Broken Barb Hooks Catch More Sometimes, Frequently more Fun


Broken barbs on single hooks can hold fish as well or better if the hook has a relatively short shank in relation to the length of the point, the barb should be well forward of the bend.  Some fish shake of so rarely that broken barb hooks should be considered: Steelhead, Trout, Redfish, Carp, Bluegill, Pike, Striped Bass.  For hook design, the break even point falls about at the proportions found in a standard shank length wet or dry fly hook.  Longer shank hooks will lever out of the fish's mouth more easily.  Shorter shank hooks can set better and hold more fish when the barbs are broken to leave that little jag that acts as a gentle micro barb.  In general these well designed hooks will hold fish better with or without the full barb than any poorly designed hook ever will.

The Mustad 94840 #2 is an old hook that is out of production.   I wish I had a hook like this to use for my steelhead dry flys and skaters, not to mention Bunny Leaches, Wooly Buggers and Clousers for bass.  This one has the barb broken off, you can see the little 90 degree jag that helps hold fish, but is still easy to release them off of.  Breaking off the barb leaves that little left over jag further forward which helps because it becomes imbedded sooner and deeper with less force.  How many times have felt the hit and set the hook but the fish was off a fraction of a second after you felt the tension to the fish or maybe came off after the first head shake?  Your bigger barb never penetrated past anything to grab on to.  A smaller, barb closer to the point could have.  The smaller barb further forward of the bend also sets deeper and can get past something more substantial to hold on to.   

Small hooks like the 12 short curved Emerger hooks have very small barbs that are easy to set and micro barb hooks are the best at overall hooking and holding.  They still have the issues about releasing fish without taking more time or damaging the fish or the fly in the process.

The Egg, Bead Pegging and Trailer hooks all have short shanks that cause the point to take a wide deep angle "Angle of Entry" when they penetrate.  This wider less direct angle creates more force on the side of the point and less of the force of your hook set is left to push the hook point in deeper.  This wider angle of penetration causes the hook to grab more flesh on the way in if you can get enough force on it quickly enough.  If you get these short hooks set, the short shank length offers little leverage to work the hook out as the fish fights from different angles.   Breaking off the barb gets these short hooks set sooner.  Fish hooked on pegged beads often get off.  I increased my fish holding percentage when I started breaking off barbs on these hooks.

The TFS (The Fly Shop) 105 size #4 and the Sticky E12 size #6 have thinner wire which sets easier.  They are lighter so they ride better behind a bead not dragging so low.  The wider gaps grab more flesh, and a longer points with the barbs further forward hold better when set.  These hooks work great with the barbs broken off.

Most of these hooks below have low barbs and direct lines of force from the eye to the hook point, a low angle of entry.  They set easily.



Jig hooks in general do a great job of hooking and holding fish well.  They fish hook point up, they hit the upper jaw with a solid hook set that grabs more bone and cartilage when an angler above the water pulls at some upward angle to set the hook.  The upper jaw is fixed to the fish's skull and does not have the range of motion to get different angles of resistance that the lower jaw can.  I always break the barbs off of when I fish jig hook patterns (except the Mustad 32833).  I don't loose any fish and come out ahead when I release the fish more quickly with less chance of damage to the fish or my fly. 

  The Mustad 32833 Steelhead Jig Hook benefits greatly from the unique jitsu that a jig hook does when you set it from an upward angle, particularly when you set it with the initial angle of force straight up to the bobber.   Steelhead are pretty easy to hook and to hold onto, they are big and can not head shake very rapidly, their mouth tissues are soft and fibrous so hooks tend to hold well. Even though the 32833's barb is so far back, it only looses maybe 20% of the fish you hook, that would be closer to 0% if there were a couple more millimeters of length added to the point.  It is very unfortunate that Mustad has a monopoly on a small, short leg to eye jig hook that fits the molds for small steelhead jigs.  This short leg to eye does not block the point as much as a longer leg to the eye will.  This hook makes nice looking balance jigs if you tie a dumbbell eye in front of the eye leg.  For fly casting, the Mustad 32833 may be disappointing in its holding percentage. 

Hans Skikkelstad (Mustad founder), the man you never heard of, who died at a young 44 years in 1918 (Flu Pandemic?).  Mustad's founder knew so much about hooks, steel, fishing and he cared enough to make the best hooks in the world.  Now days,....Not so much.

It is unfortunate that Mustad has a monopoly on a small, strong, short leg to eye jig hooks that fit the molds for small steelhead jigs.  The Mustad 32833 is an overpriced not so good hook.

Here are some mostly very good hooks Graded on the very narrow metric of ratio of Barb Bite Depth VS Shank Lever Length.  Some of these hooks have extremely good points, others only rate a good grade after they are sharpened, a few have such clunky big barbs, you have to break them off to get good results.

 The stainless Mustad 34007 has a barb set back close to the bend, it is likely the bend will jam of some part of the fishes jaw before the barb has penetrated.  Most other medium wire saltwater hooks copy this bad geometry and are not necessarily any better.  On the Mustad 34007 #2 hook, I bend up the shank to tie a Clouser Minnow on it.  This shortens the shanks lever arm and also the rotates the eye force angle so the hook can hold a bit more flesh behind the barb.  This also gives it a bit of the jig hook jitsu to hook and hold more fish.

The big short shank hooks I bought to tie foam divers on.  For that fly I want the barbs broken off because that fly is inhaled deeply and the hook down orientation means it often sticks in the fish's gills.  In any case the short shanks hold fish well and the broken barb makes it quicker and easier to release fish unharmed.



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