Pro Tip: How To Quickly Replace Treble Hooks With Single Hooks On Your Saltwater Plugs

By: Joseph Simonds on February 4, 2016
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how to replace treble hooks for single hooks

Treble hooks.

On the surface, treble hooks make sense…

Three hooks give you three opportunities to hook a fish. One hook only gives you one shot.

It doesn’t take a math wizard to figure out the upside to having multiple hooks while fishing.

But treble hooks also come with a pretty big downside…

Not only do they tear up a fish’s mouth pretty bad, they have also been responsible for causing lethal injuries to countless amounts of fish over the years.

And did I mention that treble hooks have caused more pain in the form of hooked human body parts than any other type of fishing device out there!

Note: If you have ever felt the pain of having to use pliers to pull out a treble hook from your finger, hand, arm, leg, back, head, or even your eye, then you know the pain that these hooks cause.

The following article shows you all of the tools along with the easiest way to replace your treble hooks with single hooks. This article was written by one of our seasoned angler friends that asked to remain anonymous.

We hope you enjoy and can get some value from it.

Fish On.

How To Replace Treble Hooks With Single Hooks

Growing up in the ‘50’s and 60’s and throwing topwaters for bass in South Carolina’s Low Country, my Dad told me to allow the ripples to get six feet away from the lure after landing before moving it…

Then, gently bump it.

Most strikes occur when you first move it, and I’ve still got that habit in dramatically different conditions.

Fast forward today…

The sun had gone down, and I’m sitting out on the flat on the offshore side of Round Key in the Everglades.

I was the only one still out there.

The few other anglers had already made the run back to Port of the Islands or Everglades City, as dark was very near in an unforgiving environment. But it’s my favorite time of day in the Glades and it’s why I’m willing to endure the insects and weather for the amazing experience that evening fishing in the Glades provides…

My large Rapala Skitterwalk had just landed in the reflection of the Marco Island lights about twelve miles to the W-NW.

When the ripples faded, I bumped it very slightly just like my dad taught me years ago…

And then it happened.

There was an immediate explosion of a strike, and I was hooked up to a very strong fish.

I was hoping to soon see a big snook come out of the water but it wasn’t happening… turns out I was fast into a big redfish, and probably over slot from the sound of the drag screaming out…

After close to ten minutes of a fast and furious fight (with no guns) on 15# braid and a 40# fluoro leader, the beast of a redfish was about to come close enough that I could ease my Bogagrip on to its lower lip.

The redfish finally let me lip it, but I quickly noticed that my big Skitterwalk plug was nowhere in sight; it was completely engulfed.

Author’s note: The fish was about 34 inches and 14 pounds on the Boga. Indeed a nice redfish, and seriously over slot.

I pressed the button on my headlight so I could inspect the hookup. It wasn’t pretty…

The tail hook was all the way down to its gullet and firmly embedded. And the front hook was hooked further up its mouth.

Unfortunately, for the vast majority of anglers, this would be a dead fish (especially at night with limited visibility). But it doesn’t have to be.

For most of my Everglades fishing, I swap out the deadly treble hooks for specially designed single hooks.


Because single hooks are:

  • Much kinder to the fish
  • Much safer for the angler (especially with you get near a spastic jack or ladyfish with a mouth full of trebles)

But back to the story at hand…

Fortunately for me and the fish, I always keep a variety of de-hooking tools in my boat. I choose the Baker Hookout (see it here on Amazon) as I could get a precise and firm grip on the hook.

And with just a couple of very simple wrist rotations, I quickly backed out both hooks and got this impressive redfish’s head back in the water for a quick release.

(Most anglers would have probably inflicted lethal injuries to that fish if using treble hooks. But I hope you will see below just how easy it is to replace treble hooks with single hooks on your favorite plugs).

It was a great run the mile and a half back to my camp, just having made a great catch and knowing the fish was released in good shape.

how to replace treble hooks with single hooks

These are some of my go-to lures for Southwest Florida that have all had the treble hooks replaced

Offshore anglers figured out the single hook deal many years ago, but they used standard hooks and attached to lures with swivels (and most of us inshore anglers don’t want to use swivels).

And there wasn’t really a specialty single hook for this purpose until the last year or so.

