Single or treble?

Mike SchoonveldSome Great Lakes fishermen prefer lures with single hooks. Other prefer treble hooks. Which group is right?

Obviously, if one kind was demonstrably better than the other, the argument would be finished. Almost all of us would be fishing with one style or the other.

One could surmise treble hooks would be three times as effective in hooking and catching fish than a single hook. There would seem to be three times the chance of a barb sticking to the fish’s mouth on the strike and each additional point sticking in the fish’s lips would seem to be insurance against losing the fish during the fight.

Proponents of single hooks argue having one, single hook, stuck deep in a fish’s mouth or jaw will hold better than a treble, which probably is just stuck in the lips of the fish. Use a properly strong hook, and strength is no issue. (I’ve used single hook lures to catch saltwater fish 10 times larger than my biggest-ever Great Lakes salmon.)

Most of the time, I use whatever hook comes with the lure when I buy it. There are exceptions. If my favorite coho crankbaits came with singles, I’d swap them out for trebles. I like the trebles just because they do tend to lip-hook the fish. On some models with tiny hooks, I often swap out the smaller size trebles with larger sizes to make the baits harder to swallow deep. I release many of these small fish and many of the lip-stung victims can simply be flipped free without even netting or touching the fish. Grab the hook with a needle-nose plier and the fish is gone.

I prefer the lures I use for targeting lake trout close to the bottom of the lake to have single hooks. Singles are much less likely to snag the zebra and quagga mussels that now carpet the lake beds if the lure happens to touch down.

I prefer the lures I use for pre-dawn kings to have single hooks, as well. I rig flies, spoons and plugs with 4/0 singles. I haven’t noticed an appreciable drop off in hook-up percentage, but once the fish is in the net, having to only remove a single barb instead of a treble (or pair of trebles) gets the fish in the box sooner and more safely, and gets the net and lure back in action quickly.

Most of the lures I buy come with treble hooks and most of the time that’s the way I use them. If I buy one that comes only with a single hook, that doesn’t bother me, either. I’d much rather worry about reliably getting the fish to bite in the first place than whether the hook will hold once it’s on the line.

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