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Barbed vs. barbless

Barbed or barbless: which is right? Debate this time is Kevin Nash and Dave Ellyatt.

Kevin Nash (Barbless)
This whole debate of barbless hooks against barbed really mystifies me. Without wishing to appear controversial (but I know this is going to be) I would observe that really, a significant number of anglers have little regard to the welfare of carp and they will always favour a barbed hook because of fear of losses otherwise. Incidentally on this point, it is a myth! I don't feel I have lost any more carp since I went barbless. In fact, because I have no barb to affect the hook's penetration I think my landing rate has actually gone up.

Some waters have banned barbless hooks with a claim that they tear and damage mouths. When I was looking to stock my lakes, a small, commercial and highly-pressured fishery closed down. I decided to buy the fish stock, but was fearful for their condition, especially their mouths. It was a big surprise to me to see that all these fish had perfect mouths. I noted that this water had a barbless hook rule and as a result that rule has been in place on my lakes ever since. I have only ever seen one fish (actually one which I caught) where the hook had slipped and cut the mouth in all the time my lakes have been open. Whilst perturbed at the cut in the carp's mouth, I do remember thinking, 'at least it should heal well!' Indeed on captures since then its mouth had healed up perfectly. This is certainly much different from the deformed carp we see on many waters as a result of being played too hard with barbed hooks or being tethered (it makes me feel quite ill to imagine a tethered carp literally wearing a hole in its mouth or ripping the hook from its flesh in a desperate attempt for release).

Notwithstanding the previous I have one simple view as to why I would never ever go back to barbed hooks and one that mystifies me that all fisheries owners do not get: the only truly safe rig is one where the carp can rid itself of the hook easily. Many waters have for example banned leaders, with evidence of carp becoming tethered and dying as a result of a strong leader. If the carp could have got off the strong leader easily, because the hook was barbless, those deaths would not have occurred.

Fishing so your line can discharge through the lead arrangement, or fishing a break-off lead, is not assurance of total safety. If there is any trailing line or hooklink that can then snag, the fish is in trouble.

Dave Ellyatt (Barbed)

I cannot see a single technical advantage in using a barbless hook over a barbed one. There could be an argument that a barbless hook penetrates easier and therefore offers better hooking potential but with most of the popular carp hook patterns these days that have micro barbs and slick Teflon coating I think this is very negligible.

On the popular sizes of barbed hooks, the barb is generally 3 or 4mm above the end of the point so in relation to the length of the point section, it's a fair way in before it reaches the barb and with the extra pressures being exerted in the event of a carp pricking itself, from the weight of the lead and the fish bolting, the point will penetrate up passed the barb in an instant.

Due to the angle it is cut into the point, whilst a micro barb offers little or no resistance to the point penetrating sufficiently, it undoubtedly reduces the chances of it coming back out again whilst playing the fish, especially in the event of having to give slack line if the carp becomes snagged.

Regarding the potential mouth damage issue I think this is a real intangible. Obviously a lot of fisheries, from the day ticket commercials to big fish waters like Dinton ban barbed hooks presumably because they think that barbless cause less damage. I think this has been a product of the days when a lot of hooks, carp hooks especially, boasted large shovel like barbs, generally not the case these days.

Conversely, CEMEX Angling insists on only barbed hooks being used on their fisheries; their basic reasoning being that barbless hooks can move in the mouth whilst playing the fish, causing larger holes and tearing.

I recently attended the Tight Lines Annual Junior Fish-In at Barston Lakes near Birmingham. This is a large heavily stocked lake fished by match and carp anglers alike, with a 'barbless only' rule. The young angler I fished with caught twelve carp including six doubles and I remember only one having any discernable mouth damage, a small tear. Not long before I had gone to CEMEX?s Blue Pool to do some filming and all the fish we caught had perfect mouths.

So there are two examples of busy fisheries with different philosophies on hooks that are frequented by anglers of varying abilities and on the whole the carp looked fine. It tends to suggest to me that micro barbed hooks cause no more damage than barbless and vice versa.