Breaking Down Barbed vs Barbless Hooks – When It’s Best to Use Each One

If you’re a fly fisherman, you’ve probably heard of both barbed and barbless hooks.

But what’s the difference between them? And when should you use each one?

In this blog post, we’ll explain the differences between barbed and barbless hooks, and when it’s best to use each one.

Both have their pros and cons, but which one should you use for your next fishing trip? We’ll also give you some tips on how to choose the right hook for your fishing needs.

So read on to learn more!

Table of Contents

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different types of fishing hooks on table

An Overview of Barbless Hooks

The Barbless Hook is a type of fishing hook that does not have the small metal v-shaped piece at either end.

It has become a lot more popular recently with the rise of certain fishing trends including an increased proclivity for catch and release programs.

Hooks come in all shapes and sizes, and barbless hooks can vary great depending on these factors but there are several factors that are inherent to all barbless hooks.

The Pros of Barbless Hooks

Barbless hooks are becoming increasingly popular among fishermen because they have a number of pros over traditional barbed hooks.

Much Easier to Remove From a Fish Mouth

They are easier to remove from a fish’s mouth without causing any harm. This is important, especially when releasing fish back into the water. In a lot of cases where fishing is becoming a pure sport activity and sustainability of fishing pools is top of mind, this is a major factor.

In most cases, because the barbless hooks are easier to remove from the fish’s mouth, you won’t need to use fishing pliers or a de-hooking device when removing the hook.

Barbless hooks also reduce the amount of damage done to the fish’s mouth, which can help increase their chance of survival after being caught and released.

More Efficient for Catching Fish Quickly

Another benefit of barbless hooks is that they can help reduce the time it takes to land a fish.

When a fish bites down on a traditional barbed hook, it has to wiggle its way free. With a barbless hook, the fish can simply be pulled out of the water without having to struggle. This makes landing larger fish much easier.

Barbless hooks can be easier to hook a fish because they don’t snag on the fish’s flesh as easily as barbed hooks. This makes it easier for the point of the hook to penetrate the fish’s mouth and embed itself in its flesh.

Much Safer

Barbless hooks are safer because they are less likely to get stuck in your skin. If you get hooked on a barbless hook, it is much easier to remove than if you were hooked on a hook with a barb.

This is especially important if you are fishing with children. Children are more likely to get hooked on a barbless hook than an adult, and it is much easier for them to remove the hook if they get stuck.

No Problems with Regulations

Barbless hooks are generally preferred by regulators when fishing for certain species or on specific waterways because they can help protect the fish population by reducing the amount of injury and mortality caused by hooks.

The Cons of Barbless Hooks

There are a few potential disadvantages to using a barbless hook when fishing.

Setting the Hook Properly

It is usually more difficult to set the hook properly without a barb.

This is because the barb helps to secure the fish once it has been hooked; without it, the fish may be able to wiggle free more easily.

Tough to Keep Baited

A barbless hook can be more difficult to keep baited; without a barb, the bait may be more likely to slip off of the hook.

If you are fishing in fast or choppy conditions this problem tends to become exponentially worse.

An Overview of Barbed Hooks

A barbed hook has barbs on the shank. It is a type of fish hook that is designed to penetrate the flesh of a fish and then snag on the inside of the fish’s mouth, preventing it from being able to escape. Barbs are also very helpful at keeping the bait secure.

There are many different types of barbed hooks, and they can be made from a variety of materials, including steel, bronze, and nickel.

The size and shape of the barb will vary depending on the type of fish that you are targeting. For example, a small barb is often used for catching trout, while a larger barb is better suited for catching bass or pike.

In general, barbed hooks should not be used in areas where there are likely to be humans or animals swimming, as they are much sharper and catch much easier than other types of hooks.

different types of fishing hooks

The Pros of Barbed Hooks

Barbed hooks offer several advantages over traditional hooks.

For a lot of anglers that are serious about fishing or often fishing in adverse conditions they become the hook of choice because of their unique capabilities.

Works Better with Bait

For a lot of bait a barbed hook is preferable for several reasons.

First, the barbs help to keep the bait on the hook, preventing it from being stolen by smaller fish.

Barbed hooks can be used with a wider range of baits, including live bait, which provides anglers with more options when trying to lure a fish.

Easier to Set the Hook

For fishermen with a lot of experience and a feel for how to catch particular fish, the barbs make it easier to set the hook.

