Saltwater Hooks
By Ronn Lucas, Sr.

Where to start saltwater hooks? Virtually all hook makers made saltwater hooks. Since I have a Jones for Vom Hofe hooks; I will start with some of theirs. The company of Edward Vom Hofe has always been synonymous with high quality. Their reels, rods, hooks are all of high quality and sought after by collectors.

In so far as hooks goes, it appears that Vom Hofe had several companies make hooks for them. I have them marked NY, Redditch and Norway as place of origin and Vom Hofe as the brand name. I even have Edward Vom Hofe packages with hooks marked R Harrison & Co., Redditch that was part of the 1900s collection. All of them are of high quality.

You will find snelled hooks in this section that were likely intended for saltwater fishing. You will also find other saltwater snelled hooks in the snelled hooks section. No real sinister reason for that. Just seems the thing to do at this moment.

1. Edward Vom Hofe, marked 9/0 but Id say they are closer to 10/0. R Harrison & co., Redditch, bronzed, two ply wire snell, ring eye. Beautiful hooks.

2. a & b Edward Vom Hofe, marked 6/0, 4 strand gut, knobbed. package marked OS trolling, ca 1900. 1900s collection.

3. a & b Edward Vom Hofe, Tandem, 9/0 trailer, 8/0 point hook, bronzed, 4 gut snell.

4. E Vom Hofe, NY, 15/0, 13/0, 11/0, originally japanned, welded eyed hooks, knife edge, almost the entire hook is forged. Just the area behind the eyes are not forged.

5. a, b, c, d E Vom Hofe, About 15/0 +-, bronzed, forged, ring eye. From Craig Hoak

6. a, b, c E Vom Hofe, welded eye, tinned, about 10/0, made in Norway.

7. a, b, c, d, e E Vom Hofe, Van Vleck hook, about 14/0, tinned, knife edge, needle eye, ca 1910. You can see how thick the plating was back in the day. On some hooks, the stuff just flakes off. On this hook, much of the lettering of the names has been filled in but enough remains to be able to read them. Modern plating technology lays down very thin layers with much better adhesion. Part of the 1900s collection.

8. a & b Pflueger, Tarpon hook, 8/0, #5718, drilled eye with welded link. 1900s collection.

9. Pflueger Martu hook, about 4 long and a gape of 2 at the point, tinned, knife edge, needle point.

10. a, b, c T.J. Conroy hook, big time forged, about 14/0, needle eye, knife edge, ca 1905. About 3 long, 1 gape at the point. 1900s collection.

11. a, b, c T.J. Conroy, Port Aransas, about 14/0, needle eye, knife point, forged with chain & loop, knife edge, hook ca 1917. The tag hanging from the chain was the same as others in the collection as they were when put away in the early 1900s. Tag says April 1917, Swordfish, Spearfish and Tuna. Same as #10 in size. 1900s collection.

12. a, b, c T J Conroy, Armisac Pass, 14/0, needle eye, with chain, knife point, forged, tinned. 1900s collection. Original tag reads, J O Copeland & Co, North Attleboro Mass., Feb 16/05, No 15A, FS & Dz or Dg.

13. T.J. Conroy, Aransas, 13/0, 14/0, needle eye, knife point hook, forged, welded chain, ca 1917 Label says, 13/0, 14/0, Boschew 1900s collection

14. a, b, c Unknown make hook, 6/0, forged, bronzed, turned up taper, snelled with bronze wire. This is a beautiful little hook. Almost certain to be of English make. Ca 1900s. Original hanging tag reads, 6/0, Sample. Whatever else the tag said has been erased. Total length of hook and snell is 3 . 1900s collection.

15. a, b, c Unknown large hook, about 12.0, sproat, hollow point, japanned, 4 ply snelled, ca 1905. Note says, Dirks Channes Bass Hook, Mr. Kaedflusih. The name could be different because it is a little hard to read. Wonderful old hook from the 1900s collection.

16. a, b Unknown tandem hooks snelled to 4 ply gut, bronzed, knobbed, forged, 6/0, ca 1905. Beautiful knobbed hooks from the 1900s collection. Note says, Sch Knobbed, O Shy, 4 ply, Tandem, 6/0.

17. Unknown make, about 7/0, knobbed, forged, 4 ply gut, bronzed. One of three or four similar hooks in the 1900s collection.

18. a, b, c E Vom Hofe, this is a very rusty old hook that barely escaped the scrap pile. After removing most of the rust, the character and grace still shows. The name is still legible and the gutter is still visible. I think the reason I decided not to toss it and to include it here is the odd bit of anatomy at the eye. It needed a friend.

