Why Fish with Barbless Hooks or Flies?

With the ever-growing popularity of barbless hooks and competition-style flies, we have been getting more and more questions about them. Some of the questions have been asked multiple times, so I figured I better do a quick blog post and answer them for anyone else that's curious.

1. Why would someone fish a jig style hook over a conventional style hook?

Jig hooks are great because they ride inverted, or hook-point up in the water. This means that you're going to get snagged on the bottom a lot less often. This also aids in the hook set that you get on a fish. As opposed to hooking a fish in the side of the mouth or the inner bottom lip(these are the softest spots in a fishes mouth too), you're going to hook the fish in the top of the mouth where the skin/muscle is much more dense. This means that the hook will stay in better and assuming that you're using a sharp hook like our Patriot Perfection Hook, it will penetrate all the way into the bend, almost acting like a barb would. 

2. If I tie on jig hooks, should I tie the fly upside down(wingcase on the bend side of the hook)?

This is a common question and to be honest, it really doesn't make a difference. In fact, Devin Olsen did a great write-up on this very topic and after studying how the fly is "hanging" under water, he says that you should tie just like you would on a conventional hook. 

3. Will I lose more fish on a barbless hook?

With a good barbless jig hook you won't. You might even be surprised how many more fish you catch. If it's a conventional style barbless hook, you might lose 1 fish out of 10. Just keep in mind that if you put the rod tip down and take pressure off of your tippet, the fish has a much better chance of coming loose. 

4. Why would I want to fish a barbless hook over a conventional barbed hook?

For a few reasons; First, Trout have one of the softest mouths of any freshwater fish. Barbs can not only rip the skin in their mouths on the way in, but they will almost certainly do damage on the way out, meaning that the fish won't be able to eat well until it heals, if it ever does. Barbs can snag a fishes gum line which tends to be very soft and hurt the "tooth bed" causing permanent damage. We have all seen a fish with a torn outer lip or even a missing outer lip, this was more than likely done by a barb. A fishes mouth articulates in a weird and fragile manner and usually this damage never heals right. Second, what if you foul hook a fish? In the belly? In the gills? A barb will do many bad things, the worst of them would be causing internal bleeding. This is a slow death for the fish. If you foul hook a fish with a barbless hook, simply put the rod tip down and help him escape. What about when a fish inhales and/or swallows your fly? If you can't get it out with hemostats, a barbless hook will come out much easier than the fishing having to wait for it to "rust" out. Third, some places demand that you fish with barbless hooks and I think it's a great idea. Trout populations are one of the most fragile ecosystems on the planet and we should all do anything we can to protect them. They can fine you for even having barbed hooks with a mashed barb if they can still feel the "bulge" from where the  barb was. Finally, it's what all competitions require now. Even if you want to fish a local tournament, you must have barbless hooks. 

You aren't going to lose 1/2 of the fish you catch because you went barbless. If you have tons of barbed flies like most of us still do, take a decent pair of hemostats, mash the barb and lock them on the first little "click". Then start working the hemostats in a circular motion, 90 degrees back and forth. After a few times, you'll have a barbless hook.

One last thing that we get asked about a lot is the "bend degree" on jig hooks. You can find them in 60D and 90D. 60 Degree bend jig hooks penetrate better when you set the hook because the hook gets taken in by the fish at a slight angle. 

I hope this answers some of the questions you all may have and if you can think of any others feel free to contact us anytime.