Single Hook Lures for Trout

Single hook lures for trout just make sense. Most trout anglers release their catch but releasing a fish doesn't guarantee its survival. Scientific studies have shown that spin fishing causes slightly greater post-release mortality than fly fishing. I am sure the type of rod and reel have nothing to do with it. It's the treble hooks that are the problem. Treble hooks cause more damage and take longer to remove than single hooks. The longer a trout is out of water the greater the chance it will die after release - even if it looks fine swimming away. Single hook lures save trout (or so I thought *).

Lures with barbless single hooks are better yet. They often come out by themselves in the net, making the release very quick and easy. Until you get the fish into the net, though, they hold very well.

If you plan to keep your catch, and if treble hooks are legal where you are fishing, then of course there's no need to go to a single hook - that is, as long as you can be sure you won't catch any fish that are too small to keep!

After decades as a fly fisherman, I started spin fishing for trout again last year and also started fishing with an ultralight baitcaster. At first, I used the lures I still had from years and years ago - all of which of course had treble hooks. One of the first fish I caught on my new baitcaster was this little wild brown trout. It had to be wild because New York state doesn't stock fish that small.

Somehow it managed to get all three of the hook points stuck in its mouth. I eventually got the hook out but I probably killed the fish in the process. Even though it swam away, I was pretty sure it had been out of the water too long. I thought it might die, but I couldn't keep it because it was too short to be legal. I decided right then to fish single hooks instead of trebles!

Well, just like a New Year's resolution, that decision lasted a while (but only a while). A few months later I was fishing in Montana and had some new Japanese plugs I wanted to try out. They worked very nicely - maybe too nicely. Like most of the minnow-shaped lures in the US, they had two sets of treble hooks. The rainbow in the photo above managed to get four out of the six hook points - two from each hook - firmly embedded in its mouth. I thought I'd never get the hooks out. I probably killed that fish, too, but I was staying in a motel and had no way to cook it. I released it and hoped for the best.

Right then I renewed my resolve, and that time the resolution held!

Since then, I have made it a point to find and import single hook lures for trout, and single barbless replacement hooks for spoons and plugs. Single hook lures are not at all common here in the US, but they do exist in Japan, mostly for fishing in "Areas." Areas are managed, stocked, pay-to-fish lakes, although some Areas also have pay-to-fish streams.  Pay-to-fish places are not that popular in the US, but they are quite popular in Japan. The ones I know of here are run very differently than the ones in Japan. Here, as far as I know, you pay for the fish. You are expected to keep (and pay for) every fish you catch. In Japan, as I understand it, you pay for the privilege of fishing, but you must release the fish. "Areas" prohibit treble hooks because they do too much damage to the fish. "Lip rippers" are NOT welcome in the Japanese Areas!

Single Hook Lures - Jigs

Jigs are probably the simplest single hook lures that you can cast easily with an ultralight spinning rod or an ultralight baitcaster. Although jigs are generally associated with bass or panfish in the US, they have a following among trout anglers as well. Simple marabou jigs have caught trout for years and years. Jig heads and small plastics are more recent, and are just as effective.

C'ultiva JH-85 jig head and C'ultiva Ring Kick Tail WormC'ultiva JH-85 jig head and C'ultiva Ring Kick Tail Worm
C'ultiva JH-85 jig head and C'ultiva Ring Kick Tail WormC'ultiva JH-85 jig head and C'ultiva Ring Kick Tail Worm

There is no question that small jigs and plastics work for trout. I've had trout grab them near the end of the retrieve,with only a few feet of line still beyond the rod tip - and then start jumping! As exciting as that is, I have found that spoons and plugs elicit an even more dramatic response. When fishing a pool that has more than a few trout in it, it is not unusual for several to race each other to get to the lure first. I don't know if it is the flash or the action or a combination of both, but something about both spoons and plugs draws strikes from fish that have ignored a jig and plastic.