19. E Vom Hofe, about 11/0, needle eye, welded links, knife edge, forged, seems to have been tinned at some time, ca 1900

20. E Vom Hofe, 8/0. ring eye, forged, bronzed.

21. a, b E Vom Hofe, Van Vleck, 11/0, tinned, forged, needle eye, links & snell, knife edge, ca 1900.

22. Mills, 11/0, forged, welded ring eye, bronzed, knife edge, ca 1900. 1900s collection.

23. a, b Mills, 13/0, knife edge, ring eye. These two hooks are almost identical except for the eyes. One has a hand filed tapered and welded ring eye while the other seems unfinished. Also, the hooks are lined up perfectly at the bends and you can see that the lower hook would be longer than the other when the eye was closed and welded. More indication of hand worked hooks. Ca 1900. Part of the 1900s collection.

24. Mills, 11/0, welded ring eye, forged, tinned, ca May 4, 1914. 1900s collection.

25. Heres an oddity. Its a tuna jig called a pick. Its about 4 long.

26. a, b, c R Harrison & Co., Redditch, forged, welded tapered ring eye, links, bronzed, ca 1900. Original tag XV O or C g. 1900s collection.

27. R Harrison, Redditch, Wire snelled hooks, ca 1905. 1900s collection.

28. a, b, c R Harrison & Co., 11/0, large hand formed welded ring eye, forged, bronzed, ca 1905. 1900s collection.

29. E Vom Hofe, NY, 110, needle eye, links, forged, knife edge, ca 1900. 1900s collection.

30. a, b, c O. Mustad & Son, Christiania, 10/0, drilled eye, forged, re japanned 1/08 by Ronn Lucas, Sr.

31. a, b Unknown maker, 9/0, hand formed straight loop eye, forged, bronzed, ca 1905. From the 1900s collection.

32. a, b, c Washburn, sample hook, 13/0, hand formed tapered, welded ring eye, bronzed, ca 1904. The eye on this hook is very big, you could put a rope through it. The hand filing is great. You can imagine the hook maker filing the wire to a very fine taper and then bending it, what looks to me to be freehand. I have three of these hooks that are all slightly different. The original tag reads, Washburn, Sample, April 1904, a triangle-S &, to trade, C or G ss and the cents symbol. Were these prototype hooks? I dont recognize the name. Theres a story there that we are unlikely to know. 1900s collection.

33. a, b The second Washburn, sample hook, 13/0, hand formed tapered, welded ring eye, bronzed, ca 1904. The eye on this hook is also very big. Once again, the hand filing is great. The original tag reads, Washburn, Riner Hook. 1900s collection.

34. The third Washburn, sample hook, 13/0, hand formed tapered, welded ring eye, bronzed, ca 1904. The eye on this hook is also big but smaller than the other two. Once again, the hand filing is great. The original tag reads, Washburn, Pass Hook. The same as the other two except this one is reversed (bent the opposite of kirbed). 1900s collection.

35. a, b Pflueger, Boschew, 9.0, welded ring, forged, tinned, ca 1900. Tag says Boschew, 9/0, Pflueger. From the 1900s collection.

36. a, b Pflueger, Boschew, 9/0, tinned, drilled eye, link, ca 1900. 1900s collection.

37. a, b R Harrison & Co, Redditch, 9/0, bronzed, forged, ringed, ca 1900. Part of the 1900s collection.

38. a, b Old Mustad, flatted, japanned, snelled hooks. Gut snells have long ago come off. Here you can see inconsistent points/barbs. These could have been hand done but more likely sloppy machines.

39. a, b, c, d Van Vleck, Vom Hofe, England, forged, 11/0, tinned, welded ring eye. Ca 1900 Part of the 1900s collection.

40. a, b, c Pflueger, Akron, 14/0, ringed eye, originally tinned. About 7 long and a gap 2 .

41. Unknown maker, 16/0, ring eye, links & swivel. About 8 long and a gap of 3

A nice collection of the three sizes of Van Vleck Improved Hooks, marked and unmarked.

Two Van Vleck Improved Fish Hooks showing the embossed sides of the bends. One side says :Pat. Jan,29.1907 and the other Impd Van Vleck Hook.

Three Van Vleck Improved Hooks

Van Vleck Improved Fish Hook, point detail.

Van Vleck Improved Fish Hook, eye detail.

A selection of small, about 10/0 hook points with the bends lined up. Note the differences in length and shape.

The same selection of small, about 10/0 hook eyes with the bends lined up. Note the differences in length and shape.

A selection of medium, about 11/0 hook points with the bends lined up. Note the differences in length and shape.

The same selection of medium, about 11/0 hook points with the bends lined up. Note the differences in length and shape.

A selection of large, about 13/0 hook points with the bends lined up. Note the differences in length and shape.

