5 Reasons Why Barbless Hooks Are Better

Learn why it's so important to fish using barbless hooks, not just for the fish, but for your hook-up rates and overall fishing success as well.

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In this article, we’ll look at the five main reasons you should use barbless hooks. If you don’t know what a barbless hook is, we’ll look at that too and what you should do if your favorite hook models aren’t available in barbless versions.

What Is a Barb?

Firstly, what is a barb? A barb is the part of a hook that allows the hook point to penetrate into something, ideally a fish’s mouth, but prevents it from easily coming out.

It’s the tiny edge that stands upright right behind the hook point. A barbless hook, on the other hand, doesn’t have this edge.

The 5 Reasons Why You Should Fish Barbless

Let’s look at the five main reasons why you should be using barbless hooks.

An angler is showing a large barbless fishing hook on a blurry background

1. Barbless Hooks Are Better for Fish

If you’ve caught a couple of fish in your life and had to remove the hook from their mouth, you know that in order to remove a barbed hook, you have to basically wiggle and maneuver the hook around until the hole is big enough for the barb to pass through.

Using a barbless hook prevents this from happening. It’s so much better if you’re practicing catch and release – which I strongly advise you should do. The hole left in the fish’s mouth is simply as big as the hook point.

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2. Some Venues Only Permit the Use of Barbless Hooks

Because barbless hooks do a lot less damage to a fish’s mouth, they’re better if you want to ensure the survival of the fish after capture. Therefore many venues, states, and tournaments that try to promote good catch and release principles only permit the use of barbless hooks.

3. Barbless Hooks Provide Better Hookups

It’s not only the fish that benefit from the use of barbless hooks. Because the hook doesn’t have a barb, there’s less resistance when the hook is set into the fish’s mouth.

Now, assuming you’re keeping your hooks sharp, barbless hooks penetrate a lot faster, quicker, and deeper. They can, therefore, improve your catch rate.

4. Barbless Hooks Are Easier to Remove from Skin

I’m grateful and lucky that I’ve never had to deal with a barbed hook stuck into my or one of my clients’ skin. Just as a barbed hook does a lot of damage to a fish’s mouth, getting it out of your skin can do quite a lot of damage too.

Yes, there are tricks to get a barbed hook out, but the end result is always worse than it would have been if you were using a barbless hook.

Be kind to yourself and your guide, use barbless hooks.

5. It’s Easier to Remove Barbless Hooks from Streamside Vegetation

Another benefit of using barbless hooks is that it makes it a lot easier to remove hooks from branches, trees, and leaves.

I fished a very productive run in a river this past week and, after landing a couple of fish, overshot the cast when trying to get close to the bank.

If I had to walk over to the tree to remove it, the run would have been ruined. Luckily I was able to remove the fly with a roll cast. Now, I’m not saying that it’s always the case, but if you’re using barbed hooks it makes it a lot harder to remove your flies from bankside vegetation.

Debarbing Your Favorite Hook

If you’ve been tying flies for a long time, or you prefer using specific hooks for specific fishing scenarios, you might ask me, “But what if my favorite hooks aren’t available in barbless versions?”

Luckily, most freshwater hooks are available in barbless versions these days.

An angler de-barbing the hook using a pliers.

But predator hooks, especially saltwater versions, aren’t available in barbless versions. For example, one of my favorite saltwater hooks, the Ahrex SA270 in a size 6/0, is only available in a barbed version.

Simply take a pare of pliers and crimp down the barb until it creates a smooth surface.


As you can see, going barbless is so much better for the fish. Fishing barbless hooks isn’t only easier on fish, but it has a lot of benefits for you as the angler too.

Most anglers are scared of going barbless because they feel that the fish will simply slide off their hook. If you make sure to keep a good amount of tension on the line, put a proper bend in the rod while fighting the fish, and play with your rod angles, this won’t happen.

I hope that you found this article helpful and that it has helped you decide to go barbless.

Until next time!

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Pierre is a fly fishing guide and professional photographer who has guided and hosted trips for top fly fishing outfitters. Since being introduced to fly fishing over 21 years ago, he has travelled, fished and guided across the globe. He has extensive knowledge on specific gear and tackle selection for various salt- and freshwater species. Some of his writing work includes blogposts for Alphonse Fishing Company and African Waters.

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