Red Hooks or Marketing Hype?



Photo Credit Todd Hatfield

Red Hooks or Marketing Hype

They say the color red is the ultimate cure for sadness. Red is the color of blood, so it’s an intense color said to enhance one’s metabolism, respiration rate and even raises blood pressure. If you own a red car, your auto insurance premiums will be higher. If these points are true? That means the color red is one powerful color to Humans. Let’s look at red hooks while fishing? Let me start by saying I fish with a black nickel or bronze hook 80% of the time.

When it comes to the red hooks through the years, I have gotten mixed opinions from anglers. Many fishermen swear by them while others dismiss them as just marketing hype? For years I have used them and I can honestly say in my opinion I truly believe with the right conditions they work.

Most folks know me for my addiction to Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout. But I use red hooks for drop shoting for bass, walleye jigging, and even panfish. Hook manufacturers out there offer a red hook for the most part. I’m not the only one that believes they work. If red hooks did not sell would companies still manufacture them, right? No matter what side of the fence you’re on when it comes to red hooks opinions vary. Let’s explore a few reasons on why red hooks can possibly make a difference.

For years I had started buying red treble hooks and put them on my crankbaits for the bleeding gill effect. I do pull plugs for steelhead and many of my belly trebles below the gill plate have a red treble. But it wasn’t until years ago when I was fishing on the Famed Manistee River in Michigan for King Salmon. I happened to be fishing with one of my closet friends Adam and we were on a float fishing trip with red and pink skein. We both were running a center pin, a 15-gram float, same main line, and leader. We were even using the same cured eggs from the same ziplock bag. When comparing the two rigs was he was running a red wide finesse gap hook from Gamakatsu and I had the same hook just in black nickel. Adam proceeded to out fish me. We checked the depth and shot pattern and we made sure mine was the same. Our conclusion was the red hook theory. Was it because the Salmon could not see the red hook with the red skein?

Ever since that day I was on a quest to keep track of my red hook fishing. I wanted to see how the hook performed for my own catch rates and against others that fished with me. After a while, I started to notice a pattern and recorded my findings in my fishing journal.

Can the Fish see a Red Hook?

When reading this article, you must remember it’s just an opinion but many industry professionals have the same opinion as me. Whether the fish can see it? At what depth they can see it? Has the most debate. It’s a fact that red is the first color to fall off the spectrum depending on depth and light conditions. So, in deep water, the color red turns the color grey. I primarily fish for river steelhead and most steelhead are caught in 4-8 foot of water 90% of the time here in the Great Lake tributaries.

In normal stained water with visibility of 2 feet and better, I have seen a red hook shine. Recent studies have shown the color red can be seen in deeper water than the color blue. I have run red spawn sacks or skein with a red hook in depths of six feet and the fish don’t mind it. I have seen my catch rates go up with red when the water is the clearest. Typically, in the winter months, most rivers are very low, and clear. Is matching the hook color to a particular bait or lure for steelhead the way to go? Or is it because in clearer water the extra shine may attract the fish?

Could the marketing hype give me more confidence in a red hook thus resulting in more fish because of my sheer confidence? I will admit that could be possible. You must be confident and believe in what you’re fishing, to be successful. I honestly do believe colors are viewed differently by different fish.

What I have found is when we have bluebird sunny days a red hook does produce for me. During these conditions, red is a great color to use. Could it be the color red suggests feeding to the fish?

When fishing gets tough be it the weather or fishing pressure. I will run red bags, red power bait honey worms, and a small red 3-inch soft plastic worm. Is that red hook blending in with these bait choices? I’ve even tied up red spinners with different blades to use during these conditions. It’s safe to say the color red is a great color for me in very clear water with sunny skies.

Hook Changes

I love putting red hooks on a few of my spinners. No color tubing needs to be added as a dressing to the hook. For me its defeats, the purpose if it’s covered. On my crankbaits, I only swap out the belly hook of the bait. Reason being I want the fish to hit the front of the bait to ensure better hookups.

Recently a friend of mine was skeptical on the red hook factor so I gave him a few red trebles to try. While Coho fishing with spinners the baits with red hooks did the trick when they would not touch one without a red hook. Was the red hook what the spinner needed? A spinner is known as a lure that excites fish. Did the red hook push the fish over the edge? I believe many fish have a thing for the color red.

Photo Credit Don Moore

Another example was in the late 90s I was on a Canadian fly-in fishing trip for giant trophy pike after ice out. I swapped out my chrome spoon treble hooks for red. I fished multiple rods rigged with spoons on bluebird days in shallow water the pike went crazy over my spoons with red hooks.

I always carry a pair of split ring pliers in my pack or tackle bag. If you need to make a hook change, they can be swapped out easily. Not to mention when fishing for large fish sometimes they trash a hook and it will need to be replaced regardless of the hook color. Split ring pliers are a great piece of gear to have handy.


Most Anglers believe that with the right lure and color it will help you catch more fish. These decisions are based on conditions: water clarity vs depth and overcast or sunny days. Many folks agree that they have seen where a small color swash on baits has made a difference? A splash or dot of color on a jig head for example. Why not a red hook? Could that small color splash be just enough?

Could the red hooks act as an accent color? Fishermen say they want to hide the hook, and not show it to the fish. This is a valid point and I agree. Honestly, I only have theories on why I think a red hook performs on certain days. Try them on crankbaits, plugs, spinner and when fishing for salmon and steelhead.

The red hook craze has slowed down through the years. But make no mistake about it, red hook fans are out there including me. Remember Steelhead are the most color conscious fish on Planet Earth.

As I discussed maybe I’m just a sucker for marketing hype? Say or think what you want? You will never convince me of anything different. When fishing shallow clear water and a bluebird day I believe a red hook helps me. Whatever the reason the old saying goes “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” Got an opinion on red hooks comment below.

Spring will be here before we know it. Tight Lines!

Roger Hinchcliff





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *