If you're using circle hooks DO NOT strike. When the rod "loads" up it has taken your bait then begin to wind in.
The key difference between using traditional “J” hook patterns and circle hook patterns is that you don’t strike to set the hook when using a circle hook rig. Basically, in the majority of situations you just let the fish hook itself. Initially, it can be hard to resist that natural instinct to set the hook, but once you’ve caught a few fish on circle hooks not striking becomes second nature. By not striking what you are doing is allowing the circle hook to position in the jaw hinge as the fish swims away with the bait.
When game fishing with lever drag overhead outfits it’s a relatively simple process to slowly ease the drag lever up as the fish runs away with the bait until the rod is fully loaded up. For freshwater, estuarine or inshore bait fishing the best option is often to simply let the rod load up in the rod holder as the fish takes the bait then pick up the outfit and slowly wind into the fish. Just don’t fall for the macho trap of striking wildly at the fish as all this will achieve is ripping the circle hook out of the fish’s mouth before it has had a chance to locate in the jaw hinge.
Once you get into the routine of easing the pressure on slowly, you will find that hook up rates with circle hooks are bloody good. Many experienced anglers claim improved catch rates on jumping fish such as billfish, barramundi and tarpon using circle hooks over traditional “J” hook patterns. Results indicate that once a circle hook is located in the fish’s mouth it’s actually more difficult for them to throw the hook while jumping than when using traditional “J” hook patterns.