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Stan Fagerstrom

Stan Fagerstrom is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. Stan welcomes your e-mail comments at [email protected]

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April 30, 2014

Can You Get By Without A Barb? - Part 2

by Stan Fagerstrom

The barbless hooks turned out by the world's leading fishing hook makers are different critters than those barbed jobs most anglers use.

If you read my previous column here you know I told you about some expert anglers who maintained that barbless hooks can be the most effective fish-catchers you can tie on the end of your line. The way the Gamakatsu folks go about building that style of hook has a whole lot to do with it.

I've discussed this at length with experienced Gamakatsu officials. One of them is Joe Quiocho, of the company's headquarters in Tacoma, Washington. "Study one of our barbless hooks carefully," Quiocho says, "and you'll see that these hooks have a deeper bend than those with barbs. What that does is provide for deeper penetration and more holding power."

Think about it a little bit and you'll find that what Joe says ties right into what the guide I also told you about in my previous column had shared with me. This Pacific Northwest river guide had been rigging his clients with barbless hooks while fishing for salmon and steelhead.

The use of barbless hooks makes it easy to release a beauty like this.

This guide maintained his clients did a better job of hooking fish with the barbless variety and actually put more fish in the boat—unless they screwed up handling a fish once it was hooked.

Hearing comments regarding the effectiveness of Gamakatsu's barbless hooks doesn't surprise me all that much. I've used them successfully myself. I've also viewed with interest the results of a national barbless hook survey Gamakatsu conducted some years ago.

Note the wide gap in this Gamakatsu Octopus style barbless hook. It provides a "deep bite" when you set the hook

Company officials told me the results of that survey were surprisingly positive. At the time Gamakatsu handed out or mailed 20,000 sample barbless Gamakatsu treble hooks to bass anglers around the country. A questionnaire was sent along with the samples asking anglers who got them to let company officials know how they worked.

More than 75 per cent of the questionnaires were returned. The results were 70 to 80 per cent favorable. The respondents said the barbless trebles hooked fish more easily and held bass almost as well as a barbed hook.

The same thing is true where these Gamakatsu barbless treble hooks are concerned.

Gamakatsu officials also sent samples of their weedless trebles to some of the top steelhead guides in the Pacific Northwest. The response from these experts was as positive as that coming from bass anglers.

If you've spent 10 seconds messing with Gamakatsu hooks, you know how sharp they are. The darn things are downright "sticky." These Japanese hooks set a new standard for the industry when they came on the scene years ago.

The hooks have great penetrating power, even with a barb. You can imagine what they're like without it. The point penetrates like a needle.

So far, I've been writing only about the penetrating and fish holding power of barbless hooks. There are other areas where they'll save you time and ease some of the frustrations that are certain to eventually happen with the barbed variety. Let's look at a couple of them.

If you fish bass, certain other species as well, you know how they occasionally get hooks embedded all over their body. It can be a major pain in the butt to get these barbed hooks removed. It's often difficult not to make the fish start bleeding and if that happens, chances are it's unlikely to survive.

That's no problem with barbless trebles. Believe me you'll appreciate having them when it's time to release fish. So will the fish!

Ever netted a wild-eyed steelhead and then had it wrap itself and your hook into the folds of the net six ways from Sunday? If you have, chances are you've spent 20 minutes getting the fish unpinned and the hooks out of the net. You've probably also practiced your profanity in the process. It's much less of a problem if the hooks don't have a barb.

Finally, there's one other time when no-barb hooks really help. It's when you get careless, as we all do from time to time, and wind up managing to stick a barbed hook into some portion of our own anatomy.

This can be downright dangerous and any way you slice it there's certain to be some pain involved.

Ever bury a hook into your own hide? Lots of us have. Barbless hooks eliminates a whole bunch of the misery associated with that problem.

I speak from experience. I've done this five times in a lifetime of fishing. Twice I've wound up having the docs cut treble hooks out because the hook barbs were too deeply embedded to risk anything else. Also, on two occasions I've managed to push a single barbed hook on through my hide and cut the barb off before backing the hook on out the same way it went in. On yet another occasion, I just clenched my teeth and jerked---ouch!

While it's still not a fun thing, hooking yourself when there's no barb involved removes almost all of the misery. And that applies to the fish you're after as well as yourself.

While they're still not top sellers in the extensive Gamakatsu inventory of fish-catching hooks, company officials tell me the sales of barbless hooks are increasing as they grow in popularity. "We think that's a great trend," Joe Quiocho says, "and it's a good one."

As I mentioned earlier, part of these increased sales undoubtedly are coming as a result of more and more waters around the country being restricted to barbless hooks. But that doesn't account for all of it.

Like that guide I've been quoting said, these specially designed Gamakatsu barbless hooks do hook—and hold—the fish that grab ‘em.

Here's proof that the Gamakatsu folks know their barbless hooks get the job done. Pictured is Joe Quiocho, an executive of Gamakatsu's Tacoma, Washington office. This is just one of several salmon Joe caught with barbless hooks the day this picture was taken.

I suppose you can get by on restricted waters by mashing down the barbs on your hook or working them over with a file. Do that if you choose, but it's not the best way to go. As I've made plain, your hooks that came with a barb aren't designed the way the barbless ones are.

As I've pointed out all the way through this two-part column, do yourself a favor and try some of these hooks specially designed for barbless hook fishing.

Chances are you're not going to regret it. Neither will those beauties you slide back into the water with nothing but a pinhole in their jaw and a slight dent in their dignity!
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