Best Hook Size For Trout: A Guides Advice On Trout Hook Size

Hook size for trout

Trout hooks are an important part of fishing and knowing the best hook size for trout will help you catch more fish. Have you ever wondered which hooks river guides use and why? This article explains trout hooks from a guide’s perspective.

The best hook size for trout fishing will depend on the size of the bait and the size of the trout that you are fishing for. The best hook size for trout will be between a size 8 and 12. A bigger trout hook is better at holding on to the trout but it can also be bad in certain situations.

There are many advantages to using the right hook size for trout but there are some disadvantages to the wrong hook size. The wrong hook size, the wrong shape, and even the wrong color can lead to a no-fish day!

As a guide for the last 20 years, I have done a lot of research on trout feeding habits. I have had the opportunity to work with professional trout anglers, professional guides, and even trout biologists. This has enabled me to have plenty of opportunities to watch thousands of trout feeding above and below the surface.

I have seen plenty of fish turn away from a bait, but with a few hook adjustments, I have seen that same fish grab the bait.

I have also put in thousands of hours testing baits, testing hooks, and testing different methods for catching trout, and I believe I have come up with the best hook sizes and shape for trout under all conditions.

Trout Hook Sizing

Float Fishing Hooks

Hook size for trout or any hook for that matter is measured in numbers from 1 to 26 with the larger number being a smaller hook and a smaller number being a bigger hook. I’m not sure why it’s done this way but I think they did this to confuse the crap out of new anglers :). Just kidding.

A size 24 hook is less than a 1/4 inch long which is really small and a hook this small would likely only be used by the odd fly tier to tie midges or mosquito patterns. A size 1 trout hook on the other hand is about an inch long and is meant for much bigger baits.

There are also hooks bigger than a size 1 and they rate them like this 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, and even much bigger with some over 8/0 for musky and saltwater fishing.

The hook size for trout that I use the most is a size 10 but when I go trout fishing I have trout hooks with me from size 6 to size 14 because there are times when a size 10 is too big or too small.

The Difference Between Hook Sizes

I would consider a large hook to be anything bigger than a size 6 hook. Even a size 6 to me is big for trout.

A large trout hook will be thicker, heavier, and stronger and has the advantage of hooking the trout and holding onto the trout better.

A larger hook will be wider which will give you better hook penetration, and a larger hook will also grab more flesh so it will hold onto the fish better, but don’t let that be the reason you go straight to a big size 2 hook because if the hook is too big they may not put it in there mouth in the first place.

On the flip side, a small hook doesn’t grab a lot of flesh and doesn’t hook trout as well and is more likely to tear out of the fish’s mouth but a small hook in a bait is less likely to be seen by the trout and is more likely to get grabbed.

I use a larger size 6 or 8 hooks whenever I can, and I use a smaller size 10 to 14 hook when I need to. The key is knowing when to use the bigger hook and when you should use a smaller hook.

The Hook Size For Trout Depends On The Bait

Hook size for trout
Bigger baits will require a bigger hook and smaller baits will require smaller hooks. In case you are wondering, I was using a size 10 Raven Sedge hook when this Crayfish grabbed it and got itself hooked.

There are many reasons why your bait will dictate the best hooks size for trout fishing.

I believe that trout feed more based on sight than they do on scent or other factors so I adjust my hook size accordingly to make sure they don’t see the hook.

If they see your hook you will have a tough time catching trout.

Wild trout that are feeding in clear water will be extra cautious and the wrong size hook will mean fewer fish.

A hook that is too large for the bait will stand out too much and be ignored by the bigger wiser trout, especially under clear and slow water conditions.

Trout aren’t smart enough to know that it’s a hook, all they know is it’s not natural and their instincts kick in and tell them to avoid it. Unless you are fishing for stocked trout which I often call dumber than dumb, you will struggle to get wild trout to bite if the trout keep seeing your hooks.

A thick hook stands out more than a thin hook does so that is something else to consider when choosing the best hook size for trout.

Presentation Will Improve With The Right Hook Size

Hook size for trout presentation
The right hook size for trout fishing can make a big difference on the presentation of your bait.

The right hook size for trout will improve your presentation. A size 2 or size 4 trout hook will likely be too large and will affect how the bait drifts through the current giving you a poor presentation.

If you have read any of my previous posts on how to fish for trout you will know that I think proper presentation is critical in catching trout consistently. If you are not sure about how to present your bait effectively or you want a guide’s advice on the best methods for bait fishing check out my page on How To Float Fish and my page on How To Bottom Bounce Lie A Pro.

I trout hook that is too big will not allow a small bait to move naturally in the current because it is too heavy and weighs it down. This looks unnatural to the fish and could be a warning signal to them.

