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

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March 31, 2014

Can You Get By Without A Barb?

by Stan Fagerstrom

Want to start a debate with your fishin' partner?

I can tell you a great way to do it. The way I'd have you start this debate might not make much sense to you. It didn't to me either when I first thought about it. It does now.

Boil it down and here's how you can get that debate going. Simply tell your fishing partner that he'll hook more fish if he'll switch to barbless hooks.

Now let me back up a little bit. I said "hook" not "catch." And I didn't say anything about you having to be totally convinced you were right about what you were saying. I said it would simply be a good way to get a debate started.

But wait a minute! Is there any possibility that because barbless hooks really do let you "hook" more fish that you just might wind up "catching" more of them as well? Darn right there is!

More and more water around the country is now being restricted to the use of only barbless hooks. There are experts who say that's not all bad.

You don't have to take my word for it. There are guides out there who rig their clients with barbless hooks. Why? For just one reason, of course, and that's because they're convinced their clients wind up putting more fish in the boat when they do.

I used to visit regularly with a former guide who went the barbless route when I lived in the Pacific Northwest. He guided anglers for salmon and steelhead in that part of the world for eight years before going elsewhere.

I've had guides tell me they intentionally have had clients use barbless hooks for steehead fishing even when they weren't required.

"I used barbless hooks for years in my steelhead and salmon guiding," this former guide told me. "I was often taking out anglers who didn't know how to set a hook. It was a whole lot easier for them to get a good hook set if I used a hook without a barb."

I'm always gonna listen close and careful when a dependable guide shares his advice with me. And why not? Here's a guy who has to get results for his clients just to be able to buy his own beans.

The guide I have in mind told me something else. "We didn't often lose fish as the result of not having barbed hooks," he said. "When we did lose one it was far more likely due to errors a client made in not playing his fish properly or if the fish made a great move of one kind or another."

I've had the good fortune to work closely with the management of the Gamakatsu Company ever since these Japanese based hook makers first came onto the scene here in the United States. As a matter of fact I was given some of their wonderful new hooks to test before they actually reached the American market.

Some of the barbless hooks now available to anglers are specially made to hook and hold even without a barb. They'll give you a darn good shot at putting a beauty like this in the boat.

If you've paid much attention to the manufacture and marketing of hooks you know that Gamakatsu has been right on the cutting edge of things ever since coming on the scene. If it involves hooks, you can bet these Japanese sharpshooters are in on it one way or another.

This includes those barbless hooks I've mentioned. It was Gamakatsu's barbless hooks that the guide I told about earlier was tying on for his clients. He told me some things about these specially designed hooks that I really hadn't given consideration.

I've since had opportunity to get more deeply into just how these hooks are specially designed get the job done by today's company officials I have the good fortune to know. It's information you might choose to employ in your own fishing.

One of the Gamakatsu's hook experts is Joe Quiocho, a sales manager at the company's Pacific Northwest headquarters in Tacoma, Washington. One of the things you'll hear Joe mention early on in any discussion of barbless hooks is how it's becoming more and more common to find waters where you no longer have a choice as to the hooks you use. It's not at all uncommon to find an increasing number of spots where barbless hooks are required.

Are you into catch and release bass fishing? Barbless hooks make it ever so easy to release a beauty like I have here without damage.

As Joe points out, Gamakatsu has been on top of this relatively new and growing requirement. "We've been marketing both single and treble barbless hooks now for years," Quiocho says. "It's especially important that anglers coming into this part of the world to fish rivers like the Columbia and certain of its tributaries be aware of existing barbless hook requirements. The same kind of restriction is now seen more often in other parts of the country as well."

Quiocho points out something else that can be darned important if you find yourself required to use barbless hooks or want to experiment with them a bit yourself. What'll you'll find out from an expert like Joe is the difference in the actual design of Gamakatsu's barbless hooks.

I'll get into the details of exactly how the design used for Gamakatsu barbless hooks differ from the barbed variety. Keep an eye peeled because it just might be something you'll want to test in your own fishing. You'll find this information right here beginning May 1.

-To Be Continued-

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