Understanding Terminal Tackle the Ultimate Guide

Terminal tackle, what the heck is it, and what does it do?

Well, it’s the nuts and bolts of the operation.

Terminal tackle is a pretty big subject to cover.

If you don’t understand how to select the right gear you wont catch fish.

In this guide not only do we cover the different types of terminal tackle and its uses. But more importantly, we discuss how to use it effectively so you can catch more fish.

Typically fishing line is included in the subject terminal tackle. We don’t cover it in this guide because it needs a post of its own with all its details. If you want to know more about line check out our article on selecting the right fishing line.

Fishing Hooks

Hooks are one of the most important pieces of tackle you’ll own.

It’s one of the only pieces of equipment that makes catching a fish possible along with the line and the rod.

Fish hooks have been around forever. Back in the day fish hooks were made of bones, shells, and wood.

Now a days we sharpen hooks by lasers and have them mass-produced.

When you are picking out fish hooks you’ll see that there’s an overwhelming selection.

Each hook is unique and they all serve a purpose.

So how do you narrow down the selection to get what you need?

With hooks, they generally have three classifications, hook size, the hook’s gauge(thickness of the wire), and the type of hook.


Hook Size

Measuring hook sizes are done on a scale ranging from numbers 12 – 6/0.

The median is 1/0 or “one ought”.

The higher the first number in the fraction is (the numerator) the bigger the hook is. But if it is just a single number, the higher the number the smaller the hook is.

The scale looks  a little something like this:

12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 1/0 2/0 3/0 4/0 5/0 6/0

Small Hooks——————————–Big Hooks

It’s important to choose the right size hook for the fishes safety.

Hooks to small can result in “gut hooks” (where a fish swallows the hook.)


Hook Gauge

The hooks gauge is referring to the thickness of the wire the hook is made of.

The hook gauge is often listed as an x-factor, or light, medium, heavy wire.

The x-factor is a multiplier.

So if it’s a 2X hook, than it’s as strong as the next hook size up.

This often isn’t a big deciding factor when picking out hooks. Just know that heavy wire hooks don’t straighten as easy. But they’re harder to hook into a fish and require a stronger hook set.

On the contrary, the smaller wire hooks straighten more easily and they are easier to hook into a fish.


Types of Hooks

There are thousands of hook types on the market and they all are unique and have different purposes.

But for our sake, we are just going to cover the top 5 most common inland fishing hooks.

Worm Hooks

The worm hook is the first hook we will talk about. When it comes to bass fishing this is the most used hook in the tackle box.

It’s great for rigging all sorts of different baits such as soft plastics and in all different styles.

This is also a great hook when it comes to rigging baits to be weedless.

Common ways to utilize the worm hook are with the Texas rig and Carolina rig.


Treble Hooks

Another common hook, and one used on most hard-body baits(lures with solid forms like crank and jerk baits) is a treble hook.

Treble meaning three of something. This hook is a hook that has three hooks joining at one eyelet.

This hook can also be effective with live, chum, and cut bait in some situations.

Some states have regulations as to when treble hooks can be used. So always be aware of your state guidelines when it comes to how and when to be using them.


Bait Holder Hooks

Bait holder hooks are a great option for beginners.

This is the go-to hook if you plan on using live bait like worms and minnows.

This hook, as it’s appropriately named, is used for holding the bait on the hook. The bait holder hook gets its name from barbs on the back end of the hook shank.

These barbs allow the bait to really stick to the hook and it doesn’t let the bait easily slip off.


Circle Hooks

Next hook we will talk about is the circle hook.

This is by far one of the safest and most humane hooks for fish

The hook is designed to set the hook in the fishes mouth.

The hooks point is an exaggerated circle shape where it points back at the hook shank nearly making a circle shape.

This helps prevent the notorious gut hooks in fishing. A gut hook is a hook that gets hooked in the fish’s gullet.

This can put a fishes life in jeopardy and lead to a slow painful death.

On brighter note, this is the hook of choice for the really popular wacky rig!


Jig Hooks

Finally, the Jig hook. It goes without saying that this hook is extremely popular.

It is designed so that the hook is pointing upwards which helps prevent those pesky snags.

It’s also a great hook because it can be dressed up in many different ways to help imitate the little creatures that your fish eat.

The hook is often molded with a weight around the front end so it can be skipped along the bottom surface.

Most anglers don’t carry this hook in their tackle box. Instead, they buy actual jigs. To learn more about jig fishing read The Ultimate Guide to Jig Fishing.


Sinkers

A sinker is a weight on the end of your line.

Sinkers serve a vital role in you catching fish.

It’s one thing that you can rely on getting your bait/lure into the strike zone every time.

Just like hooks, there are many different types of sinkers and they all serve a purpose.

Fishing weights can be broken down into two groups. Material and type of sinker.

First, we will discuss the different materials that sinkers are made of. We will talk about the four most common materials and that is lead, tin, steel, and tungsten.

Lead Sinkers

Lead is the most common type of sinker.

However, in a lot of areas of the world, it’s illegal to fish with. Lead presents a huge threat to polluting the environment.

On the contrary, it’s a very advantageous choice of weight to use while fishing.

It is very dense so you don’t need to use a lot of it.

Lead is super cheap relative to the other sinkers on the market.

Also, it’s dull in color so not only do fish not notice it but they are not attracted to it either.

The lead weights have a decent lifespan as well.

It can easily be removed and reused later and when it’s no good any longer it can easily be melted down and cast into new weights by simply using a pre-made mold.

Tin Sinkers

Tin is an alternative to lead when comes to certain sinker styles like split shot.