For this subset of fisherman this tends to increase the chances of hooking a fish in the mouth or lip, which results in less damage to the fish.

Preserving a Fisherman’s Lines

It becomes a source of frustration with a long day of fishing if hooks are consistently coming loose on fish.

Barbed hooks help fix this problem and mean that anglers can spend more time fishing and less time retying their lines.

Tighter Grip

Barbed hooks are commonly used by fishermen in order to ensure a tight grip on their catch.

The barbs, or small backward-facing spikes, help to keep the fish from wiggling free and provide a secure hold.


Barbed hooks are easy to find for a number of reasons. First, they are sold in many different stores, both online and offline. Barbed hooks are relatively inexpensive, so they are affordable for many people. Because of all these factors, it is easy to find barbed hooks for sale.

However, it is important to note that not all barbed hooks are created equal. Some are of better quality than others, so it is important to do some research before purchase. But overall, barbed hooks are easy to find and purchase.

The Cons of Barbed Hooks

While barbed hooks are popular among anglers, they also have a number of drawbacks. It is important for anglers to consider the cons of barbed hooks before using them.

Difficult to Remove From Fish

The barbs can make it difficult to remove the hook from the fish. Often you need to carry extra equipment, like a pair of pliers, to aid this process as it is impossible to do smoothly otherwise.

Can Cause Extensive Damage to Fish

When a fish bites down on a barbed hook it can tear its mouth and lips, making it difficult for the fish to eat or breath. In some cases, the barbs can even puncture the fish’s internal organs, leading to a slow and painful death.

It’s important for fishermen to be mindful of the size and type of hook they use, as well as how they handle their catch.

By taking these precautions, they can help ensure that their quarry is returned to the water safely and unharmed.

Potentially Much More Dangerous and Painful

Barbed fishing hooks can be dangerous if you accidentally hook yourself. The barbs can penetrate the skin and cause bleeding, swelling, and pain. In some cases, the barbs can also become embedded in the tissue, which may require surgery to remove.

If you are using barbed hooks, it is important to be careful and avoid hooking yourself or anyone else. If you do accidentally hook yourself, seek medical attention immediately.

This is the reason why barbed hooks are not used in the presence of children.

Regulatory Problems

Barbed hooks are illegal in some jurisdictions. In many areas, where there are concerns about the sustainability of the ecosystem it is required that hooks be barbless in order to protect both fish and wildlife.

What to Consider When Choosing Between Barbed or Barbless

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to use barbless or barbed hooks when fishing. Oftentimes it depends on the context in which you are fishing and your individual preferences.

Type of Fish You are Trying to Catch

One major factor for your hook choice is the type of fish you’re targeting.

Barbs can make it easier to hook and land certain types of fish, such as those with tough mouths. However, they can also be more difficult to remove, which can be a problem if you’re catch-and-release fishing.

If you’re after smaller fish, barbless hooks are often the better choice because they’re easier to remove and cause less damage. However, if you’re going after larger fish, barbed hooks can give you a better chance of landing them.

The Type of Water You are Fishing in

Another factor to consider is the type of water you’ll be fishing in. If you’re fishing in fast-moving water, a barbless hook may be less likely to snag on rocks or other obstacles.

Your Personal Preferences

It’s also worth considering your own personal preferences. Some anglers find that barbless hooks are easier and more fun to use, while others prefer the added security of barbed hooks.

Some anglers prefer the simplicity of barbless hooks, while others find that barbed hooks provide a better grip.

If you are out with your family for a day on the water, most fishermen opt for the safer barbless hook so that nobody gets hurt.

Increasingly fishing holes that place a greater emphasis on sustainability frown on the use of barbed hooks. So the social pressures that come with that are another common consideration.

Ultimately, the decision of which type of hook to use is up to the individual angler.


So, what’s the verdict? When it comes to barbed vs. barbless hooks, which one should you use? The answer is: it depends.

There are pros and cons to both types of hooks, so it’s important to understand when each type is most effective.

Barbless hooks are ideal for catch-and-release fishing because there’s less of a chance that the hook will tear out of the fish’s mouth and cause injury.

There are a myriad of other factors that come into play including vegetation, water type, size and species of fish you are trying to catch and the water speed. Depending on your skill level and fishing goals you could prefer one or the other too.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which type of hook works best for your specific fishing situation. Experiment with both types of hooks to see which ones work best for you under different circumstances. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to determine when each type of hook should be used.

Now that you know all about barbed versus barbless hooks, get out there and start fishing!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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