A smaller size 12 trout hook will be lighter and allow the bait to have better and more natural movement which looks better to a trout and provides a better presentation but don’t go buying a bunch of tiny hooks just yet.

A heavy hook will also drag along the bottom too much which also looks unnatural to the trout because most bugs and other bait will drift freely on and off the bottom. I also believe a hook constantly dragging along the bottom is a bad thing since trout tend to feed up or sideways 87% more than they feed down. That number is based on a recent study I read, but I have been saying this for over 20 years.

A hook that is too large and too heavy will also snag the bottom too much which means more lost hooks, and it also means you are more likely to have debris stuck to your hook during your drift. Debris on the hook will prevent the trout from biting the hooks.

The problem with small hooks in size 12 to 18 is that a size 14 trout hook might be too small and will get buried in the bait which may close up the gap which will then affect how well the hook penetrates and how well or how poorly it hooks the trout.

If the hook gap is closed up or the point is covered by the bait you will miss a lot of trout on the hook set or the trout will pick up the bait, feel the pull or line and spit the hook out without you getting a hookset.

The best hook size for trout fishing when using a grub or a single salmon egg is a size 12 or maybe a size 14 trout hook if the water is very clear. I would only go this small just so that the trout do not see the hook.

Small Hooks are good for big trout
Small hooks are good for big trout. This 6 pound steelhead was caught on a size 8 Raven Specialist trout hook.

The best hook size for trout fishing when I am using a bigger bait like a garden worm or a spawn bag that is about the size of a nickel would be a size 6 or 8 trout hook.

The best hook size for trout when using a very large bait like a chunk of skein, a crayfish or a dew worm, or even a large minnow would be a size 4 or 6 trout hook.

If you want to know what my favorite baits are for trout and my tactics for catching more trout on baits, go to my page called Best Trout Baits – The Only 5 Baits You Will Ever Need

Water Clarity And Hook Size For Trout

The hook size for trout fishing will change based on the water clarity.

A bigger hook will hook more fish and will hold on better so if the water is dirtier and I think that the trout won’t likely see my hook due to the reduced visibility, I will use a bigger size 6 or size 8 trout hook.

If the water is very clear and I think the trout are more likely to see the hook in this clear water I will go smaller trout hook but only as small as I need to. In other words, I’m not going to put on a size 14 hook when a size 10 will still work.

A size 10 hook Raven sedge hook is a thin hook and in a 3-inch plastic worm, it will be hidden enough that the trout won’t see it even in very clear water.

Current Will Determine The Hook Size For Trout

A Fast Trout river
In faster water the hook size won’t matter as much so I will often go with a bigger hook.

If the current is slow then the trout will have more time to inspect your bait which means they might see a bigger hook. In slower currents, the best hook size for trout fishing will be a smaller thinner hook like a size 10 to 12 trout hook.

In faster currents, the best hook size for trout fishing will be a bigger hook. If the current is fast the trout have to make a split-second decision when feeding which means they are less likely to see a bigger hook and since bigger hooks will hook and hold better I may go to a size 6 or size 8 trout hook in fast water.

The faster the water the less the hook size matters however almost never will I drop down to a size 2 or size 4. A size 6 will hook and hold a trout, steelhead, or even a salmon just fine.

The Right Hook Size For The Size Of The Trout

A Salmon Caught On A Size 10 Trout Hook
This 25 pound salmon was caught on a size 10 Raven Specialist hook on a fast water river.

Some anglers think that you need a bigger hook for big trout and a smaller hook for small trout but that’s not true.

Whether the trout is 20 pounds or 4 inches they both see things the same way and they will both see the hook if it is too big.

For all the same reasons why I would or wouldn’t use a large hook will still apply to big trout or small trout.

In fact, sometimes I have to use smaller hooks for big trout just because they are much wiser than younger trout and they are more likely to be cautious of a big hook. But don’t worry because I have caught lots of 20 to 40-pound salmon on size 8 trout hooks.

My go-to size when I am guiding for steelhead is a size 10 trout hook in clear water conditions, and I sometimes put over 300 steelhead in the net just in the month of November.

If a size 10 trout hook didn’t work for big fish over 5 pounds I wouldn’t be using it. If a size 10 trout hook is good enough for steelhead it’s good enough for trout too.

The size of the fish usually doesn’t matter, except when hook strength is a factor.

The only difference between a hook for a large trout and a small trout is the thickness of the hook. A Raven size 10 sedge hook is a thin wire hook that might straighten out on very big trout or on a big salmon, but a size 10 Gamakatsu Octopus Strong hook or the Raven Specimen hook won’t bend or break on bigger fish.

They are basically the same size hook but one is just stronger due to the thickness of the hook.

I will change my hook strength based on the size of fish I’m fishing for only if I think there is a chance the fish may break the hook or bend it.

Best Hooks For Trout Fishing

You’ve probably been waiting for me to finally tell you what the best hooks for trout fishing are, or which trout hooks I use and recommend to my clients, but that can take up an entire page, and it did, so go to my page on the 5 Best Hooks and enjoy.

If you don’t want to skip to another page, here is a quick summary of the best hooks for trout and the ones that I use the most for both trout and for steelhead.

  • For small baits and in very clear water I will use a size 12 Raven Sedge Hook or a size 12 Raven Specialist Hook. I rarely go as small as a size 14 trout hook.
  • For a good multi-purpose trout hook that is suitable for most river conditions and most bait sizes, and most fish sizes, Use the Raven Specimen hook in a size 10 and 12. This is the hook that I and my guides prefer the most because it tends to hold onto the fish well and penetrate well.
  • If the water is dirtier and I can get away with a bigger hook or I am using larger baits, I will go with the Raven Specimen hook but in a size 8 or maybe a size 6 trout hook if it’s really dirty water.
  • Another hook that I like in all these sizes and conditions is the Redwing Blackbird Sabertooth hooks

Leader Size And Hook Size For Trout

hook size for big trout
If your hook size for trout is wrong those big wise old trout will ignore it.

The size of your leader should also be considered when considering your hook size. This something a lot of guys don’t think about when choosing the hook size for trout.

Many anglers think they need and big strong hood because they are fishing for big trout. But trout can be line-shy and that means that a big strong hook will never be put to its full potential because the chances are that the lighter leader will always break long before the hook will bend or break.

If you want a big wise old trout to bite you need a leader and a hook size that they won’t see.

One of the reasons that I use size 10 trout hooks for steelhead without worrying that I’m going to bend out hooks is because I know that if I pull too hard my leader will break long before my hook will bend so I never have to worry about bent or broken hook, especially since I only use good quality trout hooks.

I have a page on the best leaders with tips on the best brands, and sizes, and some warnings and mistakes many anglers make, not to mention how to set up your leader like a pro.

Best Hook Brands

There are some brands of hook that are very good and there are cheap hooks that might bend or break. For the extra 1 to 2 dollars a pack it’s worth buying better quality hooks.

If you have a good quality hook, then all you have to do is set your drag right, use the right size hook based on the bait and the conditions, present your bait well and you will catch more trout. You can’t go wrong with the 12 Raven Sedge Hook in clear water with small baits or Raven Specimen hook for most situations

Got A Question About Hook Size For Trout – Just Ask

I’d be happy to help you with any questions you might have on hooks size for trout or any tips you might have so leave a comment or question in the comments section below.

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  1. Hello, good article. Thanks for sharing. Ive been using jig heads (size 1) typically used for bass with plastic minnow/crawfish pattern for larger trout. Would this larger size hook hurt the fish? I have been removing barb to lessen impact on fish. Thanks.

    1. Hi Jay, It really depends on where the hook penetrates. Both big and small hooks could kill a fish if it’s in the wrong spot. Deep hooks near the gills and throat area are more likely to kill a fish but hooks on the outer lip areas are generally harmless. I hook hundreds or even thousands of trout, steelhead, and salmon each year and in my experience, only 1 or two might die from a bad hook placement and I rarely use #1 hook sizes. Just keep an eye on the fish, if the fish is submerged in the net and you see lots of blood pouring out of the mouth or gills areas as it breathes, that fish is likely going to die. If there is not blood that fish will survive. If you are seeing lots of bleeding fish, try a smaller hook.

      To be honest, I tell my clients that air kills more fish than anything else and that 90% of trout die because anglers drag them up onto the bank and leave them out of the water way too long while they search for their camera or get the hooks out. Trout can only survive out of the water for about as long as you can survive underwater. I catch the same large trout sometimes over 10 times a year which shows good handling, keeping them in the net and below the water for as much as possible is the best thing for the survival of the trout. Good luck.

  2. Thanks for the great info Graham! I am just starting to learn and will begin fishing for trout in some locally stock urban ponds in Nov. The AZ Game & Fish says the Rainbow Trout are about 10 – 13 inches and recommend 8 – 12 baitholder hooks. I am thinking to start with some of those powerbait nibbles, nuggets or floating eggs. Do you think a size 12 would be best to cover the hook as much as possible?

    Thanks again for the help, it is much appreciated!

    1. Hi Michael, with stocked trout they are not that smart or picky so it’s very likely they will eat a bait with a large protruding hook however it’s best to use a smaller low profile hook. I Don’t use baitholder hooks because the gap is often too small and the hook shank is too long. I think it’s better to go with a short shank wide gap hook like the Raven specimen hook. Your hook size will depend on the size of the bait. I’ll add a diagram to help you gauge your hook size.