The “barbless brigade” (BLB) would argue that a barbed hook does more damage to the fish mouth when being extracted. The “barbed brigade” (BB) would counter, that the absence of a barb allows the hook to move in the fish mouth when being played, and this in fact causes more damage, and they would also counter that modern micro barbed hooks leave very little damage.
The BLB’s say that their hook comes out very easily, sometimes before you get the fish onto the un-hooking mat. The BB’s would say that is true, and the hook gets thrown too many times for their liking as the fish is being played. They also argue that the modern micro barbed hook sometimes comes out when the fish is in the landing net. I have found this to be true as well; however getting a micro barb out of a landing net can still be a pain.
Some BLB’s say that the current hook manufacturers pioneered the barb, it was introduced as an aid to keep live bait on the hook, and as this method of fishing is used so infrequently, barbs are no longer necessary. However an image web search for “ancient fishing hooks” blows this theory out of the water, as images show that barbed hooks have been around for thousands of years.
The debate over which type of hook to use, has been going on for years, and probably won’t be resolved anytime soon in the near future. Both sets of supporters have their own views and can always counter any theory put forward by the other camp. And there lies the main problem, there doesn’t appear to be any scientific evidence to support one camp in favour of the other.
Most waters have either a barbed or barbless rule, but unfortunately some of these waters don’t actually formulate their rule on what they consider to be the best option. In some cases they adopt the same rule as a neighbouring water, as this is safest thing to do. If you are fishing a water that doesn’t have a hook restriction, then it comes down to what you feel comfortable using, it’s all a matter of personal preference.
Both camps agree that fish safety is paramount, so gone are the days of using fixed rigs, and hopefully micro barbs have replaced the old larger barbed hooks, or at least they should have. We anglers love to hoard our tackle, but I would strongly advise you to check all your hooks, if you want barbed, that’s your choice, but please replace old style with micro barb.