This is a good choice if you’re not looking to spend and arm and leg for fishing weights.

It’s also a good choice because in most parts of the world fishing with tin weights isn’t a problem.

The downside to tin is that it is shiny so fish can easily spot it and either attack it or be put off by it.

Thankfully, there is also painted tin sinkers so this eliminates that problem.

Another con for tin weights is its density.

It is one of the least dense weights on the market which means you have either use bigger weights or more weights. Either way isn’t good for fishing because both could spook a fish.

Steel Sinkers

Steel is a great weight for its density and price.

However, it really lacks when it comes to a variety of styles of sinkers.

Finally, the most noticeable con of steel is the fact that it rust. Not only does this make the weight nearly unusable after a few fishing trips but it also ruins your tackle box too.

Tungsten Sinkers

Lastly, we have tungsten sinkers.

These sinkers are the best of the best.

Not only do they meet all the great features of lead but they exceed them by being completely legal.

So the tungsten weight is denser than lead, not shiny, reusable, and comes in all different shapes and sizes.

However, there is one downside to tungsten and that is the price.

More often than not tungsten sinkers are fairly expensive. But your money goes a long way because these can be reused longer than the others.

Types of fishing Sinkers

To make the different types of sinkers easier to understand  we selected the most common inland fishing sinkers and explained what they do.

Slip sinkers

A lot of fishing sinkers or weights are fixed to the line in on position.

However, with slip sinkers that is not the case. They move freely up and down the line and offer fish an action that is very unique from many other lures.

They come in all different shapes and sizes. More common shapes are an egg shape(oval) or a bullet shape. These sinkers are used on a variety of setups the most common is the Texas rig.

Split Shot

Unlike slip sinkers, split shot is a clam shape weight that crimps anywhere on the line.

Split shot comes in reusable and non-reusable shapes.

The picture above is non-reusable.

A pro of using the non-reusable split shot is that it often has a lower profile which not only brings less attention to the sinkers in the water but it also has less drag which makes the presentation look more natural in the water.

Reusable split shot are more cost effective and environmentally friendly.

Casting Sinkers

Casting Sinkers is a generic name for sinkers with an eye on them. Or a loop that you can tie a line too.

These sinkers are tied below your bait and used on rigs like a “drop shot” rig.

They are great weights because they allow your bait to be slightly off the ground level.

This area is the sweet spot for fishing because most animals lower in the food chain from fish hang out just above the bottom(i.e. crayfish, worms, leeches, salamanders, and some bait fish).

This area is often referred to as the strike zone.

Fishing Bobbers/Floats

Bobbers, Floats, indicators.

What’s the difference?

Well surprisingly they’re all the same.

A bobber/float/indicator has two purposes.

The first, is it’s a small flotation device that you mount on the line above the lure and sinkers to keep the lure floating.

The other primary function, is the bobber drops under water or pops when the fish takes interest in your lure.

Floats can used in more advanced fishing methods like centerpin fishing. If you haven’t heard about centerpin fishing already, you need to check it out!

Here are some of the different types of floats you will find in your local tackle shops:

The Classic Bobber


This may be the first bobber that anyone uses. It’s super simple to use, cheap, and versatile. T

Bobbers are a great choice for beginners.

Because of its round shape, this bobber is not only harder to pull down but it also doesn’t translate to us what exactly is going below the surface.

A lot of fish that are more skittish will notice a float that’s harder to pull down and may be spooked.

How it works is by depressing one side completely and holding down just the matching extruding plastic piece on the other side but not the metal J-shaped hook.

If you have done this correctly, the metal wire that runs through the bobber should be exposed. Now all you have to do is run the line under the hook and let go.

Next, just repeat the same steps for the other side.

Spring Floats

The spring float is going to be the next easiest float work with.

On the float, there is a small spring, similar to the one you would find in a pen. To attach the float to the line you simply slide the spring back on the float and rest the line in the plastic hook exposed when you pulled the spring back.

After you have done this you can release the spring and that’s it! The advantage to a float like this is speed.

It’s super easy to take off and put back on.

But the disadvantages of floats like this is they often limit how far deep you can fish with them.

So if you wanted to fish with your bait at eight feet deep you would have to put the float eight feet up the line.

Unfortunately, this would make it near impossible to cast.

Sliding or Slip Floats

The sliding float or slip float is going to be the solution to that said problem.

You can use sliding floats to fish in multiple depths.

They aren’t too common because they’re a bit more expensive and not the easiest to set up.

Set up requires four parts. You have the float its self, two beads, and a bobber-stop(a string tied tightly on the line.)

Strike Indicators

Finally the strike indicator, this is the last float on our list.

Fly fisherman use these because they are light weight and have little impact on the presentation of the lure.

Indicators set themselves apart by being inconspicuous and versatile.

They’re also easy to move up and down the line to adjust your depth.

Swivels snaps and Swivels

Snaps and swivels are the miscellaneous hardware you often have on the end of your line that connects to the hook to the line. These little pieces of tackle make our lives as fisherman easier.

Tired of tying knots, or just aren’t any good at tying knots yet?

Snap swivels are going to be your saving grace.

Swivels have a snap like a safety pin that you can open and close. This makes it easy for you to quickly change lures.

The downside to using these is they don’t really look to natural in the water so they can sometimes spook a fish.

A barrel swivel is a great piece of tackle when security attaching one line to another. Using a barrel swivels allows your line that has the lure attached to it to spin freely without twisting your main line(the line used in your spool)

In conclusion, your terminal tackle is some of your most important equipment in your tackle box.

It should also be the most expensive box in your tackle collection. I say this because high-quality tackle is what will land the fish in the end.