Although I continually reference spoons and plugs, spinners do work also. I no longer use spinners because they cause line twist (completely unrelated to whether you close the bail manually or even cut the bail off). Baitcasters don't cause line twist, but if you fish an inline spinner with a baitcaster you'll get line twist! It's the spinner, not the reel.

Single Hook Lures - Spoons

Daiwa Crusader single hook spoonsDaiwa Crusader single hook spoons

Areas require single hook lures, either single hook spoons or plugs that might have a single hook or a pair of single hooks. The hooks on lures that are designed specifically for Areas are all barbless. Daiwa Crusader spoons, which have been around for 30 years now, are intended for use in streams for wild trout as well as in Areas for stocked trout. They have barbed hooks but the barbs are small and easy to bend down for use in Areas. The Daiwa Crusader spoons come in 4 gram and 2.5 gram weights (1/8 and a little over 1/16 oz, respectively).

Daiwa Crusader Single Hook Spoons cast well with a Shimano Calcutta Conquest BFS reel.Daiwa Crusader 2.5g Single Hook Spoons cast well with a Shimano Calcutta Conquest BFS reel.

Daiwa makes several other spoons beside the Crusader. I don't carry them all (and not even close to all the colors)  but I do have a few of the Adam, Lupin and Vega spoons, which are intended for use in Areas.

Daiwa Presso Adam spoons

Single hook spoons for fishing in Areas have barbless hooks.

Daiwa Presso Vega spoons

Daiwa Presso Adam, Lupin and Vega spoons come with single barbless hooks. They are a little smaller and lighter than the Crusader spoons. Like the Crusader spoons, they come in different weights, ranging from 2.2 grams for the Adam Spoons down to .8g or even .4g for the Vega spoons. And even though the Vega spoons are pretty small (only 7/8" long) they are not too small to interest nice sized trout!

Daiwa .8 gram Vega Spoon and rainbow trout.Daiwa .8 gram Vega Spoon and rainbow trout.

The Daiwa Area Bum 56XXUL-S and the Daiwa Iprimi 56XXUL-S are rated for lures down to .4g, which is only about 1/70 ounce, and the Tenryu Alter RZA61L-T is rated down to "almost zero" but I'd have to say the .8g spoons cast better (and even they require a line of no more than 2 lb test to really cast well). The .4g spoons actually work a lot better as fly rod spoons,  which existed when I was a kid but certainly are not common now. They still work, though, and they're easy to cast - even with a tenkara rod!

TenkaraBum 40 tenkara rod and Daiwa Vega .4g SpoonTenkaraBum 40 tenkara rod and Daiwa Vega .4g Spoon

I have been fishing these single hook spoons for months now, and I am very impressed with them. Fish smash them. I've seen fish chase them for at least 15 feet before catching them. I've seen three or four fish go after the spoon at the same time. I've seen fish miss the spoon because of the wobble and come back again and again until they got hooked.

Single hook lures hold quite well. Sure, some fish come unhooked, but I think that is because the hook caught just a little bit of skin rather than catching well in the mouth. When a fish is solidly hooked - it's hooked. The single hook spoons don't come out with jumps or head shakes or runs.

Daiwa Crusader spoon with replacement single barbless hook came out by itself after the fish was netted.

For my own fishing I remove the barbed factory hooks from the Daiwa Crusader spoons and put on replacement single barbless hooks (C'ultiva SBL-35 or Daiwa Presso "Speed" hooks). With the replacement barbless hooks, the spoon often comes out by itself when you get the fish in the net. Releasing a fish couldn't be easier or quicker.

Single Hook Lures - Plugs

My focus at Finesse-Fishing.com is on stream fishing more than lake fishing, but all the Japanese plugs I've seen that are designed for use in streams come with treble hooks. The following plugs are designed for use in Areas (managed pay-to-fish lakes), but they've worked quite well for me in streams.

Daiwa Presso Step Dart<br> Olive GlowDaiwa Presso Step Dart
Olive Glow
Daiwa Presso Step Dart Mix PelletDaiwa Presso Step Dart
Mix Pellet
Daiwa Presso Step Dart - Olive Glow (in bright sunlight).Daiwa Presso Step Dart - Olive Glow (in bright sunlight).

The Daiwa Presso Step Dart is a lure that has a tight wiggle with a steady retrieve but darts from side to side with a pulsed or jerky retrieve. It sinks, and dives, but the shape of the lure is such that it tends to bounce off rocks rather than getting snagged. On a stream that allows only single hook lures I have found it to be quite effective even with the forward hook removed .

When the Presso Step Dart is used with both hooks, it will not be unusual for one hook to be in the fish and the other to be in the net. A very big plus for barbless hook lures is that they come out of the net mesh as easily as they come out of the fish.

Pins Minnow Single HookPins Minnow Single Hook

Minnow-shaped plugs are excellent trout lures. Unfortunately, all the ones I've seen that are designed for fishing streams have two sets of treble hooks. Nearly all of the minnow-shaped single hook lures that are designed for fishing in the Areas are deep divers. You don't want a deep diving plug in a shallow stream!

There aren't many choices for shallow running single hook lures other than spoons. One I had found was a Pins Minnow, which is widely known in the US as an effective lure. Although the Pins Minnow did come as a single hook lure, it has since been discontinued. It was small, only about 2" long and about 1/16 oz, it's still quite effective. It's a bit light for even an ultralight baitcaster, but an ultralight spinning rod with 2 or 3 lb line can cast it pretty well.

Single Hook Pins Minnow and brown troutSingle Hook Pins Minnow and brown trout

It was an effective lure, and I am sad that it was discontinued, but it is easy enough to remove the front treble and replace the rear treble with a single hook.

Replacement Single Barbless Hooks

As mentioned above, for my own fishing, I have replaced the factory hooks on the Daiwa Crusader spoons with single barbless hooks. A number of hook companies offer them. The ones I have in stock are the C'ultiva brand, made by Owner and the Presso "Speed" hooks by Daiwa. Use the size 8 for the 2.5 gram Crusader spoons and size 6 for the 4 gram spoons.

The Japanese plugs designed for trout fishing in streams, like the Daiwa Dr. Minnow plugs shown above, are really quite effective. Unfortunately, they come with two sets of treble hooks. I replace the trebles with a single C'ultiva SBL-55M, size 8 or Daiwa Presso Multiplug size 8.

The replacement single barbless hooks for plugs are different than the hooks for spoons. Replacement single hooks for spoons have horizontal eyes. Replacement hooks for plugs have vertical eyes. However, if you add a second split ring, as seen in the photo above, you could use the same horizontal eyed replacement hooks for plugs that you would for spoons.

The plugs draw strikes from some very impressive fish. Despite having only a single barbless hook rather than the two trebles, the plugs still hook and hold quite well.

As with the spoons that have barbless hooks, the plugs with the replacement single barbless hooks often come out by themselves once you get the fish into the net.

Replacing hooks on the plugs is straightforward although it is not as easy as on the spoons, and is not always painless (even with split ring pliers). To me it is worth it though.

________________

* Although it would seem logical that a single hook lure causes less post-release mortality than a treble hook lure, the science does not support that view.

Most scientific studies are not freely available online. Luckily, "The Truth About Hooks and Lures" reviews a number of studies and presents the conclusions. The article was written by a fisheries biologist and was published in the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest (pdf download pages 12-14). According to the article, the results are clear. Quoting from the article "The data is based on two major scientific papers which reviewed multiple studies; Taylor and White (1992, review of 18 hooking studies); and a review by Mongillo (1984). Both concluded that the number of hooks did not show a statistically significant relationship to hooking mortality"

By the way, the scientific studies reviewed in the article also conclude that there is no statistically significant difference between barbed and barbless hooks with respect to post-release mortality.

Both of those conclusions are not what I would have expected but how can I argue with Neil deGrasse Tyson who said “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” I guess you have to follow your conscience.

For me, that will mean single barbless hooks.


Warning:

The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.