Here was the issue:

On the vast majority of hooks, the ring is 90⁰ from the bend of the hook, and they don’t mount to traditional hook hangers without an extra split ring. Plus, the eyes on standard hooks are quite small to put on a split ring.

But now, several of the hook manufacturers have designed specific single hooks for replacement of trebles on plugs.

The Best Treble Replacement Hooks

The main feature that you need with a good treble hook replacement is a single hook that the eye is turned in-line with the bend of the hook. Another is that the eye is much large enough to accommodate a split ring.

The best manufacturers for these single hooks with in-line bends are Mustad, Owner, and VMC.

Note: Gamakatsu also has a replacement hook called the Single Hook 510. But it has an open eye that is not in-line. I’ve used them and it a great (and expensive) hook, but I’ve ruled it out because of the offset eye.

how to replace treble hooks with single hooks

The Mustad hooks look good, but they are not readily available.

Both the Owner and VMC are very good hooks, but have some significant differences.

First, Owner X Strong will run more than one size smaller. For instance, a 2/0 Owner X Strong will fit inside the bend of a 1/0 VMC.

Second, the wire in the VMC is significantly heavier than the 1X Owner. Owner also makes a 3X Strong of heavier wire.

Third, the shank of the Owner is perpendicular to the ring of the eye.  On the VMC hooks, the shank is curved around to the outside the shaft to form the eye. The shank is tangent to the eye and on the opposite side of the bend causing the point to angle further outward.

I’m not sure what effect this will have on hooking or holding fish.

how to replace treble hooks

These are all 1/0 hooks. The top is an Owner inside of a VMC, and the bottom hook is the Gama. Note the outside barb on the Gama and the eye orientation on the VMC and Owner.

Steps To Replace Your Treble Hooks With Single Hooks

So, let’s get started and change some hooks out.

Here’s what you will need:

  1. Split ring pliers
  2. Your new hook(s)
  3. Possibly some replacement split rings

Note: For pliers, don’t be tempted to save a few bucks and get cheap ones. If you do, you’ll quickly lose interest in this project.   You’ll work much faster and efficiently with a good pair. I recommend the Xuron 496 Split Ring Plier and the best price I’ve seen in on here for $13.99

how to replace treble hooks with single hooks

As for hooks, I’d recommend either Owner X Strong (Model 4101-101) or VMC In Line Hook – Wide Gap – X Strong.   Consider the differences I mention above when making your choices.

Here is a basic guideline for size exchanges.

TREBLE                    SINGLE

#6                               #2

#4                               #1

#2                            #2/0

#1                            #3/0

#1/0                         #4/0

#2/0                         #5/0

There are a variety of shapes and materials for split rings. I recommend using high quality round ones that are from Worth, Owner, Sampo, etc.

Some tips on split rings:

  • Split ring sizes you might need will run from #3 to #5.
  • The top quality lures will have good rings, cheap ones don’t.
  • If you want to re-use split rings, make sure the rings stay snugly together.
  • If they have sprung open at all, replace it.

You’ll want to orient the front hook so that the hook bends down from the shank and the back hook so that it runs up (see top photo in this article).

If you have any issues getting accustomed to the pliers or how to replace your treble hooks with single hooks, here are a couple of YouTube vids to help you figure it all out.

Video #1 – Replacing a treble hook PLUS how to heat up a “non-Inline” hook into an “Inline” hook

In this video, you will see how to take off the treble hook while transforming a normal single hook into an “Inline” hook.

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Video #2 – How to properly use split ring pliers

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If, after reading all this, you’re still only lukewarm from going from 6 hook points on a plug to 2, then wade in gradually and change the tail treble to a single.

That’s the one that is most likely to be deepest in a fish’s throat and do the most damage.

Once you’ve had some success on the single hook, do the fish a favor and take the plunge and change out the front treble to a single.

Also, to minimize fish injury, if you don’t already have one, get a Baker HooKouT. It is a precision tool that will allow you to precisely control the hook when you’re getting it out of a fish. Pliers just don’t work nearly as effectively.

Finally, I would even recommend starting with a topwater plug or two (you might find that some of the deep diving lures don’t work as well with a single hook because they were designed to move underwater with their original treble hooks).

P.S. – If you think that your angler friends or fishing network would enjoy this, please Tag them or Share this with them. 

Fish On!

