water you fish and the type of fish in that water will dictate your leader size.

      For you, fishing in that big water with strong ocean-run steelhead, you will need a heavier leader and larger hooks.

      I have fished BC steelhead with 10lb leaders and some of the stronger size 4 and size 6 hooks with no problem.

  2. hey Graham, great write up. ive been looking at hooks for fishing beads and i noticed the offset hooks are made for applications where the fish takes the hook into its mouth, but with beads they do not and i feel like it may be reducing hook ups. perhaps im just over thinking it

    1. Hey Dean,

      As the fish inhales the bead the hook follows and can often get caught on the outside of the lip as it’s going in, this is a good thing. Most of my guides and buddies are now running the Raven Wide Gape Specimen hooks with their beads to increase the hooking percentage as the bead goes in. They also hold well.

      I say don’t overthink it and just use what’s working for others, and then focus more on the presentation.

      Good luck,

      1. What size wide gape specimen hook are you using to fish beads under a float (steelhead, salmon river, November/December)?

  3. Hello Graham, I have been using Raven octopus hooks they are very strong, sizes are 4,6,8 and 10, 12 for single eggs and beads. Your thoughts on the octopus hooks.