I won’t go into rig mechanics, mainly because what I use is so old it will have been told before, but I’ll start with what hooks I use and why. For pop-ups I use a Choddy hook in a size 8 and have done relatively exclusively since 2008. For larger 18/20mm bottom/wafters I use a size 6 Wide Gape and have done since late 2003. My pop-ups tend to be between 12-14mm but I have gone as big as 16mm without suffering anymore hook pulls. This is my primary thought with any hook choice way above any rig mechanics.
At almost all the venues I have fished, my hooked-to-landed ratio is almost perfect using very simple rigs, but I can think of one venue where this wasn’t the case. The one that springs to mind is Monks Pit in Cambridge, I landed my first 15 takes, then suddenly once the kelp reached the surface I was losing one-in-three. The problem was simple: their mouths were relatively soft and once the battles became too gruesome, the hook literally ripped out under the force. Some of you maybe thinking that a size 8 was too small for this type of fishing but if I told you they are the same size as a size 6 Continental Boilie Hook you might be surprised, in fact, the two hooks are almost identical but for the off-set point.
I tried moving up to a size 6 Choddy and the size 4 Continental but if anything the ratios went down and the actual mouth damage went up! In the end I stopped fishing there partly because of the mouth damage I was contributing to. The fact they had soft mouths meant that when gearing up with braid for heavy kelp boat battles, there was only going to be one outcome.
Personally I find that in this pattern on the rigs I use, the 8’s hold best and leave the least damage. I used them at Sutton in heavy hit-and-hold situations without a single loss and the difference here is they had hard mouths, meaning the hooks never slipped from their initial holding place. At another venue, fishing at silly long-range with braided line and 13ft broomsticks I lost one to a hook pull from 30 bites. I’ve worked in various tackle shops over the years and the old yarn about stiff rods ripping hooks out still bores me to tears. Hooks don’t rip out on carp-sized hooks because of stiff rods, they rip out if you play them badly, not taking into account the pressure that is being applied. The thing with braid is if you get caught off guard and can’t lower the rod or give line, it’s game over regardless of the size of hook.
Right, sorry, I went off on a little tangent but back to the plot. In my opinion some hook patterns hold better than others and I have also noticed that some sizes hold better to within each pattern. The point I want to make is that just because it’s bigger doesn’t mean it will stay in better, in fact I believe the opposite is true in some patterns. For example, I have never suffered a hook pull on a size 12 Mixa hook which I use for Zigging. This hook is absolutely tiny and seems to just bury to the eye. Again, I’m often asked if I’m worried about pulling the hook and the answer is no. However, I wouldn’t consider using this pattern in a size 6 fishing at, say, Burghfield. The wire is too fine and in the bigger size I would have serious concerns about opening it up when the going got tough. In this situation I’d go for a size 6 Wide Gape or Wide Gape X depending on how hairy I thought the fight might be. The way I look at it is like this: it’s easier to bury a slightly smaller hook than a big one which makes it less likely to fall out under normal circumstances, but when you know that you’re going to have to inevitably pull really hard, having a bigger gape and thicker wire will help the hook hold in its original position and not slide. I honestly haven’t used a size 4 in years as the Korda patterns I use come up quite big compared to some others.