Related Post: When To Use Single Hooks Instead Of Treble Hooks On Hard Baits


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3 months ago

What is the purpose of the swivel

Tom Dornback
Tom Dornback
1 year ago

This article was excellent
I am placing my order tonight for the items you recommended

Dan Friberg
1 year ago

Cant you buy hooks with open eyes at the right angel that you don’t have to mess with just squeeze on the plug ?

Sheldon Friedman
2 years ago

Joe, I just read your article on replacing trebles with single hooks. Very well written with excellent illustrations, thank you.
Once I figure out the sizes of my treble hooks, I will refer to your table & start changing them out. The only question I have
is why not use oval split rings. Many of the top Bass pros use only oval rings because they minimize the small chance of a
ring opening a bit & allowing the hook to come off. I use the oval rings (small ones) to attach a small swivel to the eye on my
weedless spoons. This hardware is small enough to not weight the spoon down or get hung up in the grass.
Thx, Shelly Friedman, Bokeelia

Cam Allen
2 years ago

Anyone know of a guide that helps with identifying the size of treble hooks?
The size exchange guide above is awesome, but useless if I don’t know what size treble hook I have.
I’ve found various hook size guides online but can’t determine whether the pictures are to scale.

Luke Simonds
2 years ago
Reply to  Cam Allen

There is a basic guideline section above the first video in this post that gives a general overview of which size inline hook should be used to replace a given treble hook.

But there is not perfect guide because the exact size of a hook in a given size rating varies across manufacturers.

Jim Woodmansee
2 years ago

I’m new to this but I can’t seem to identify the hook size on my Yo-zuri Crystal Minnow (SP) R1131-c4 (3 1/2″ and 1/4 oz, and my other Yo-zuri Crystal Minnow R1124 (4 3/8″ and 7/16oz). I’m new to Florida but looking forward to trying these lures but want to swap out the trebles first using Joe’s conversion table.

Mark H Hurley
2 years ago

I plan on changing my hooks also. I seem to hook a lot of trout that are undersized. Some get hooked really deep. I don’t think they make it. I hate doing that. So thanks for the video.

Travis Owney
3 years ago

The exact information I was searching for this morning – especially the hook size conversions. Thanks for the article.

Tommy Parsley
4 years ago

Just a quick extra tip: he dipped the hook in a cup of water after heating it. That’s okay, but it can weaken the metal. Its best to let it cool down slowly, so it won’t break when you catch you’re next 30lb snook.

Brett Roberton
4 years ago

What is your thought on plugs with 3 trebles — replace front and back and leave middle treble?? or replace front and back and leave middle treble off?? If you suggest all 3 trebles get replaced what is the configuration — front facing front and back facing back and middle facing ??? Thanks for you time.

Mark Pool
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett Roberton

I saw a similar question posted 2 years ago, but could not find the reply. QUESTION: On large lures with three treble hooks, like a Super Spook, do you replace all three or just the front and tail hooks? If the middle hook is replaced does it face forward or back?

Luke Simonds
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Pool

I would just do the front and back one… leave the middle blank. You’ll miss smaller fish, but the bigger ones will still get a good hookup percentage.

Mark Pool
1 year ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

Thanks. Gonna give it a try.

Stuart Kidder
4 years ago

Isn’t it a shame that the warnings such as do not touch a red hot piece of metal, or only use proper equipment have to be displayed. Not just in these vids, but all across the board. Thank you Mr. Lawyer!
I also take my pliers and squeeze the barb. Good info.

4 years ago

Love swapping out trebles for singles. I use the Owner hooks. I caught my personal best trout this year on a topwater that I had replaced the treble hooks for singles. I was able to release the big girl with minimal damage.

4 years ago

Why would not use Gamakatsu live bait hooks with a ring? 1/0, 2/0, 3/0

4 years ago
Reply to  Ron

I’ve used some conventional hooks as replacements, but the eye is typically much to small to accommodate an appropriate sized split ring. And, the eyes are not inline with the bend, necessitating an extra split ring to keep it from running sideways.

Captain Ron
4 years ago
Reply to  Ron

If you would check out the Gamakatsu live bait u would fine that the
rings are made as part of the hook. Almost all the guides and fishermen in Texas use these hooks. Thanks for your return response. Captain Ron

Doug Robison
2 years ago
Reply to  Captain Ron

So much Ron