The same selection of large, about 13/0 hook points with the bends lined up. Note the differences in length and shape.

The same large hooks with a white background to show better how different these hooks are.

The Van Vleck Improved Fish Hook is a wonderful commercial hook. These hooks were all hand made and were very difficult to make. I still havent figured out how they lifted or provided enough metal to make the two barbs. There was one large barb which was cut or ground into two barbs.

Up until just recently, I had just a couple of these hooks but then I had an opportunity to buy a fairly large number of them in three of the sizes that were made came up. When I was able to put several of the same size hooks side by side, the results were dramatic. Virtually, no two hooks are the same. The bends are quite close but even there they have subtle differences.

In the photos above where the eyes and/or points are all lined up, I had the other end of the hooks lined up so you can see huge differences. Actually, these differences are almost unbelievable from a hook makers point of view. I have differences in my hooks but I would never send out hooks with this much variances. What I wouldnt give to go back in time as a fly on the wall to see how these hooks were produced.

A few of these are not marked with the name and patent date. I have conflicting information about the unmarked hooks. One source tells me that the Van Vlecks made these hooks for a few years before receiving a patent on them. I have been told by another collector that later (after the patent) someone was copying these hooks. I am not buying that. I suppose it would be possible but such a labor intensive hook with what proved to be a very small market, one would think a more broadly marketable hook would be a better choice. After studying these hooks in great detail, I come to the conclusion that the unmarked hooks must have been made pre patent and/or post Van Vlecks closing by the same makers. There are just too many consistent areas on all of the hooks to have been done by other hands. Without all of these hooks I could not have made such a statement.

There is also the issue of the unclosed and unwelded eyes on ALL of the medium size hooks. They were closed down with a hog ring type tool over a soft lead triangle piece to prevent chafing gear. This also facilitated a quick change of hook size.

The eyes while all similar, are not the same. There are many hallmarks of hand made hooks on these.

The hooks look like forged hooks and certainly they were. They werent forged in the way that all others are though. The wire is more of an oval shape than with the clearly defined flat surfaces that conventional forging produces. After looking very close at the bends of the hooks, it is almost certain that they forged the wire BEFORE they bent it! The wires on the hooks I have are almost all twisted off perpendicular in the bend..from bending the wire the hard way! The wire falls over just a bit when bent this way. And, other forged hooks have sharply delineated margins of the forging areas and they are flat whereas bending the hard way would deform the flat wire and stretch the margins and rounding them and the flat area. They must have bent the hooks last and that made more chance of the different lengths either at the eye or spear. Most commercial hooks are forged last.

It is well to remember that these hooks were made at a time when hook making machines were in common use so these were clearly a throwback to earlier times.

Ive been told by a commercial fisherman who fished Tuna and other food fish and he tried the Van Vleck hooks but gave up on them because they were too hard to remove from the fishs mouth. I can only think that would be the case if the hook were tried to be released the way a normal hook by pressing down on the shank to elongate the hole to make room for the barb to pass. Doing that with these, the effect would be just the opposite. Of course there is the issue of the spread out double barbs resisting any attempt to remove it from the flesh.

My opinion is that these hooks were as much a marketing gimmick as they were a real improvement on fish hooks. In the end, I expect that the difficulty of producing these hooks outweighed the additional money that could be made. Remember that they were, at that time competing against inexpensive machine made hooks.

In any case, these are very cool hooks and would be a real prize in any hook collection.

Unidentified saltwater hooks. Hooks on the left are sproat, japanned, 6/0. Hooks on the right are OSHY, 6/0, forged, bronze

Edward vom Hofe & Co., 3.0, snelled, pin detail. Often on bait hooks, a turned up taper or as is this case, an actual needle was tied in with the snell. This was to secure the bait to the hook better than without.

Thomas J Conroy hook package, R Harrison hooks. About 5/0, drilled eye, forged. Part of the 1900s collection.

Unidentified hook, 8/0 XL, sproat, ball eye, japanned, snelled.

Gold Medal, sproat, japanned snelled hook

Edward Vom Hofe, Tandem, 9.0 trailer, 8.0 point, bronzed, 4 ply gut snell.

EZC, 8/0 hook, sproat, snelled, japanned.

Unidentified 9.0 hook, snelled, japanned.

Huge 18.0 odd shape hook. This hook is a real mystery to me. Ive never seen another like it. Also, it has several other odd bits of anatomy such as the forged and tapered area at the front of the hook, the tapered wire from about half way down the bend and the fairly crude drilled eye. The hook has an exquisite hollow point that is also guttered. I think this is a hand made hook.

Some unidentified hooks

Unidentified 10.0 hook, snelled, japanned.