Using Barbless Hooks – Better!
Inside the Outdoors, April 9, 2010

I was listening to an associate discuss a project of sorts recently when he referred to spinners and plastic baits as killer lures. I was taken aback by that, because I have used them for as long as I have enjoyed the sport. The only way they became as he stated is if I failed to return the aquatic species to the waters, or in rare instances, as with any hooked item, the fish swallows the thing, regardless of it being an artificial lure or fly.

Years back, I remember fishing a Rooster Tail down near what was referred to as Iron Bridge at the junction where another creek enters in the Loyalhanna Creek. Even before then, I decided to crimp my barbs on all my hooks. I would do so by carrying needle nose pliers or forceps and mash down the jagged-edged barbs of the hook or hooks themselves. When I cast the lure upstream and brought it down along the bank, I would get a hit and catch fish every time.

The great thing about using barbless is that, once the fish is hauled in and taken into possession, all one need do is to slip the hook out of the mouth of the fish and return it to the water – fast, efficient, and fun!

So, for this gent to make a blatant statement that spinners are “killer” lures is certainly not true, particular if the hooks are crimped.

Trout Magnet’s Jeff Smith feels the same way I do. He recently related, “I can actually catch more fish with a barbless hook than with the barb on the hook,” he began. Continuing, he explained, “I can take the fish off faster and I seem to get a hook in them better.” That ought to wake a couple people up to the fact of making fishing more enjoyable.

He went on to say, “I find it easier to get a hook in the fish without the barb, too. Many get off during the fight, but if one keeps the line tight, one should be able to keep the fish on and land it as well.” That’s the way it has worked for me, as well. This just backs my theory on the subject.

The great thing about crimping barbs is that it need not only be done on small lures, but larger ones too. I suggest if one is going to use bigger artificial baits, crimp the hooks at home before heading out on the waters. In the past, I have used a vise or a pair of glass-cutting pliers which, when used a bit of force behind it, always does the trick. Remember if there is a will, there is a way to crimp any hook if one puts his mind to it.

By the way, fly fishermen also crimp their hooks as well. “The type of hook the fly is tied on determines how easily the flattening process is accomplished,” states Guy Turck. “Japanese hooks which are lazer or chemically sharpened and possessing small barbs are the easiest to deal with. There is no danger of breaking off the hook point. Such is not the case with other hook manufacturers, such as the very popular Mustad line of hooks. Its barbs are large and do not easily flatten to the hook. They also have a tendency to break the hook point if one is not careful, and sometimes even if one is.”

The best way to flatten a Mustad barb,” Turck emphasizes, “is to work slowly, starting at the rear of the barb and working one’s way forward. Most of the time, one will not be able to get the barb perfectly flat, but as long as one gets the point off the barb, that will suffice.”

He concluded by saying, “The simplest way to tell Japanese hooks from Mustad hooks is by examining the size of the barb itself. Small or micro-barbed hooks with very sharp points are usually Japanese while large barbs with not-as-sharp hook points could very well be Mustads. The difference is not always readily apparent, but if one starts paying attention to the hook barbs, in time the difference will be noticed.”

Try fishing barbless this season. You just may find fishing a lot more enjoyable.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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